TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL
The Army of Survivors Stood Strong at the Tribeca Film Festival
By Allie Waxman
At the world premiere of At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, the film’s subjects stood in solidarity against sexual abuse.
At the world premiere of At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, director Erin Lee Carr made one thing absolutely clear: “This is not Larry [Nassar’s] film. It belongs to the survivors. This film is for you.” Carr’s documentary, which interviews a number of women who were sexually abused by convicted USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, sends a powerful message about trauma, healing and sisterhood. The film, which explores the institutional failures that allowed Nassar to abuse his victims for over 20 years, challenges audiences to take allegations of abuse seriously and believe survivors.
Following the film’s premiere, Carr was joined on stage by producers Dr. Steven Ungerleider and David Ulich, and survivors Trinea Gonczar and Amanda Thomashow. Here are some takeaways from the moving conversation.
Gonczar and Thomashow participated to empower others.
“[Speaking with] Erin was easy, but telling our story wasn’t,” Gonczar recalled about being interviewed in the film. “We wanted to take something positive from this experience and turn it into something empowering.” Thomashow concurred: “This is a great opportunity for other survivors to know they are not alone and they do not need to carry the burden of shame anymore. We stand by them and support them and believe them. It’s important to send a message to any predator or enabler out there that their days are numbered.”
The film is a product of the #metoo movement.
Carr credited #metoo with helping remove the stigma associated with reporting sexual assault. “I think that for so long there was a pervasive shame that followed you if you had an identity in combination with that of being a sexual assault survivor.” The collective strength of #metoo enabled women to come forward: “You can stand up and say something directly to your abuser in a courtroom and that doesn’t define you.”
There is more work to be done.
The film is an important step, but all of those on stage agreed this is just the beginning. “We made the film to look forward,” Ulrich expressed. “We need a complete overhaul of the system.” In addition to advocating for institutional change, Ungerleider urged individuals to be vigilant.“We want to educate parents and students and coaches that we’re all in this together and we all have to take responsibility to make sure that our children are safe.”