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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

'Stephanie' tracks aftermath of murder

In 1996, a year and half after her daughter's body was found under a workbench in her brother's basement, Gloria Davis approached filmmaker Bess O'Brien.

"You don't know me," Davis said, "but I've seen 'Journey into Courage' (a documentary O'Brien made about domestic violence) and I want you to make a movie about my daughter."

Intrigued by Gloria and moved by her story, O'Brien agreed, and spent the next year obtaining footage of Gloria and her remaining daughter, April, for what would become the documentary "Where is Stephanie?"

"I became really close to (Gloria and April) over the course of filming," O'Brien said. "It's important to connect and create a sense of trust when you're invading someone's privacy like that."

Co-directed by Mary Arbuckle, "Where is Stephanie?" looks at the events leading up to Stephanie's death but focuses more on its aftermath and the impact of the event on her immediate family and the generations that follow.

O'Brien emphasizes the honesty of her approach and her faith in the film's ability to generate strong reactions and meaningful dialogue surrounding issues of sexual violence, mother-daughter relationships and the healing process.

"In our society we tend to hear about things in sound bites, which is a rather superficial way of dealing with issues. But in 'Where is Stephanie?' we show what happened without any glossing over," O'Brien said.

The film is a product of Kingdom County Productions, a non-profit company based in Peachum, Vt. Kingdom County produced the feature films "Where the Rivers Run North" and "A Stranger in the Kingdom" as well as O'Brien's documentaries.

The company also runs Fledgling Films, a division initiate for high school and college students, which offers students three weeks in an institutional setting gaining hands-on experience making dramatic films.

"Where is Stephanie?" will show at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13 in Loew Auditorium as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. O'Brien will introduce the film and answer questions afterwards. Admission is free.