Dialog Box

Arts | Human Rights | Social Justice
The Art of Survival

 “The final stage of healing is using what happened to you to help others”. - Gloria Steinem

THE ART OF SURVIVAL is a mixed media documentary, following a collection of artists around the globe, in their quest to come to terms with a history of abuse, serving as an intimate study of the relation between art and catharsis in survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The film explores the reason for their work not only as a means of expression, but as a tool for empowerment and advocacy. 

Through an exploration of art, dreams and the unconscious mind, our documentary will follow artists, their past, the art form they have chosen to express themselves through, and how their work can serve to start a conversation about surviving the traumas associated with childhood abuse. 

The documentary will be a combination of verite-style, fly on the wall documentary, confessional interview, and animation. We will tell the story of the individual artists, learn about their craft, their process – and their childhood experiences as the driving force behind their work. The animation will aim to make manifest a visual representation of the subconscious effects of the artist’s childhood experiences. 

The film will follow three different artists, unearthing in a delicate, sophisticated manner, the ways their subconscious has informed their work. From there, it will look at how the work has empowered them to move through their traumas and given them a voice within their communities. 

The science and psychology behind survivors of abuse will make up another component of the film. We will seek to add an objective commentary, which will explore the social impact and implications of trauma, and the healing process. How have these artists, and many other artists around the world, created art work so powerful, that it is affecting this change? How has their subconscious, their dreams, and their psychological disposition informed their work?


How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?

Our film deals with Children's Rights and Social Justice as its core thematic components. These are inextricably linked to the contributor’s art, psychology, and advocacy, as such, the film is well suited to meet the objectives of philanthropic foundations which aim to shed light on these horrific injustices.

At present, we have two contributors, Choichun Leung and James Rhodes. They each offer a contrasting, but familiar, story - Choichun's is a microcosm - an intimate portrait of a woman in her 50s who has reconciled the abuse she suffered, and is starting to express that through her art, while James offers a macro look, someone who has used their art to build a huge following (with nearly half a million monthly streams on Spotify alone), and then leverage that profile to spread awareness, and make changes at a government level.

This project is an excellent vehicle for any philanthropic foundations seeking to spread awareness of this global epidemic and create the environment for real change in an accessible, sophisticated and nuanced way through The Art of Survival.

Aims & Objectives

What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?

This will be more than a story looking at the emotional effects of trauma – this is a story of art as a powerful political tool that can't take away the past but can reinstate the power and personhood of people who have suffered sexual abuse.

The intention is to bring the conversation about abuse, about those who experience abuse, and their triumph through art, into a much more public context. The idea of combining artists’ stories, animation, and scientific commentary, is to create an engaging and accessible argument that while children’s protection and children’s rights have long been a topic of contention, governments have often overlooked the impact of the Statute of Limitations. Such laws require legal action to be taken within a short period after the offence, often before the child reaches adulthood. This means that in most cases the opportunity for legal redress whether criminal or civil is denied. The film aims to bring this issue of social justice to the public domain.

As became clear in the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, most survivors have hidden their traumatic experience from family and friends. For a long time child sexual abuse was a taboo subject and this was exacerbated by the fact that usually such abuse is performed by someone known to and trusted by the child or the family, a person in a position of power in relation to the child.

In the US, 1 in 5 girls is sexually abused, and 1 in 20 boys, while in the UK roughly 1 in 20 children will be sexually abused. At least one third of those children will not tell anyone of the abuse**.

This documentary advocates for the advocates on a subject that is increasingly aired in the media but about which there is insufficient public awareness and dialogue – that of childhood abuse & trauma.

There is clearly a hunger for change with respect to sexual harassment and abuse. One need look no further than the #metoo movement, or the recent Kavanaugh case, to see this. Some truly courageous people are stepping forward to try to affect change. Using the example of Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, and documentaries Leaving Neverland and Surviving R Kelly,  one can see just how far & wide filmmaking can affect change.

The Art of Survival will endeavour to take this conversation to a global audience. We intend to use this platform to pull the curtain back on this horrific epidemic, and showcase the work that is being done by brave artists to start a conversation, to raise awareness, and to effect real change on a global scale.

The success of the documentary will be measured by the amount we are able to contribute to raising awareness and affecting real change at the highest levels. If James Rhodes can take the issue to the top of the Spanish Government, we can use that platform and take this to the rest of the world.



What is your education and outreach strategy?

The film is set across the globe - from New York and Sydney, to Madrid and Wales. A global artistic community has been engaged, as well as the scientific community in London.

Common threads run through the stories of the contributors, – the fact that the abuser was a familiar figure in the survivor’s life; the way the abuse was swept under the carpet by the family; denial of the abuse, and challenge posed by theStatute of Limitations .The scientific commentary running through the film will also serve to break down, and highlight,"how" and "why" each of our contributors has been able to work through their trauma, and then use their art (and platform) as a tool for advocacy.

Child sexual abuse is a global epidemic. It is not an issue that is isolated in one community. It crosses boundaries of race, culture and class. The evidence is now clear that child sexual abuse is not an isolated incidence but rather sadly a commonplace experience. In making this film we intend to use the contributors’ global appeal, and the universal themes explored as a springboard to a global festival circuit.

The project would also be screened in collaboration with various human rights and social justice organisations in Australia, USA, Canada and various European countries. Education is a powerful tool for change, and we would like to use our finished film to increase education and visibility in schools, religious institutions, as well as people's private homes - where child sexual abuse is still largely perpetrated - as well as to assist the aforementioned social justice and human rights organisations around the globe.

James Rhodes has been working with SAVE THE CHILDREN (Spain), and the Spanish Government, to reform the law in Spain. It is being predicted that the legislation he sponsored will be passed towards the end of March, making Spain a world leader in child protection laws. This thread in the documentary will provide an example of best practice and and a tool for education and advocacy in other countries.

Our producer, Frank Murray (who recently produced Academy Award nominated film, First Reformed), will oversee the production of a sophisticated, nuanced, mix media documentary which will be executed by award winning director, Alistair Marks, who has previously produced work with Samuel Johnson for his Love Your Sister campaign. The team have partnered with BAFTA Award Winning animation studio, Studio AKA, to give the film the greatest chance of success.

Alistair Marks
Frank Murray
Total budget
90 Minutes