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Documentary film spotlights violence against women, children

The documentary film, "Beauty Bites Beast: The Missing Conversation About Ending Violence," will be shown at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks.

It features Linda Walker, the mother of Dru Sjodin, the UND student who was kidnapped and killed in November 2003. Kay Mendick, former director of the UND Women's Center, and scenes from her IMPACT self-defense classes for women are also included.

Other scenes in the "globally oriented movie" were shot in Kenya, Israel and Mexico, said Ellen Snortland, the film's director, but "I used North Dakota as my U.S. shooting site."

Snortland, who lives in California, has a "strong connection" to North Dakota, she said. As a child, she frequently visited her family's farm near Sharon, N.D.

Her purpose in creating the 83-minute film is "to normalize the idea of women and girls learning how to defend themselves, not only physically but emotionally and verbally," she said.

Although the film's subject is serious, "I made it a priority to have this be an uplifting and inspiring movie, rather than making you feel terrible."

"At the policy level, very few people even realize that it's possible for women and girls to learn how to defend themselves," she said.

The focus has been on preventing attacks and how to help women once they've been attacked, "but rarely do they talk about teaching them how to handle violence while it's happening.

"By providing this 'missing conversation,' we think we're going to save a lot of lives, and at least reduce injury caused by out-of-control people."

As a society, "we prepare for a lot of emergencies, but we don't really prepare women and girls for the disaster that violence can be," she said. "To have some idea of what to do when someone is threatening you is a really useful skill."

The film has been shown in New York City, Los Angeles and Pakistan.

Tickets for Wednesday's screening are $16 for adults, $11 for seniors and students.