5/10 In the mid ‘00s in the Manitoba Mennonite colony in Bolivia cut off from modern cities where women are not taught to read and only speak an outdated dialect of German, several colony men came up with a scheme to use animal anesthetic to drug and gang-rape women, then blame it on Satan and say they all needed to pray harder. Colony elders explained the attacks as either the work of demons, God’s punishment for something or other or simply as products of “vivid female imagination.” This went on for four years. The rapists attacked at least 130 women and girls – that’s just who came forward in court, the actual number of victims in those first four years is probably at least twice that – including one as young as 3 years old, before they were caught in the act and modern law enforcement was contacted. Seven rapists and the veterinarian who supplied the anesthetic were convicted in 2011, but reporting in 2013 indicated that these attacks were severely underreported, never discussed within the colony and were likely ongoing. This review describes scenes of the aftermath of these assaults, both real and fictionalized.
Miriam Toews’ novel “Women Talking,” and now Sarah Polley’s film adaptation, imagines the same scenario playing out in 2010 in rural Pennsylvania – and that’s the term, an opening title card reads, “What follows is an act of female imagination.”
In the film, the scheme has just been discovered, and with all the men gone to town to post bail for their rapist buddies, the elders left the women with an ultimatum – forgive all the men unconditionally, or be excommunicated. The women discover democracy, and hold a vote between forgiving the men as commanded, preparing to meet them with armed resistance or fleeing the colony, but when “fight” and “flight” tie, they forget all about democracy, and the women of three powerful families are selected to decide between the two remaining options. This discussion takes place on the second floor of a barn with a wall-sized window overlooking the field, a beautiful ticking clock as they must decide by sundown.Continue reading