The Women of Magdalene
"You have three choices:
either you can clean up,
or you’re gonna get locked up,
or covered up."
Monica Barbee, Magdalene Resident
Dickerson Road. When you hit Dickerson Road, you know you’ve hit bottom. It is a noisy, crowded, garishly lit major street of Nashville that slices through the "other side of town" like a diseased knife. You can get anything on Dickerson Road. A date. Drugs. Arrested. Killed…
The women who end up on Dickerson Road aren’t stupid. They know the hard surface of the underside of a barrel when they see it, much less live it. But there they are, caught in the vortex of drugs and alcohol to make them forget the trick they just pulled to get them the drugs and alcohol to make them forget the trick they just pulled.
No one cares. Not their family, usually long gone or deserted. Not their friends, who have their own problems and cycles to deal with. And certainly not they themselves: they’ve forgotten about care, as well as other luxuries such as trust, self-worth, and confidence.
CHANCES: The Women of Magdalene is about the chance to make a difference. It is about giving women a voice, women who have before been silent, mired in hopelessness and shame, and drowning in a lifestyle that owns and controls them. The film is a feature documentary about women who have reclaimed themselves -- the women of Magdalene. It is also about the woman who created the opportunity, Becca Stevens -- a visionary, maverick, 41 year old Episcopal female minister.
The innovative Magdalene Program takes drug addicted prostitutes off the street, and over a period of two years, transforms them into vibrant, involved, self-reliant members of society.
CHANCES: The Women of Magdalene follows a number of the women in various stages of the Magdalene program (http://www.magdalenehouse.com). We see their struggles, their successes, and learn of their hopes. We see where they are going, and where they have been.
The film weaves the incredible stories of those women just beginning the program, those in the middle of it, and those who have left the program but who still come back to help others discover a new life.
We see how "Outreach" works, where Becca and other volunteers literally "take to the streets" to find the prostitutes and offer them a meal, a "goodie basket," some TLC, and hopefully a way out. The goodie baskets are filled with soap, a toothbrush, makeup, a comb… and condoms. Sometimes they can talk one of the women into getting help and accepting concrete assistance. Sometimes they can’t…
THE WOMEN WILL TELL THEIR OWN STORY.
These are women who have never had a voice. They have all been either abused, raped, or beaten, and they have too often been in dangerously precarious situations where they have barely escaped alive.
In an innovative portion of the documentary and in a celebration of the achievements of the Magdalene program, Becca teamed a number of the women in the Magdalene program with several top songwriters in the music industry today. The songwriters – all of them Grammy winning writers and performers – met the women on an individual basis, heard their story, and created a song with them. In November, 2003, each of the songs were performed and filmed before a live audience at Fisk University, in the historic auditorium where Martin Luther King spoke.
The film captures the business the women have set up, called Thistle Farms (http://www.thistlefarms.org/), where they sell bath and body products over the Internet, and raise over $75,000 per year. Not only do the funds help finance Magdalene -- which runs entirely off donations – but it teaches the women valuable business skills that translate into jobs.
CHANCES: The Women of Magdalene is a journey from darkness into light. It is about a group of incredibly courageous women who refuse to let circumstances get the better of them, and who are determined to change.