Critics' Pick

Brave Miss World (NR)

Documentary 92 November 15, 2013
By Ernest Hardy
“How do I protect my daughter? I couldn’t protect myself.” That impossible question and sobering comment, from a mother at a gathering of rape survivors, is one of many gut-wrenching moments in Brave Miss World. The doc’s spine is the story of beauty queen Linor Abargil, who was raped at the age of 18. Six weeks later, representing Israel, and having told no one what had happened, she won the Miss World contest. Footage of her win shows her crying, distraught even as she smiles; a pageant official assures a crush of paparazzi and supporters that “these are tears of joy.” Director Cecilia Peck has crafted a subtly complex film that takes its cues from its subject. Linor emerges a survivor, creating a website for fellow survivors to connect, traveling the world speaking out against the horrors of rape, and doling out tough love while encouraging women (including Joan Collins and Fran Drescher) to share their stories of sexual assault and its aftermath. It’s utterly gripping, especially as Linor struggles to keep her head above the pain to which she’s bearing witness. But Brave is also moving in unexpected ways. Linor’s parents try to understand as their daughter becomes increasingly religious following her assault — including changing the way she dresses and how she interacts with men. Peck is respectful of Linor’s newfound faith, even as her camera picks up that the former beauty queen’s devout spiritual practice at times seems somewhat joyless, a coping mechanism that helps her move out of victimhood but is also a reminder of her life-changing ordeal.
Cecilia Peck Linor Abargil, Joan Collins, Fran Drescher Cecilia Peck, Motty Reif, Inbal B. Lessner Linor Documentary

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