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Cecilia Peck’s Brave Miss World (2013) tells two stories in one film: about Linor Abargil’s advocacy for rape survivors and about Arbagil’s changing life after her own rape just six weeks before being crowned Miss World in 1998.
Breaking the silence surrounding rape and getting people to talk about it is the central theme to Brave Miss World. Arbagil encourages survivors to speak up and share their stories with her, their families, and the public. In doing so, these survivors — mostly women, but also a few men — expose the multiple myths surrounding rape. They talk about victim blaming, lack of justice, evidence mishandling, and PTSD symptoms.
As part of her campaign, Arbagil travels to different places around the world and speaks with survivors at events and on campuses. She speaks with Joan Collins and Fran Drescher about their own harrowing experiences. She even visits South Africa, which is labeled the “rape capital of the world.”
As much as the film is about getting survivors to speak, Brave Miss World also is about helping those close to survivors speak, an important and sometimes overlooked point. Arbagil’s mother breaks down while talking about how she struggled to speak about what happened to her daughter and to find someone to talk to about it. Her father and boyfriend-turned-husband further also express troubles with understanding her outreach efforts and trying to be supportive.
Along with the advocacy campaign, Brave Miss World also focuses on Arbagil’s changing life since her 1998 title. She marries briefly and gets divorced, she enters law school, she converts to Judaism, and she re-marries and starts her own family. Throughout, she seeks justice for her own rape, seeing him sentenced to prison and attempting to prevent his early parole. She also retraces the events surrounding her rape, reconnecting with people who helped her along the way.
In a vulnerable moment, Arbagil says, “I’m afraid of screaming and not being heard again.” Silence is not an option for her, for she believes that speaking up and speaking out empower survivors. Brave Miss World becomes part of making sure that message is heard.
Update (18 March 2015): Post updated to correct a misspelling of the filmmaker’s name.