“She told the detectives over and over: he’s going to kill me,” we’re told in the recently released trailer for “The Fire That Took Her.” October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Patricia E. Gillespie’s documentary encourages audiences to consider its central question: “How much must women suffer to be believed?”
“The Fire That Took Her” takes us inside the shocking murder of Judy Malinowski, a 31-year-old woman who was set on fire by an abusive ex-boyfriend in 2015. Malinowski wanted to end things with her ex, but he refused to accept the breakup and then followed her to a gas station where he committed the atrocity, leaving the mother-of-two for dead.
Described as “a fighter”, However, Malinowski survived this assassination attempt to eventually become the first woman in history to testify at trial about her own murder. Gillespie, an alumna of Athena Film Fest’s Works-in-Progress Program, revisits the case in “The Fire That Took Her,” which includes interviews with the Malinowskis family members. The film gives a voice to survivors of gender-based violence and their families. “[Judy] would fight for every other woman who had gone through something like that,” emphasizes a loved one.
After the assault, Malinowski underwent 60 surgeries and was in a coma for seven months. She was brought back to life several times, still unable to walk and barely able to speak. “But Judy never lost her spirit, her faith or her bravery,” reminiscent of Judy’s Foundation, an organization that provides assistance to individuals and families who have experienced domestic violence, substance abuse, and human trafficking. Malinowski died 700 days after the attack.
According to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), An average of 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. One in four women and one in seven men experience serious physical violence by close partners, sexual violence in close relationships and/or stalking by close partners.
In 2017, Malinowski’s story prompted Ohio lawmakers to pass Judy’s Law, which enforces six additional years in prison for attacks that permanently disfigure or disable survivors. Her daughters, Kaylyn and Madison, then 13 and 10, were present at the signing and added their signatures to the bill. “Mother did not suffer in vain,” they said.
Gillespie previously directed episodes of “The Devil You Know” and the 2012 short “Sparrow Lane.”
“The Fire That Took Her” opens in theaters on October 21.