Messy Business

Journeying through six passages of time, Messy Business was made with women who have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. Their motto is "Our Mess is Our Message".

Playful, insistent, dark yet uplifting, Messy Business is a visual elegy to their wisdom, resilience and pain, giving a voice to those who kept quiet but now want to shout off the rooftops. Together the six videos form a narrative arc that tells a tale of love, coercion, family and freedom.

  • Annis Joslin
  • Sarah Cole
  • Members of Joining Hands, Joining Hearts
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Short
  • Runtime:
    19 minutes 7 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 4, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Annis Joslin, Sarah Cole

This video, comprised of six shorts, is based on the true stories and lived experiences of members of Joining Hands Joining Hearts, a support group for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence. Cole & Joslin worked with these women for a year, meeting on a weekly basis to find ways to visualize their traumas, to laugh, play and share their stories in the making of this work. Aspirations for different futures were explored, with one woman jumping out of an airplane and another yelling advice to a younger self on a mega-phone on the edge of the sea.

Messy Business was the first collaboration between Sarah Cole & Annis Joslin, visual artists who work across media with communities in context. Commissioned by People United, Kent, UK, Messy Business has been screened at Tate Modern, Brighton's Cine-City Festival, and shortlisted at the Courage Film Festival.

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Director Statement

In working collaboratively with Joining Hands Joining Hearts we wanted to find ways to talk about domestic abuse in all its complexities. It is not a simple subject and many of the women we worked with, though damaged, were able to express joy and wisdom in the act of sharing their stories, a solidarity through the group activities and sense of making something that spoke to them and others.

In making a video that can be viewed in segments, each short section opens up a different conversation and can be used as a provocation in different ways. As a whole, Messy Business is a journey from falling in love to leaving it behind, a tale of caution but also hope.