Highlights from the Iceland Film Festival:Searching for Angela Shelton

19.5.2006
Words by Þórdís E. Þorvaldsdóttir Bachmann
Searching for Angela Shelton is a one-of-a-kind movie experience. The documentary had its international premiere at IFF in Regnboginn, with filmmaker Angela Shelton present. She decided to track down all the other Angela Sheltons in the States, and eventually visited and interviewed 40 of those able and willing. While making the movie, Shelton was working through childhood trauma of being molested by her father and brother, both of whom she visits and confronts at painstaking moments in the film. Her brother, who was molested himself, was very regretful and apologetic. Her father, however, denied the whole thing, in spite of official documents and police reports from when the siblings were young that clearly stated sexual abuse. At the time, Shelton’s father was taken to court, only to be acquitted by a judge who was later discovered to be a paedophile himself.
Shelton shared her history of sexual abuse with the other Angela Sheltons she met, and discovered that a shocking 70% of them had either been raped, beaten or molested. In the Q&A session after the film, Shelton informed the viewers that the case against her dad had been reopened, after the district attorney saw the movie.
“I’m not unique. I’m just a girl who told her story,” she said.
When asked about the alarming percentage of violent history with the other Angela Sheltons, Shelton claimed it wasn’t a coincidence.
“Violence against women goes unreported. You have to break the silence, or it eats you alive. The time is now. You’re not doing it for you, you’re doing it for everyone.”
And to break the silence, Shelton asked everyone present who’d been subjected to violence to raise their hands, which seemingly a majority of the mostly female audience did.
Survivors of violence are everywhere. As Shelton pointed out, she flew to Iceland for free because someone at Icelandair had been raped, and she was staying at a hotel for free because someone there had been molested. Somehow, it was very fitting to premiere this brave self-portrait in a country that gives its citizens similar punishments for sexually abusing children and speeding.

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