Lawyer's documentary explores healing from trauma

Women of Resilience has been selected and awarded at several international festivals

Lawyer's documentary explores healing from trauma
Roselyn Kelada-Sedra, filmmaker, former journalist, writer, actor and lawyer at Sabsay Lawyers in Toronto

With trauma at the root – and the result – of so many of the justice system’s processes, a new documentary, created by Toronto lawyer Roselyn Kelada-Sedra, explores how people can heal.

“There's always trauma – always,” says Kelada-Sedra. “And our judicial system is not equipped to heal that. People sometimes go to court to try to become whole, as we put it in legal terms. And that's not what the system's designed for.”

Women of Resilience examines three women who have endured trauma, war and displacement and remained joyous, forgiving and open-hearted. Shot in the Niagara region, the film was produced by Essential Collective Theatre in St. Catharines Ont.

Though the film is yet to be screened, it has been accepted, noted and nominated at a number of festivals around the world. Women of Resilience won Best Women Film at the Cannes World Film Festival. Kelada-Sedra earned the best director award for short films at the New York International Women Film Festival. The film has also been selected for the RED Movie Awards in Reims, France. And in June, the Toronto International Women Film Festival awarded it best short documentary.

Kelada-Sedra was fascinated how people respond to adversity. Some, particularly women, are hit with personal hardships and emerge “joyous and loving and open hearted,” she says. Others “close up and become quite reclusive.”

Her Godmother, Margaret Davidson, is one subject in the documentary. Davidson is author of Scars Don't Hurt: A Story of Triumph Over Sexual Abuse, her own true story of forgiving the person who sexually abused her throughout her childhood.

“I saw her do it: forgive and love when you would think it is impossible,” says Kelada-Sedra. “So she was my starting point. And from there, I just knew other women are like this. ‘Just find them.’”

The other two women featured are her mother and a woman who runs an association for Francophone immigrants in the Niagara region.

The film describes attachment theory, a modality of psychotherapy which can address and treat trauma. It forms the foundation of accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP), a practice founded by the psychologist Dr. Diana Fosha. Attachment theory postulates that “secure attachment,” a relationship in which a person feels “seen and accepted and valued” and “most importantly, safe,” is an experience which can cultivate a neurological transformation to “reroute” the wiring trauma installed in the brain, says Kelada-Sedra.

“Trauma makes us think that the threat has no beginning, middle and end, like being chased by a lion, that it's just always like that and always will be like that. We need an emotional-relational experience to reroute that.”

The film is Kelada-Sedra’s first as a director. She is a former journalist, writer, actor and a lawyer practising criminal defence and civil litigation at Sabsay Lawyers in Toronto.

Whether creating arguments, screenplays or documentaries, writing and a love for words has unified all Kelada-Sedra’s creative pursuits. She says she learned filmmaking through her work as an actor. And as a writer, she wanted to make things, help others make things and tell important stories that were not being told.

“This was before Black Lives Matter. This was before any of the movements that have started to attempt to rebalance the scales that are still drastically tilted in favour of white stories, white actors, white writers, white producers – and I'm not white. And I wanted to tell those stories.”

“After pitching and pitching and pitching, and auditioning and auditioning and auditioning, it seems like the only thing to do was make them – so I learned how.”

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