Through her original documentary, director and Valencia resident Sally Colón-Petree hopes to inspire audiences to use their voices, skills and passions to make a small difference throughout the world.
Her film, “Women Like Us,” follows women throughout the United States and Kenya who are working to create change in one of six areas that include sex trafficking, female genital mutilation, teen suicide, education and more.
“One of my favorite lines in the film is ‘your basic ability matters and can be a miracle in someone’s life,’” Colón-Petree’s said. “And so I want people to walk away from this movie motivated and inspired to go and make a difference and not necessarily on a big scale.”
As director, writer, executive producer and producer of the film, Colón-Petree saw firsthand the impact one person, one voice could make in the communities she visited with journalist Catt Sadler and activist/author Linda Rendleman.
By showcasing the work and influence of these women, “Women Like Us” aims to be both educational and inspirational for others to join together and confront social injustices and promote equality in the world.
“I always say that, if we all do a little bit, together we can accomplish a lot,” Colón-Petree said. “I’m not going to wait for someone else to do it, I’m going to do it. So I want to inspire others to be that one person that does it.”
Creating the Film
Colón-Petree’s path to create the film began in February 2014 when she planned to take a trip to Africa as part of her work with a foundation she was a part of.
“At the time I was the president of a foundation that was already reaching out to these women. We had a trip planned to Africa to go and serve with these women,” she said. “I originally started by raising $10,000 to make a 10-minute promo for this foundation.”
But, after she received some encouragement from Valencia resident and director Mark Gould, Colón-Petree decided to increase her fundraising goal to $100,000 to create a film.
Colón-Petree also decided to direct the film to honor her late-mother, who always encouraged her to pursue her dreams to become a feature film director.
“I had never directed [a film] and the reason I chose to direct it instead of hiring someone to direct it that was because of my mom,” she said. “Because she ended up passing away, I decided to honor her and that I would direct my first film for her.”
When she traveled to Africa, Colón-Petree and her team spoke with Kenyan women who were facing issues like female genital mutilation and HIV.
“There is a thing we talk about in the film where there’s a superstition in Africa that if you have HIV and sleep with a baby it will cure your HIV. So hundreds of thousands of babies have been raped in Kenya because of that,” Colón-Petree said of her own shocking revelation while creating the documentary.
She also filmed in Los Angeles to highlight sex trafficking, to Chicago to interview the district attorney and to Indianapolis to interview Nancy Noel who started the NA Noel School in Kenya.
Community Outreach, Impact
Now, Colón-Petree is screening her film at cinemas throughout the country, including her most-recent premiere at a theater in Valencia Thursday night.
“It was spectacular, we had close to 200 people and had a red carpet,” Colón-Petree said of the Valencia premiere. “It was awesome because we had about 145 tickets sold through my distribution company and then they put it up on the screen and I guess people bought tickets when they walked up to the theater.”
During the premiere, Colón-Petree also hosted a Q&A with cast members and a presentation from Hanne Fellers of ZOE International.
“That’s the goal is to have the resource there so this motivates the audience a little bit more. The person [or organization] is there and they can talk to them about helping,” Colón-Petree said. “That’s what we want to do across the country.”
So far, Colón-Petre said the response to the documentary has been astounding as audience members often approach her after premieres crying and saying the film changed their lives.
“It’s the reason why I did the film so people can be changed,” Colón-Petre said. “The main number one is that people would be aware and know it is happening and want to do something about it.”
Colón-Petree already has her next documentary film in the works about the topic of sex trafficking in the United States.
“The one that impacted me the most was sex trafficking because I had my own experience which was interesting because I didn’t know what happened to me was sex trafficking,” she said.
Through this next film, Colón-Petree hopes to include advocates who tackle the topics of sex trafficking, mental health disorders and drug abuse to shine a light on the issue and act as a catalyst for change in the world.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_