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“The Tale” opens dialogue about sexual abuse for BU community

Audience at Boston University College of Communication before a screening of “The Tale” on Friday, November 9, 2018. / Photo by Mariana Sánchez 


BOSTON, November 10, 2018 – “This film was created to start a dialogue,” Jennifer Fox said before screening her movie “The Tale” at Boston University last night as part of the series Cinemathèque. The film, directed by Fox, is a fictionalized version of the sexual abuse she experienced at 13.


“People need to know that it happens, it’s real, and that woman just don’t imagine it”, Gerald Peary, curator of Cinemathèque, said on why he programmed the movie. Cinemathèque is a series of film screenings and conversations with their creators organized by the Department of Film and Television at BU opened to the general public.


“The Tale” narrates the story of how Fox, played by Laura Dern, in her forties reframed what she used to call her first relationship. Mrs. G (Elizabeth Debicki), her riding coach, groomed her into a relationship with Bill (Jason Ritter) a middle-aged former athlete turned running coach.


The audience is presented with a teenage looking Jenny meeting Mrs. G and Bill. It’s only when her mother (Ellen Burstyn) points out to her how she actually looked like at 13, that the story gets retold with a prepubescent looking actress.


The story depicts suggestive sexual scenes between the characters of a 13-year-old Jenny, played by Isabelle Nélisse, and 40-year-old Bill. The movie ends with a disclaimer saying that these scenes were done by an adult double.


“One in nine girls and one in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult,” according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. When sexual abuse is reported to the police, RAINN states that 93% of young victims knew the perpetrator.

Jennifer Fox director of “The Tale” at Boston University College of Communication after a screening of her movie on Friday, November 9, 2018. / Photo by Mariana Sánchez

“I was 45 before I used the word sexual abuse,” the director said to an almost full auditorium after the screening. The filmmaker recounted during the Q&A that lawyers who have worked in sexual abuse cases said to her that they never understood it until they saw the film.


The director wanted to show the film to university students because she wanted to open a dialogue about child sex abuse, memory and talked about these issues in an open way.


“Being upfront about abuse tends to bring positive change. It makes people uncomfortable, it makes them talk about it,” Simeon Webb, BU student, said after the screening.


“I just came out because I’ve also experienced something similar and I wanted to hear someone else’s story,” Leilah Hendricks, programmer for the Technology Department at BU, said.


“It’s a difficult topic to talk about. It isn’t just a film that you can just watch and go home. You want to talk about it,” Hendricks added.


“Sexual assault needs to be spoken about, sexual abuse, manipulation and how it can happen in so many different forms. Films are a great way to create discussions within a community. I’m glad that I was able to see it here,” Nyema Wilson, BU student, said on the university screening the film.


“I tried to bring filmmakers who can show students how to make independent movies that are not only entertaining but that they mean something. This is a great forum and they can use it in a thoughtful, philosophical and political way,” Peary said.


Cinemathèque’s last screening is “An evening with Steve Maing” on November 16 at 7 p.m. Maing will screen his documentary “Crime + Punishment.” The screenings are in Room 101 at Boston University College of Communication at 640 Commonwealth Ave.

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Mariana S. Gaona is a journalist & writer. Her native Mexico taught her to be resourceful and creative. She holds an MS in Journalism from Boston University. She is interested in immigration stories around the world, that not only cover policies but the human experience of migration. The BU alumna also loves to write about movies, books, and music.

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