You’ve probably never heard of her, but Brenda Myers-Powell is a star. She’ll have you by the heart within minutes of this documentary. Miss Brenda (everyone calls her that) is a force of nature, working full-on, 24/7 to help prostitutes in Chicago – distributing condoms and rescuing girls from the streets. Like a cross between Oprah and Missy Elliott, she’s all compassion and attitude. And prostitutes listen because, for 24 years, Miss Brenda was one of them – until a client dragged her along by the side of his car one night instead of paying up.
‘Dreamcatcher’ is harrowing. Miss Brenda’s day job is working as part of a prostitution intervention team. She runs a Prostitutes Anonymous group in a women’s jail and an after-school club for at-risk teenage girls in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. When Miss Brenda tells the class how she was sexually abused from the age of four, one by one the girls’ hands go up; half the class has a rape story to share.
Through it all, it’s as if director Kim Longinotto has borrowed the invisibility cloak from Harry Potter – how on earth do people open up so completely with her camera rolling? And she finds humour amid the tragedy. ‘I don’t know where my hair is,’ says Miss Brenda, padding around her house looking for a wig to suit today’s mood.