June 9, 2017 – Toronto – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
On Friday, June 9, the new National Film Board of Canada/Cult Leader interactive experience The Space We Hold premieres online at nfb.ca/thespacewehold/ as well as at the Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Alternate Realities exhibition.
A direct provocation to bear witness to the testimonies of three former “comfort women” who are among the oldest living survivors of militarized sexual violence in the world, The Space We Hold was created by Toronto filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung, content lead Chris Kang, and producers Patricia Lee (Cult Leader) and David Oppenheim (NFB Ontario Studio). NFB Ontario Studio head Anita Lee is the executive producer.
Based on The Apology, Hsiung’s powerful, award-winning NFB documentary, The Space We Hold focuses on three “grandmothers”—Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines—who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Some 70 years after their imprisonment in so-called “comfort stations,” after decades of living in silence and shame about their past, they courageously agree to share their stories with those who are willing to listen.
“Tiffany’s feature film followed the incredible personal journeys of these three women, whether they were seeking a formal apology from the Japanese government or summoning the courage to finally share their secret with their families. We wanted to create an interactive documentary experience that engaged people in an act of listening that was unique in online spaces, where the challenges of reconciliation are so visible. And where we can begin to know what it means to listen to testimonies of sexual violence in a digital age,” said David Oppenheim.
Demanding the user’s attention throughout the women’s intimate first-hand accounts, The Space We Hold guides the user from a solitary act of witnessing to become part of a collective, networked response to the grandmothers.
“In an era where rape continues to be used as a weapon of war and where sexual shaming and online harassment is commonplace, The Space We Hold asks us to imagine new ways of listening and responding to stories of sexual violence,” said Patricia Lee. “The story doesn’t end—for us as audience— with the telling, but continues to resonate out into social spaces with our collective responses and the conversations they generate. In a way, the story is us.”
The experience ultimately extends beyond individual and collective witnessing to provide a unique window into the challenges of societal reconciliation—and what it means to bear witness to testimonies of sexual violence in a digital age.
The Apology had its world premiere at the 2016 Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival, where it was named a top ten audience favourite. Its awards to date include the Busan Cinephile Award at the Busan International Film Festival; Audience Awards at both the Cork Film Festival in Ireland and the IFEMA International Female Film Festival Malmö in Sweden; a Special Jury Mention Award for the UNESCO Gandhi Medal from the International Film Festival of India, and most recently, the award for Best Canadian Feature at NorthwestFest in Edmonton.
The Space We Hold was made possible with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation.
Electronic Press Kit | Images, trailers, synopsis: The Space We Hold
Ontario Media Development Corporation