Sifting Through the Details in the Making of Another Child
By: Darida Rose
Another Child is a documentary film featuring the story of Leanna Borsellino and the traumas she faced growing up as a survivor of sexual violence. The film is an emotional journey of the effect sexual trauma has on a survivor’s psyche, and it is exemplary of how through a journey if seeking and sharing, a documentary film takes on a life of its own contrary to its maker’s initial intention.
Leanna Borsellino agreed to an interview with Phoenix Journal to take us through her journey in the making of this film, providing us with details that enhance our viewing and understanding of the film.
Darida Rose, Phoenix Journal (PJ): You mention that this journey took 6 years. Are your referring to the film? If so, would you be kind enough to take us through that journey with a bit of detail?
Leanna Borsellino (LB): Yes, we started filming in 2012 and officially wrapped up filming in 2018. 2019 was dedicated to post. When it was all said and done, we had well over 400 hours of footage for our amazing editor, Sue Hoskins, to sift through. Part of the reason it took so long to complete filming was
because the initial vision for the documentary was to tell a more vicarious story, with more expert interviews and talking heads. Yet, as documentaries often evolve, this one was no different. It evolved into something far more personal and intimate than the original intent. We
realized that there were already several great documentaries out there about trafficking, statistics, etc. However, what didn't exist, was an all-encompassing story about familial sex trafficking and child sex abuse, told from the very personal eyes of the daughter and her mother. This crossroads I came to was in 2016, and I realized that if I wanted to create truly honest art, I had to be willing to completely lay myself out there. So, we had a name change to reflect the new changes (we were originally going by the title, "Honeychild") and "Another Child" was officially born.
(PJ): This was an absolutely painful yet beautiful and significant film to watch. It is much like the journey of recovery in the sense that the truth is bitter, yet the outcome can be hopeful. How did the making of the film, aside from what you’ve mentioned in the film help you heal?
(LB): I believe that in order to heal from trauma, you can't run from it. It will always catch up to you in some way. Part of my films message is that trauma and abuse can be passed down through generations if not dealt with properly. Like a flesh wound that is not treated properly, if you ignore it, it will fester. And as I've seen in my family, it certainly grows. Not everything that we face in life can be changed, but nothing will be changed if it isn't faced. And for me, I refuse to sit on the sidelines and allow another generation (my childrens’ generation) to suffer in silence. I've heard a saying that "Hurt people, hurt people" and I believe this to be true. If you are unwilling to face your pain, you are inadvertently passing it on to others. So, if that saying is true, then so is the reverse, "Healed people, heal people". If trauma can be passed down through generations, then so can healing. So, if anything has helped me heal, it is that I am openly, and unashamedly talking in the most artistically explicit way that I know how. I wasn't given a candy-coated version of abuse growing up, so I'm not going to candy-coat our story. We take you back to those dark places, where there is so much pain, and we reclaim our freedom. The healing journey is brutal, but so worth it! I've had several people come up to me after screening my film that have had similar experiences growing up, they want to talk about it, they want to process it, and they want a safe space where they know they won't be judged. It is such an honor to know my film is inspiring these conversations, and creating an atmosphere that allows people to process their own trauma. I think that is probably the biggest encouragement for me in my own journey of healing. I get to see other people witness my healing after overcoming so much darkness, and they want it too, and they realize they can demand that healing for themselves too. It's a beautiful process, and so worth it.
(PJ): What advice do you have for young female filmmakers, writer, artists, who have been through different degrees of trauma in their lives thatcan help them cope and express creative output?
(LB): The process of navigating through creative outlets to help cope through trauma doesn't have to be beautiful or perfect. As a matter of fact, I find that real beauty through art is found in the imperfections. Don't be afraid to get messy. Also, find people that believe in you and your message, so if and when it gets too heavy, they are there to help carry your load. There were several times as a filmmaker I had trouble separating myself from my personal story, and couldn't trust my own judgement in the moment. It was in these moments that I needed to take a step back so I could properly process. I appreciated that I had a team that was patient with me, since we were telling a story about my abuse, and also, I appreciated that they were able to help gently navigate me back out of some of those dark moments. Because, I'm not going to lie, there is nothing easy about revisiting trauma (especially when you have to make judgment calls with cuts) I can only say it's worth it in the end. So basically, don't run from it, dive in. And find your tribe that can reel you in when it gets too heavy, and then cheer you on when you are ready to get up again.
(PJ): It seems that there are A LOT of nuances that play into the production’s gathering of the family at the end. How were you able to navigate those nuances and balance what I’m sure were turbulent dynamics relating to the personal histories within those relationships?
(LB): I couldn't have hoped for that evening to go better than it did. Everyone that was there was there because they were curious to hear for themselves about my mother’s story. So, I feel they came there mostly ready to learn and listen. Obviously, there were some disagreements. And I had some "insider" knowledge about one of my family members in the circle who had just attempted suicide a couple weeks prior. Part of the reason we went there in conversation about the topic of suicide was so that they knew they weren't alone. I'm actually really glad to say that that was the last suicide attempt in my family since we have had that meeting. Sometimes, it just helps to bring everything to the light and for everyone to know that they aren't alone.
(PJ): It is awesome how similar your daughter shown at the end of the film is in comparison to you as shown in the pictures of your childhood at the beginning of the film. It does signify a new beginning. Can you take us through the mother-daughter dynamics that span four generations in your film? How have you internalized and how would you express the essence of these dynamics?
(LB): Thank you. I also find it shocking how much my daughter resembles me. I feel like there has been a lot of restoration through those dynamics. While I will always identify as someone who is more "tom-boyish" my daughter is restoring a feminine part to me that I never really
experienced when I was growing up. It makes me so happy to see her proud of who she is. My shame was rooted in abuse, so it really just makes my heart explode knowing my daughter knows her worth. Also, I am proud to say that my mother and grandmothers relationship has blossomed. There are few things more beautiful than to see relationships restored.
(PJ): Would you say the final gathering is the start of making amends? And if so, can you elaborate on how those relationships and amends have evolved ever since?
(LB): Since we've finished filming, several more family members (that weren't even in the circle) have come forward with their own stories of abuse. I am thankful, that when initially our family was a silent "don't ask, don't tell" type of family, now several are finally open to having those conversations. I think most of us don't want to see our next generation of children to be raised up in abuse, so now our families mindset is moreso one that is fighting to give our children a voice, and lifting them up, acknowledging their worth.
(PJ): How has the film been received in festivals as well as communities?
(LB): As of now, despite COVID, our film has been received quite well. Every festival we've gotten into (minus one) we've won at. Also, we were recently invited to be the PREMIERE FEATURE FILM at a festival in our home state, Texas. I will say that American festivals don't seem to be as open to films about child sex abuse and child sex trafficking, so it's been a little difficult to get into the market here. But we are finding our communities. And I'm personally loving the process. And I believe that this is the perfect year for our film to come out.
(PJ): Are you working on any projects currently?
(LB): Right now, I'm actively looking for a distributor, and have been focusing most of my energy with this film. There have been conversations about making a sequel to Another Child, considering I have soooooo much footage that wasn't used. I've also had a few child sex trafficking survivors express interest in me helping them tell their story since they feel safe with me. However, nothing has been determined yet, but the wheels are turning.