On Tuesday last week I went to the premier of a new teen documentary that hopes to sweep away the misconceptions of sex and bring reality back into the picture.
The title of the film is Get a Yes (Fáðu Já) and is part of a government-sponsored awareness initiative that is focused on violent crimes of a sexual nature against children.
The writing and directing team behind the film, Þórdís Elva Þorvaldsdóttir, Brynhildur Björnsdóttir and Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson invited ministers, reporters, the fantastic young cast (aged 19-22) and friends and family to the premier, the dawn of change in sex education.
I have mentioned Þórdís Elva in a previous column. She is an avid feminist who dedicates her time and efforts to the righteous fight against a system that continues to disappoint victims of rape, molestation and attempted sexual assault.
She congratulated everyone who had a hand in the task and told them to be proud of their contributions.
Brynhildur Björnsdóttir is an actress and a columnist at visir.is. Her columns, about current affairs and debates in Icelandic society, are reflective and straight to the point. In a speech at the premier, Brynhildur hailed the project an important contribution. Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson is pop singer extraordinaire and a man with a deep social conscience. He told the audience that the film was one of his two greatest achievements. The other was his involvement in the gay rights campaign.
The Ministry of Education approached Þórdís Elva to come up with new material to use in sex education, and both Páll Óskar and Brynhildur eagerly joined the project.
The film itself is only 20 minutes long but in that brief time it manages to accomplish all that it sets out to do. The film is not shy about teen sex; it opens the gateway to real dialogues about a topic parents far too often shy away from.
Meanwhile, teenagers are bombarded with sexualized imagery on popular media: semi-pornographic music videos where women are no more than semi-naked objects at the leading man’s disposal; pornography labeled and distributed as pornography where all the men are well-endowed and women’s breasts look more like inflated balloons.
The film is divided in to six chapters: ‘Beginning’ (‘Upphaf’), ‘Pornography’ (‘Klám’), ‘Rape’ (‘Nauðgun’), ‘Setting Boundaries’ (‘Að setja mörk’), ‘Violence’ (‘Ofbeldi’) and ‘Get a Yes’ (‘Fáðu Já’).
The first chapter, ‘Beginning,’ is, I am guessing, the most awkward part of for parents. A young couple on a journey of sexual discovery eagerly prepares to make responsible but passionate love at the girl’s home while her parents are away.
Everything is as it should be. The condom, the mutual respect and young love with a dose of humor.
The same chapter also portrays the opposite of sex between two willing participants: a young man raping a girl who has passed out on a bed.
I won’t lie: the film is explicit about sex—and it needs to be.
Sex has been taboo for too long. Parents and children struggle to have an honest dialogue about sex and all that it involves. The next chapter, ‘Pornography’ blatantly displays how pornography is influencing teens’ perception of what it is to be with another person.
The most difficult chapter to watch is of course ‘Rape.’ It never shows the actual violence explicitly but hints at it with strong before and after scenes. Visual metaphors in which innocent activities that seemingly have nothing to do with sex are the most powerful ones. One scene in particular struck the audience and has started a dialogue about the absurdity of forcing someone to perform oral sex against his or her will.
Those who’ve read Þórdís Elva’s book will no doubt recognize some of the scenes.
The same chapter also starts a dialogue about what defines rape, and challenges the Icelandic dictionary definition. An example is a comment that I suspect was made following rape charges made against a popular but controversial media personality.
Some of his female supporters went as far as saying that “he was welcome to rape them anytime.” The film’s reply is simple: “It’s not rape if both participants are willing!”
I don’t want to go into too much detail because the film speaks for itself but the film is current, fresh, funny but serious, and speaks to teenagers.
The film is written by people who know how to connect with the target age group and speak their lingo. Those involved with the project are clearly not easily shocked and are ready and willing to discuss the film to young people for whom the film is made.
Páll Óskar’s narration lends humor to awkwardness, understanding and compassion to those who’ve been violated, condemnation to myths and views that support violence.
There are no toilets breaks, no sudden fits of thirst, and no failures in front of the cameras. Sex is a constant exercise and it’ll do all parents a world of good to sit down in the privacy of their homes and watch the film with the teenager/s in the house.
The film is available here to speakers of several languages with English, Spanish, Danish Thai and Filipino subtitles.