The Best Work You May Never See: Hubert Davis Directs White Ribbon PSA Addressing Domestic Abuse During The Pandemic

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Robert Goldrich
Friday, Jul. 9, 2021

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Directed by Hubert Davis via Untitled Films in Toronto, this public service film for advocacy group White Ribbon Canada speaks directly to men who are using, or at risk of using, gender-based violence as a response to the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Titled Day After Day from an agency team of Bensimon Byrne/Narrative/OneMethod, the four-minute film follows the story of a family in lockdown experiencing a troubling pattern of domestic abuse. Told from the separate perspectives of two partners, the PSA uses the same set of words to tell two very different stories of isolation: one of a man, trapped in negative ways of thinking, with complicated emotions he never really learned to articulate; and a woman who is trapped inside her home with a man becoming increasingly volatile and unrecognizable to her.

The PSA reflects the truth of the COVID-19 pandemic: Between March and October 2020, as households adjusted to stay-at-home orders across Canada, calls to police about domestic disputes increased 8.2 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. Helplines witnessed an alarming increase almost immediately: In British Columbia, The Battered Women’s Support Services saw a 400 per cent increase in April-May 2020; and in Ontario, The Assaulted Women’s Helpline reported a 400 per cent increase in April 2020. Research has shown that social isolation, loss of employment and reduced income are all factors known to increase the risk of domestic violence.

As the world’s largest movement of men and boys advocating an end to all forms of gender-based violence, including violence against women and girls, White Ribbon hopes the PSA will show men they are not alone in the stress of the pandemic, that support is available, and there are services that can help.

“The story we tell in the PSA is, unfortunately, an accurate portrayal of the ways some men are using violence against their partner, family members or within the community, in reaction to the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Humberto Carolo, executive director, White Ribbon. “The rise in reports of domestic abuse since lockdowns began is staggering. It was critical we speak directly to men who are using violence, and to all men, to remind them they are not alone, that they must change their behavior, and that we can help guide them towards healthier masculinities.”

“For too many women, stay-at-home orders during the pandemic have meant being trapped inside with abusive partners. By mirroring the dialogue of the two partners, we show how the unique stresses of the pandemic are causing some men to become abusive – but how that abuse is infinitely more damaging for those who experience it,” said director Davis, a Best Short Subject Documentary Oscar nominee in 2005 (for Hardwood)

This latest public service film marks a return engagement for Davis with White Ribbon. In 2019, Davis worked with White Ribbon on “Boys Don’t Cry,” an award-winning PSA that offered a wrenching look at the roots of toxic masculinity and the ways parents and educators can help to encourage healthy masculinities.

Credits

Client White Ribbon Canada  Agency Bensimon Byrne/Narrative/OneMethod Joseph Bonnici, chief creative officer; Debbie Chan, creative director/art director; David Mueller, creative director/writer; John Pavacic, writer; Michelle Pilling, head of production. Production Company Untitled Films, Toronto Hubert Davis, director; Tom Evelyn, exec producer; Kiel Alexander Milligan, DP; Ian Fingland, line producer. Casting Jigsaw Casting Editorial Rooster Post Michelle Czukar, editor; Sarah Carlisle, assistant editor; Sam McLaren, producer. Music & Sound Berkeley Inc. Jared Kuemper, audio director; Tyna Maerzke, exec producer. Postproduction Fort York VFX Tess Kennedy, producer; Luke White, Flame artist. Color AlterEgo Conor Fisher, colorist.

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