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Filmmaker explores children’s reactions to divorce in new documentary

A new documentary from San Francisco filmmaker Ellen Bruno explorers children’s reactions to divorce.

Split, which runs for 30 minutes, consists of interviews with a selection of children aged between six and 12, each discussing their feelings about their parents’ divorce.

Ellen Bruno is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has specialised in works about human rights and humanitarian issues. Her own parents divorced during her childhood and is now also divorced from the father of her children.

She told Marin Independent Journal:

“When my parents separated when I was a kid, I was pretty alone in that. At the time, it was believed that silence was the best medicine, so to speak. I know from my own experience and I also know from my kids’ experience, when things aren’t talked about, kids have wild imaginations and they imagine the worst. They become the monsters under the bed. Bringing these conversations out in the open is a huge relief for kids.”

No adults are featured in the film. One boy tells viewers:

“Here’s a perfect family … the mom and dad love each other and they eat pancakes every day. But that will never happen in the world. No one’s perfect. Nothing is perfect.”

A girl, meawhile, tells the camera:

“It’s like something that you really love breaks, and you can’t put it back together again.”

Other interviewees tell children watching the documentary that expressing their feelings can help, but also advise them to stay out of the way of rowing parents.

Commons themes emerged in the interviews featured the in film, the paper reports: children hate seeing the parents rowing, often believe divorces are their fault and frequently hope their parents will get back together, even if they have new partners.

Bruno said divorce had become so normal for adults that “there’s a misconception that it’s also normalized for the kids. It’s a profound change for children, even in the best circumstances. So this is really about getting kids to talk, and getting parents to listen.”

The film, which was intended to have an honest but hopeful tone, also features animations of children’s drawings by Bruno’s collaborator Gwen Gordon.

Gordon said she hoped children viewing the film would:

“…see themselves, see something about their experience that’s articulated… that they feel more connected to the world on a journey others have traveled and so they’re safer. They’re not alone, and that there are things they can do. And I hope that it helps their relationships with their parents, which is what really matters.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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