A riveting examination of the frightening consequences of social media gone out of control, AUDRIE & DAISY focuses on the traumatic aftermath for two teenage girls who were sexually assaulted in 2012. As evidence of the crimes went viral, the victims were scorned by their communities and cyber-bullied by their peers — to tragic ends. This heartbreaking film makes a powerful plea to end the cultures of shame and silence surrounding rape in the digital age. — Chuck Willett
As directors and parents of teenagers, we are struck by the frequency of sexual assaults in high schools across the country and have been even more shocked by the pictures and videos, posted online – almost as trophies – by teens that have committed these crimes. This has become the new public square of shame for our adolescents. Unfortunately, the story of drunken high school parties and sexual assault is not new. But today, the events of the night are recorded on smartphones and disseminated to an entire community and, sometimes, the nation. Such was the case for Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman, two teenage girls, living thousands of miles apart but experiencing the same shame from their communities. While the subject matter is dark, we are inspired by these stories to make a film that captures these truths but can also help audiences digest the complexities of the world teenagers live in today.
As we began our research, the Steubenville, Ohio High School rape case was underway. At the time, there was wide criticism directed at national news outlets for their lack of focus on the victim and perceived sympathy for the perpetrators. As more cases have come to light since then, this damaging attitude – stemming from what many refer to as pervasive “rape culture” in American society – has remained largely in tact. However, journalists need stories and stories require characters. As is the norm in underage rape cases, in Steubenville, the survivor chose (understandably) to maintain her anonymity as a “Jane Doe.” We decided then that a genuinely emotional, meaningful film about teenage sexual assault required the affirmative on- camera participation of the survivor. Our main subjects, Daisy Coleman and Audrie Pott, involuntarily lost their anonymity when rumors, insults and photos about their assaults circulated around school and on social media. Identified by name and subjected to online character assassination, Daisy decided with great courage to speak out publicly. Audrie’s parents chose to go public with their daughter’s story after the unspeakable tragedy of Audrie’s suicide, as well. Thus, using their deeply personal – and, now public – stories as a starting point, we launched into production of our film.
AUDRIE & DAISY, directed by Bonni Cohen and Joe Shenk is screening Thursday, June 23rd, 2016, at the Newseum at 8:15 P.M. Click here for tickets.