Meet The Filmmaker Behind The Documentary About How Miss World Overcame Her Rape

Now she's sharing her story to encourage other women to heal.


by Jess Commons |
Published on

If you do one thing this weekend, watch* Brave Miss World* – the mind-blowing documentary that hits Netflix today. The film follows former Miss World winner Linor Abargil as she travels the world meeting up with women who want to share their story of sexual abuse and rape. You see Linor herself was a victim of rape, just seven weeks before she was crowned Miss World, back in 1998. A young model, the then 18 year old was sent to do some modelling work in Milan. Finding herself unhappy, she requested to return to her native Israel. It was in the car on the way to Rome that her travel agent, Schlomo Nur, stabbed and then brutally raped her.

Since her attack (Nur was successfully convicted and is currently serving a 16-year sentence in prison, although is up for early release this July), Linor has become an activist encouraging women to speak out about their rapes. She set up a website, inviting women the world over to share their stories, and was innundated with responses. Someone put her in touch with filmmaker Cecilia Peck (daughter of Gregory) and together the two made *Brave New World, *a tough-but-important watch about the devastation rape can wreak and the women fighting back against it. We spoke to Cecilia about meeting the women that made the film possible, the emotional impact that making it took on them and what they're hoping to achieve.

How did the project come about?

I got a call from a friend who said, this Israeli beauty queen is in Los Angeles, and she’s looking for a director for a film she wants to make about surviving rape. So I went to a meeting and sat down with Linor. Her story of courage and how she was able to, aged 18, not only report what happened to her and put a serial rapist in prison, win the Miss World crown, and eventually go on to be a very empowered activist on behalf of others just made me take a plunge and make the commitment to do the film. I ended up following her story and working on the film for the next five years.

Linor's been incredibly open about what happened to her...

Yes. On the night that she was crowned Miss World, which happened only seven weeks after her very brutal, violent, traumatic kidnapping, stabbing and rape, she was in trauma, and to her utter shock her name was called out. She was vowing to herself at that moment that one day she would tell her story and reach out to other survivors of rape because she felt that the rape crime and the crowning happened in such close proximity that it must have been for a reason. It took her 10 years. It was a challenge to take a taboo subject of rape and try to make an epic narrative out of it, but that’s how it started with Linor, so she initiated it and then collaborated with us.

It's a heavy film to watch – did it take it's toll on you guys making it?

Yes. I think it was the hardest on Linor. She thought she was ready, but discovered that telling her story and listening to the stories of the other women triggered her own trauma over and over again. There were days that were very hard. There were months where Linor had to shut down filming and couldn’t go on. It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear every story, but every one of the women who spoke up in the film told us at the time, and have since, how much it helped their healing process to know that what happened to them could help someone else to feel they’re not alone.

Were you surprised by the amount of women who did come forward?

Yes, from the moment Linor launched her website as a place for survivors to connect and to offer resources, she started to get thousands of emails from people who needed a safe space to tell their stories. The website has over three hundred thousand visitors now, so we quickly realised that we could offer a forum where people could connect and feel support and look for resources.

Is there one story in particular that's stuck with you?

Well, the most upsetting and traumatic story in the film comes a woman called Alison, from South Africa.I still can’t talk about it without crying. She was stabbed, her throat was slit, she was left for dead in a remote part of the South African coastline and she managed to keep her head intact and keep her insides in her stomach and crawl a mile and a half to the road. Someone came by on the road that night and took her to the emergency room and she survived. She's now the most beautiful and eloquent spokesperson for other survivors in South Africa. So as hard and traumatic as her story is, its also very inspiring.

Linor's rapist, Schlomo Nur, is up for release soon and his parole hearings affect Linor terribly throughout the film...

From the moment she found out that he was up for parole, it was extremely traumatic for her – she started having PTSD. That storyline is in the film because it’s the same for every survivor whether you’re able to get justice or not. It’s not over that night. It’s not over when a rapist goes to prison – because he will get out one day. It shatters your stability. And the point is that you need support, even if its ten or 16 years later – you need your family around you, you need therapy and friends to surround you and let you know that you’re going to be okay. Hopefully the film gives women and men the courage to know it’s going to be hard again here, but it will be alright.

Joan Collins makes an appearance in the film, talking about being raped when she was 18. How did that come about?

Well, Joan had heard about the film and she approached us, and said: 'I know that you’re doing this and I have something to say,' and she spoke on camera for the first time about her rape. She’s so brave and she’s so eloquent, and it meant so much to Linor. Joan's the kind of person who people notice and Linor felt that it would enable the message to get to many more people. It happened to Joan when she was a young girl, the same age as Linor. She was drugged and raped by an older man, and she felt so guilty about losing her virginity that she ended up marrying him and was in an abusive marriage for years until she could get out of it. That story is not a thing of the past, so many women we’ve met along the way have the same story today.

How can people who watch the film get involved in the campaign?

People are welcome to visit the site and post their reactions to the film so we can continue to grow the website as a place to connect and to heal. That’s how we feel that we can make a difference, by offering women a place to speak up. The more women who speak up, the more women can erase the burden of shame. But really, the message for survivors is not to stay silent – find someone you trust and talk about it, that’s the beginning of healing.

'Brave Miss World' is out on Netflix today. Find more survivors stories over on Linor's website, Brave Miss World.

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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