When confronted with some of the darkest experiences life has to offer, resilience often seems impossible.

In the documentary Primas, filmmaker Laura Bari captures the incredible strength of her two teenage nieces, Rocìo and Aldana from Buenos Aires, Argentina, as they work to process their childhood trauma through movement and art therapy. Primas was selected for the True Life Fund, a fund sponsored by The Crossing church that offers financial assistance to the subjects of a film.

In a heartbreaking scene shot in one breathless take, the two cousins sit against a blank, white wall and describe the trauma they endured.

Rocìo tells the story of how she was riding her purple bicycle on her way to play basketball when she was abducted. She was gagged and tied up, thrown in an orange Fiat, raped, hit in the face with a hammer and set on fire by a stranger. After wandering down a dirt road while still on fire, she was found by a truck driver and taken to a hospital where she underwent skin graft surgery to cover the 60 percent of her body that was burned. In a scene where she revisits the pediatric hospital where she was treated, her doctor even confesses that he initially believed she would be better off dying.

Aldana describes how she was sexally abused for years by her father. She struggled with understanding what was happening to her and was repeatedly convinced by her abuser that she would destroy her mother if she told. Eventually, she confided in those around her, and she says once she started talking to other people, she felt freer.

The women traveled to Quebec, Montreal, with their aunt to take part in alternative therapy. Through almost psychedelic cinematography, Bari captures the women's acting exercises and free movement and shows how they were able to express their emotions after being strong for their families.

PRIMAS, a film by Laura Bari - Trailer from Les Films du 3 mars on Vimeo.

After the film, Bari, Rocìo and Aldana hosted a Q&A where they discussed the importance of sharing their stories and lives authentically, not sensationally, to empower survivors. Both women say they never wanted to stop filming even when it was difficult and that the toughest parts were what helped them grow.

Bari translated for her nieces. Rocìo said she is studying visual arts in school and hopes to pursue a career in art therapy. Aldana wants to be a teacher or a producer.

In one of the final scenes of the film, Aldana sits on stage underneath a spotlight as one of her acting exercises. She poses a question that lingers in the darkness surrounding her: “Do we let our past control us for our whole lifetime, or do we grow?”

It’s fair to say that these women chose to grow.

The film will also play at 12:30 p.m. on March 3 at Jesse Auditorium and 3:15 p.m. on March 4 at Missouri Theatre. 

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