Movie screening and panel discussion for “five awake” at Nunez Auditorium

Screen image from the "five awake" trailer.

Although October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this issue remains in the forefront across our region and our state all throughout the year. United Way of Southeast Louisiana has made Domestic Violence a top priority and has successfully advocated for historic policy change as we continue to fight for the most vulnerable among us. Louisiana has been called one of the most dangerous places in America for women due to domestic violence homicides. But five strong determined Louisiana women have helped change that. The documentary short film “five awake” chronicles their championing of a historic legislative package to protect victims of domestic abuse and save lives. Their advocacy resulted in unanimous passage of the most comprehensive package of bills ever aimed at stopping domestic violence. “five awake” shows how grass roots efforts by the public can lead to significant and unexpected victories in the Louisiana Legislature.

The 2016 New Orleans Film Festival Jury awarded “five awake” the prestigious “Best Louisiana Feature”. The 35-minute documentary had its first Louisiana public screening followed by a panel conversation and reception on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, at the Orpheum Theater. View the photo gallery here.

Charmaine Caccioppi, chief operating officer of United Way of Southeast Louisiana; Kim Sport, attorney and volunteer public policy chair for United Way of Southeast Louisiana; Mary Claire Landry, director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center; and Beth Meeks, former executive director of Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, spearheaded the “United Against Domestic Violence” collaborative. State Rep. Helena Moreno carried four of six legislative bills for the group in the 2014 legislative session.

The six bills led to: 1) increased penalties for domestic abuse, 2) firearm prohibitions for offenders, 3) guidelines for Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, 4) expedited transmission of protective orders to statewide law enforcement database, 5) prohibition of release on recognizance for violation of protective orders, 6) immediate divorce for victims, 7) punitive damages for victims and 8) the creation of the Domestic Violence Prevention Commission. All five women were appointed to the Commission, with Kim Sport serving as the first chairman, leading to over 50 provisions of law regarding domestic violence being enacted or revised over a three-year period.

“Enactment of these laws is a solid victory for the families who have fallen victim to domestic violence,” says Sport. “We feel we are making a difference in the lives of Louisiana women and women across the country as other grassroots organizations move to replicate our advocacy work in their states.”

Michael Williamson, president and CEO of United Way of Southeast Louisiana says  “five awake” not only speaks to the power of the women featured in the film, it also speaks to the courage and commitment of our United Way and the other organizations that stood strong in efforts to address the issue of domestic violence.”

Directed by Susan Willis and Donna Dees, “five awake” recently won a Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Award for Best Documentary Short. “Winning Best Louisiana Feature at the New Orleans Film Festival has made me feel a huge sense of responsibility!” Willis said. “I hold NOFF and its standards of excellence in film making in such high regard that I am deeply hoping our film will really make a difference to the audience.”

Five Awake Trailer from Cutting Room on Vimeo.