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Teen documentarian from Manitou Springs wins national film festival

Documentary helps family heal domestic violence trauma
Posted at 8:03 AM, Dec 09, 2022
and last updated 2023-05-01 11:17:32-04

Earlier this year, 18-year-old, Olive Van Eimeren, alongside graduating from Manitou Highschool, screened a film she directed as a part of the Youth Documentary Academy of Colorado Springs.

Her film debuted at the All American High School Film Festival in New York.

"There was a look on her face, when she said, 'I have to go. I have to be there,'" said Domonic Van Eimeren, Olive's non-biological father.

Olive's film "Skinned Knees," in which she confronts her biological father and her family's history living under his abuse, won the top prize of that festival.

"I just built up this concept of what if I went to see him. You know, it's been 10 years at that point. I don't know. I guess I just took that personal leap," said Olive.

With that leap, she earned a $60,000 scholarship to film school.

She says her mom, Heather, "literally screamed" when Olive told her about the scholarship.

For Olive and Heather, domestic abuse survivors, this is about more than accolades. They say this is no easy story to relive and be public with.

"At work, I have everybody congratulating me for Olive, and how amazing it is. And it is, and I'm so proud of her. Then they go to watch the film and it's all of those things that I really didn't want everybody to know about. It's out in the open now. And that's okay because it's helping. It's helping her," said Heather.

Heather said it's Olive who gives her the strength to be open about her part of their story.

"Being a mom, there's nothing that I wouldn't do for her. So, if it makes me uncomfortable, that's okay. It's not about me," said Heather.

Domonic, who stepped up to being a dad, said he can only imagine the kind of bravery it takes to share these experiences.

"I'm not sure I can possibly understand what it's like to share with people. What I watched and heard from her was anxiousness and confidence," said Domonic.

Olive now screens her film with students still in high school and in screening circuits, which she says is incredibly rewarding, despite how nervous she gets.

"After the screening, one of the students came up, shook our hands and thanked us for creating these films. That's something I didn't know I had to be thanked for doing," said Olive.

Heather says she hopes Olive's film fosters the strength in others to leave their own domestic abusers and live their lives past trauma.

"I'm hoping that a lot of people are also able to see their situations, whether they're a mom or the child that's growing up affected by it, and is able to go 'okay, we can do this. We can get out. This, we can move forward and let it go. Because they are more than that," said Heather.

Olive's parents said they hope, no matter what direction this achievement takes her, that Olive finds her own sense of happiness and fulfillment.

If you or someone you know is experiencing interpersonal violence, you are not alone.

There are local resources, including Tessa of Colorado Springs, Violence Free Colorado, and local domestic shelters that are ready to help.

There is also a national helpline at 1-800-799-7233.