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Meet the Finalist: Angelena Bonet, "Change The World"

Tell us about yourself, and about Change The World.

My career began as a model in Sydney, Australia. I was discovered in a hair salon at 18 years old and my first photoshoot was for Vogue Australia. The next couple of years I studied at business college and worked as a secretary so modeling was just part-time for me and many shoots and catwalks jobs were unpaid. A couple of years later I won a couple of big bikini competitions and landed my first cover of Inside Sport magazine, which is the Australian equivalent of Sports Illustrated. It gave me incredible exposure and my career just took off from there. I appeared on numerous TV commercials such as Pepsi and McDonalds, shot an American film in The Philippines and was then cast on the TV soap opera 'Breakers' for two years, which aired in more than 50 countries.

I then landed two more Inside Sports covers, including the Sydney Olympic Games Issue in 2000. I was body painted in the Australian flag and it was the biggest selling issue ever. Working with that publication was definitely a dream come true for me and opened many doors for major contracts with swimsuit and lingerie companies, including Elle MacPherson’s Intimate apparel range. My career took me around the world, and when I returned from working in Milan I was named the new Australian Supermodel on national prime time news. Subsequently, I was booked for a Panasonic billboard campaign. While visiting L.A. I went to NBC studios to see The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and was invited onto his stage to help warm up the audience on two separate occasions. Shortly after I moved to Toronto and hosted the FIFA World Cup Show in 2010 and was an actress on the W Network TV series Ghostly Encounters. Then in 2014 and I had suffered two tragedies in my life and that was the driving force behind me creating my own film production company, Crystal Heart Productions. I began interview women and girls around the world, letting them have their voices heard. I aligned myself with ethical non-profit organisations and I began in early 2016 with the idea to make a short film about women’s rights. As I was editing the footage from the V Day One Billion Rising event I was involved in, I realized that it was paramount I let the audience know why I was so passionate about ending violence against women and changing the world. I needed to be brave, to be vulnerable by being transparent and let people know I had been the victim of a violent crime whereby I was kidnapped with weapons, gang raped and almost murdered. While I was with the detectives I learned that sexual violence against women was a global silent epidemic and crossed all socioeconomic spectrums. I was just disgusted that I was one of millions of women experiencing the same horror. My evidence took seven months to come back from Forensics and my case had been expedited. It made me so angry and sad at the same time that some human beings could be so evil and cruel and not serve justice for their heinous crimes. This happened to me in 2012, before the #MeToo movement had begun and no-one was talking about it in public. The empathy and compassion I had for all women deepened, my eyes had been opened and my spirit wanted to help. I wanted to give everyone who had been silenced a voice because I knew firsthand how traumatizing it is. Not only was I groomed by my main perpetrator over a period of time, but my parents were too. After the attack, they didn’t believe that person was capable of something so evil and have since ostracized me from the family. After losing my dear soulmate five years prior, suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and then losing my immediate family was unbearable and as a consequence, I was suicidal and didn’t want to live anymore. I wondered how many other women had been revictimized and outcast by their families after their rape also? I was beyond scared to go public with my personal journey but I had to find my courage and not feel ashamed. I reminded myself that the shame lies with the predators, not the victims. Ever. I wanted all of us to reclaim our power and stand together in solidarity and be heard. As I began the film, I started adding more and more footage from my past and as I was going back through my life and putting the jigsaw puzzle together it had an intense healing effect on me. That’s when I decided to put the songs I co-wrote with my late fiancé and my eulogy from his funeral in my film. I wanted to empower all women and girls to come together in one accord and make the change in our lifetime once and for all. So to win 'Best Inspirational Film' for my biopic documentary short film at your prestigious film awards was such a touching moment. I shed tears because I was honored to win that particular category after all I have suffered. To know I am being heard makes my heart sing and I will forever cherish this award and time in my life!

Share a memorable moment you experienced working on this project.

There were so many memorable moments whilst working on my project it's hard to choose just one. To meeting the incredibly strong, resilient and brilliant women I met, to performing the songs I co-wrote with my late fiancé and completing our music. The most magical moment I experienced working on my project, however, was the satisfaction of having the courage to keep my promise to my late fiancé and speak my truth about the violent sexual crime I survived. To let my soul be free and release all fear of being seen and feeling vulnerable. I found an inner strength, my power in using my voice and it has set me free. It gave me the magical moment of knowing I had turned tragic into magic and that there was light at the end of the tunnel. My project was completely organic and by reliving it I had an enormous sense of gratitude for my life and all that I have endured on my journey because it has made me who I am - unstoppable.

Name 3 collaborators that you'd take with you to any other project.

I call myself “the one woman show” because I literally do everything. My production company, Crystal Heart Productions consists of me, myself and I! It was so much work and definitely a labor of love. As far as collaborations go I have continued lending my voice and support to amazing non-profit organisations such as V Day One Billion Rising and White Ribbon. I wish to work with new songwriters and producers and continue to grow as a person and an artist. The beauty of art is how projects manifest and the incredible people that cross your path. I am very excited for the future!

3 tips you’d like to share with aspiring artists in your field:

The advice I would give aspiring artists is to choose a subject matter close to your heart. If you’re not passionate and not 100% committed to telling your particular story you won’t have the drive to persist throughout the production. Another piece of advice I would give first-time filmmakers is to do your homework and hone your skills. There are no short cuts in this industry and being able to multi-task is an advantage. When I began collaborating with Erick back in Christmas 2004, I obviously had no idea how my life would flow. If you do what you love then you will have the energy to persevere no matter what life throws your way. Believe in yourself, follow your heart and surround yourself with positive people.

What do you hope to achieve in your career in the next 5 years?

In the next 5 years I would love to continue lending my voice and support to the V Day One Billion Rising Organisation founded by Tony award-winning playwright and activist, Eve Ensler. It's important for me to continue speaking out against violence against women and educating people on the devastating ramifications this evil crime inflicts. Victims need trauma support, families are torn apart, and perpetrators go largely unpunished. 8 out of 10 rapists are known to the victim and because of their manipulation, many victims are not believed. It is my mission to speak out on this issue and encourage victims to stand up and not be silenced. Crystal Heart Foundation was created to support victims and those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I plan to put more energy into this direction and making our voices even louder. I will be more active with Governments, policy makers, law makers and lobbying for much needed changes in our so called legal system. Our world cannot continue down this path and I vow to leave this world a better place than I found it.

dMusically, I would love to perform my soundtrack with the Australian Symphony Orchestra under the conductor, George Ellis at the Sydney Opera House. That is definitely a dream of mine! I would also like to write and record more songs and dedicate a song to children and their purity and innocence. They fill my heart with so much joy and they are our future. And of course, I will continue to produce more documentary films... it is my passion and my love!

Change The World is nominated for Best Documentary Feature of the Year at the New York Film Awards.


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