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by Karen Pecota

Amy Berg, USA 2022

Producer and filmmaker Amy Berg collaborates with HBO to direct a two-part documentary with actress Evan Rachel Wood who shares her survival mechanism after years of silence as a survivor of domestic violence in PHOENIX RISING. Berg captures in real time Wood's fight to pursue just behavior and says, "This is a story about justice, resiliency, vulnerability, and healing. It's a story about rising from the ashes and building the strength to advocate for yourself and for other survivors.

The four-year relationship Wood had with Brian Warner (aka Marilyn Manson) that seemed innocent in the beginning turned dark over time to where she became a terrified victim of "escalating emotional, physical, and sexual abuse." Warner denies all accusations.

Berg chronicles how Wood fell down the rabbit hole and ultimately climbed her way back out but notes, "The special part of the film is not only its intimate, personal portrayal of Wood's life but the importance of community and solidarity to overcome."

Wood sought to file charges of intimate partner violence against her abuser but had been told that her evidence was too old, and that there was nothing she could do for her case. But she could pursue just behavior for others and try to change the law for those who would come after her. Wood's search for justice is where Berg picks up the pieces of Wood's passion to fight for others using her own personal experience as a catalyst.

Berg came to the project when Wood’s bill, The Phoenix Act, which she co-authored and lobbied, was making its way through the California state legislature. In 2019, The Phoenix Act was signed into California state law that extends the limitations for domestic violence felonies from three years to five years. Though they were asking for ten years, a five-year adjustment was a definite win worth celebrating.

Berg takes the audience on a journey that explores the widespread misunderstandings of domestic abuse and the factors that hinder survivors from coming forward with their stories even as they deal with years of aftershocks and emotional trauma.