Kill Joy is a feature documentary that begins with the unraveling of a middle-class family 36 years ago which ends in a tragic family homicide. It is told from the unique point of view of the child, Kathryn Joy, who grew up with her father unaware he was the man who killed her mother. It grapples with big dilemmas like how does one reconcile the love you have for your only living parent who is capable of both genuine kindness and killing; and a legal system that decided it was in your best interests to be raised by that same person.
BEHIND THE SCENES
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
Though positive change is happening, the global tragedy of family homicide is not abating. Australia has one of the highest rates amongst all developed nations. On average, one woman a week is killed by her former or current partner. More than two- thirds (68%) of mothers who have had children in their care when they experienced violence from their previous partner said their children had seen or heard the violence. When a parent is killed by their partner, their children experience multiple losses. Long-term consequences for children include mental health issues, poor educational outcomes and high risk of further victimization and violence perpetration.
Intimate partner violence is the biggest health risk for women aged 25-44. Economically speaking, the combined health, administrative and social welfare costs of violence against women have been estimated to be $21.7 billion a year.
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
We hope to draw attention to the devastating impacts of family homicide on children over the course of their lives. The fact that the primary victim is dead, and the secondary victims are often children, coupled with a lack of understanding within mainstream media means that the narrative around family homicide obsesses about the perpetrators rather than the victims’ and survivors’ stories. Kathryn’s remarkable story will shift the narrative to one that humanises and privileges the victims.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
With our partners, we aim to provide a valuable personal account to the ongoing family law debate within Australia. We aim to highlight the experiences of children as a means to lobby the family law courts to provide more checks and balances, understanding the rights of children independently of parental rights.
The story Joy tells can ensure that an alternative narrative exists, and that children bereaved by family homicide feel their experiences are valid despite their fragmented memory, and that women like Carolyn who die from their intimate partners weekly are remembered as women and mothers first and victims second.
How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?
There are women who are vulnerable to family violence who will not see this film if it screens only at festivals or on television. So we'd like to organise and fund small scale, intimate, safe and free community screenings with post-screening discussions, outreach, and support. While watching this film privately on a device can be an apt mode of delivery for some, physical gatherings and discussions are critical in overcoming the stigma and silence around family violence.
Our film has great potential for use within secondary and tertiary education. Much of the narrative of this film occurs while Kathryn was a secondary / tertiary student. She is for many Australians an identifiable and relatable character. Beyond family homicide, Kathryn’s story addresses many other issues from motherlessness to PTSD and mental health, and given its confronting and even controversial nature, we believe it will naturally be a good discussion starter.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
We are partnering with the University of Melbourne to develop ways children's experience of family violence can inform the family violence and criminal justice sectors. We are working with the family violence sector to ensure Kill Joy builds upon national strategy in the prevention of violence against women and children.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
We want to fuel a groundswell of empathy, both via festival cinemas and grassroots community screenings, that will translate into support for a nationwide support network for children of family homicide. Kathryn’s story is a powerful indictment of the law’s failure to protect children, and so we hope this film will be an asset in the fight to change laws that govern perpetrators’ access to their children.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
More broadly, this film will be a powerful reminder of how little has changed in the law’s male bias; the judge’s remarks and sentencing in the Borce Ristevski of 2019 bearing a confronting similarity to those in the case of Kathryn’s father in 1985. Our law should reflect societal values, but in the case of family homicide, it doesn’t. We will measure our film’s legal impact When it is quoted and utilised by those campaigning to prioritise the welfare of children over the rights of perpetrators.