‘Screams Before Silence’ gives voice to October 7 survivors

Director Anat Stalinsky felt like many of her fellow Israelis in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks that killed 1,200 people and left hundreds more taken hostage.

Helpless.

Few documentaries pack the news value of ‘Screams Before Silence,’ yet it’s been roundly ignored by professional film critics.

So when asked to direct a documentary letting the survivors share their stories, she signed on without hesitation.

“I had an opportunity to use my professional skills and creative abilities to change something,” Stalinsky tells Align.

“Screams Before Silence,” available for free on both YouTube and its official web site, confronts viewers with all the brutality of that day. Death. Rape. Torture. Cruelties that recall the Third Reich’s barbarism through a 21st-century lens.

The images are stark and relentless, the testimonies depict atrocities that shock the senses. The focus is on sexual torture, something downplayed by organizations like the United Nations women’s rights agency.

That body took 55 days to condemn the Oct. 7 attacks.

The terrorists used cell phones and GoPro cameras to capture some of the horrors. Stalinsky purposely avoids that footage, letting the survivors paint the scene with words and tears.

“I decided not to go with explicit graphic visuals, although I could have. I wanted the people to be able to watch it,” she says of the decision to leave the horrors off screen. “It allows the viewers to go through the emotion process but not to drop out of the film,” she says.

The film remains hard to endure.

Those interviewed on screen couldn’t want to relive the nightmares. For them, they had little choice.

“They all understood the importance of the documentary and felt the need to share their story,” Stalinsky said of the film’s participants. It ties back to groups like the USC Shoah Foundation, an organization that gathers first-person testimonies from Holocaust survivors to teach future generations.

The documentary’s value has only grown since its May release.

It’s likely many of the pro-Palestinian protesters raging across American campuses haven’t seen or even heard about the film. Others may deny its conclusions, as if Stalinsky’s subjects collectively dreamt up the nightmare.

“Rape is not freedom fighting,” Stalinsky says as one reason to deny what happened.

Even higher profile names suggest what “Screams Before Silence” reveals is misinformation on steroids.

Public figures like Bassem Youssef (dubbed Egypt’s Jon Stewart) and Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon have questioned whether Hamas terrorists sexually assaulted countless women on that fateful day. They ignore the video shot and shared by terrorists along with the 45-minute video compiled by Israeli forces screened for select celebrities and politicians.

Former Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg is not just a driving force behind the film but the on-screen presence asking the tough but necessary questions of each survivor. Sandberg appears on the verge of tears repeatedly through the film.

Few documentaries pack the news value of “Screams Before Silence,” yet it’s been roundly ignored by professional film critics. TheWrap.com posted an early review of the film. Independent critic Danielle Solzman did, too.

That’s essentially it for a powerful movie wedded to the daily news cycle. It’s also available 24/7 online and would set a critic back far less than 90 minutes. A full month after its release, and the official reviews can be counted up on one hand.

“I think maybe people don’t want to deal with the subject,” she suggests. “You can’t review the film only as a film.”

“Screams” is not available on Max, Netflix, or other prominent platforms.

The Hollywood community has been similarly mum on the film. No hashtag campaigns or calls for activism, even from the feminist stars who rose up during the height of the MeToo movement.

“It’s kind of shocking. You would have thought it would get more reaction from people who tell stories,” she says. The lack of similar projects from inside the creative community didn’t dissuade her mission. It fueled it.

“It made us more driven to do the film, to break the silence, in a way,” she says.

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