It should have been the Canadian dream. A kid from a small prairie town is scouted by a famous Junior-A coach. The coach mentors and tutors him all the way to an NHL dream career.
Except the coach was Graham James, a now-infamous sexual predator whose behavior was abetted and ignored through two Western League coaching stints and one in Europe.
And the kid was Sheldon Kennedy, a National Hockey League player whose self-destructive behavior finally made sense when he came out to the world as a survivor of sex abuse at the hands of James, his coach with the Swift Current Broncos.
Kennedy, who traded his star athlete status for a challenging job of role model, is the sometimes-uncomfortable star of Joshua Rofé’s riveting documentary Swift Current.
As filmed by Rofé, Kennedy’s is a redemption story of stops and starts, of a dream turned nightmare, wounded families and one man’s determination to take back his life despite repeated setbacks.
“You sink or swim, and ultimately I chose to swim,” Kennedy says. “We know the social impact of abuse and we now know how it affects the brain. Going to a counselor a couple of times isn’t enough.”
Rofé’s previous acclaimed documentary Lost For Life looked at a background of childhood abuse that violent criminals shared. He finds echoes of that theme with Kennedy’s lapses – alcohol and drug abuse, substance-related auto accidents, etc., – that continued to pull him down even after he’d become a hero and rollerbladed across Canada to raise awareness and money for sexual abuse victims. Kennedy’s final, successful stint in rehab put him on a path that led to his being awarded the Order Of Canada this year.
Turning his lens afield, Rofé also profiles Graham Jolicouer and Mikki Decker two young people whose experiences (with a predator ‘family friend’ and an incestuous father respectively) lead them to connect with Kennedy and his message at a university speaking engagement.
“Sheldon is a survivor, and an amazingly self-aware spokesman for the cause of dealing with trauma,” Rofé says. “He talks about the long-term effects of child abuse in a way no one else, to my knowledge, ever has on film.”
Event Screening in Toronto on October 5th:
Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival partners again with Mindfest this year to bring you a special Film Screening of 2015 Opening Night Film Swift Current by Joshua Rofé at 7:30 PM on Wednesday, October 5 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Tickets are now on sale and are only $10/general admission and $5/students.
Swift Current (www.swiftcurrentdoc.com) tells the story of former NHL hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, who was sexually abused by his junior hockey coach and has gone on to become one of the world’s leading advocates for victims of child abuse. During a speaking engagement at a University in Ontario, Canada, Sheldon met two students, a young woman and a young man, who disclosed the sexual abuse they had suffered as children to Sheldon and 200 members of the student-body and faculty. In addition to Sheldon’s journey, the film follows the early recovery of the two students, Mikki and Graham, ultimately providing a never before seen look at the long-lasting effects of trauma from sexual abuse.
Mikki will join us in person for a Q&A after the film!
I was absolutely honoured and terrified to take this new step in my speaking career with Swift Current. This is something I have been waiting for, the opportunity to prove that I could stand alone and strong. I think I was able to do this beautifully. It was really hard to not have Josh, Sheldon, Wayne or Graham there with me but they were certainly there in my heart and soul. The energy was strong in that room.
The movie ends and we begin the Q&A. I am so excited to be able to sit back and look at this issue with many different lens. We spoke from political, personal, professional, emotional and physical spaces. This is so important as Sexual Abuse affects every aspect of a survivors life and journey.
The journey to recovery is very long and wide ❤ Let it swallow you whole.
I think we are going to begin to see changes to the awakeners in sexual abuse with the new Sex Ed program that was 15 years outdated. I know for myself as a young girl had I been in a classroom with an educator teaching me and helping me learn about my body…there would have been a good chance she would have caught on to what was happening. Or it would have came out in dialogue with friends because I was so open and honest when I was young.
This curriculum is going to help us see new intervention and early prevention happen. This will give us the space to allow for these two changes to expand in full bloom. I cannot wait to see them take flight and see the affects of this program being introduced.
The second is when we begin to see the justice and court system change to a more inclusive and compassionate system. There is word we are moving to a two court system in which Mental Health will be dealt with separately than our mainstream crime. This is going to be affective in helping reduce the stigma around Mental Health. This will also give us a higher rate of rehabilitated citizens and less people re offending.
The night was filled with love, survivors, support and dialogue. There is nothing else we are looking for when we present Swift Current to an audience of eager and awaiting souls. You listened with love and honesty.