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A new documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival features pop-rock star Alanis Morissette slamming rape culture after revealing her own experience with childhood sexual assault — though she's since spoken out against the film's treatment of her story.
The Alison Klayman-directed HBO film Jagged world-premiered Tuesday at TIFF, featuring footage of the 47-year-old singer-songwriter accusing various men who worked on her early music career of statutory rape.
In the film, Morissette recalls traveling across Canada to work on what would become her self-titled debut record, Alanis, which dropped when she was 16. She describes the period as a "different era" that included an "element of lack of hyper-protection, no question." She remembers being "hit on a bunch of times by people way too old" when she visited nightclubs on off days, but she felt increasingly vulnerable as a young girl working in recording studios for in excess of 12 hours per day.
"I just thought it was my fault because almost every single person that I would work with, there'd be some turning point where the camera would go Dutch angle. I'd just wait for it, like, okay, this won't happen in the first week for this one, but it'll happen. Sure enough, it would, and it would either end the relationship or then there'd be some big secret that we'd keep forever," she says.
Later, an interview clip from the '90s shows a much younger Morissette discussing how she immersed herself in an industry that forced her into an "accelerated growth" and that she had to learn how to establish boundaries as an adult.
"Me not telling specific information about my experience as a teenager was almost solely around wanting to protect my parents, protect my brothers, protect future partners, protect myself, protect my physical safety," she says. "It was a lot of shame around having any kind of victimization of any kind, and it took me years in therapy to even admit that there had been any kind of victimization at my part. I'd always say, 'I was consenting,' then I'd be reminded, hey, you were 15. You're not consenting at 15. Now, I'm like, oh, yeah, they're all pedophiles. All statutory rape."
Morissette says the few people she told at the time received the information with "deaf ears," and most would stand up and walk out of the room after she confided in them.
"A lot of people say, 'Why did that woman wait 30 years?' I'm like, f--- off, they didn't wait 30 years. No one was listening, or their livelihood was threatened, or their family was threatened," she finishes. "So, yeah, the whole 'why do women wait' thing? Women don't wait. Culture doesn't listen."
Courtesy of TIFF Alanis Morrissette in her 'Jagged' documentary.
Ahead of the film's TIFF debut, a representative for Morissette provided EW with a statement from the singer addressing the film's content that also confirmed she would not support the film at the Canadian festival. Morissette said she "agreed to participate in a piece about the celebration of Jagged Little Pill's 25th anniversary," though she alleged the project's interviews were conducted "during a very vulnerable time" as she struggled with postpartum depression for the third time.
"I was lulled into a false sense of security and their salacious agenda became apparent immediately upon my seeing the first cut of the film," she said. "This is when I knew our visions were in fact painfully diverged. This was not the story I agreed to tell. I sit here now experiencing the full impact of having trusted someone who did not warrant being trusted. I have chosen not to attend any event around this movie for two reasons: One is that I am on tour right now. The other is that, not unlike many 'stories' and unauthorized biographies out there over the years, this one includes implications and facts that are simply not true."
Representatives for Jagged did not provide EW with a response to Morissette's statement.
Elsewhere throughout the documentary, Morissette outlines her meteoric success throughout the mid-'90s with her classic album Jagged Little Pill, which went on to sell 33 million copies around the world. Still, she's open about other struggles she endured at the height of her career, including "active recovery" for an eating disorder that started when she was a teenager after producers told her she needed to watch her weight.
"We'd go out to eat, he'd have a whole large pizza, and I was allowed to buy a black coffee, but I couldn't put milk in it. So that kickstarted a massive eating disorder journey for me," she says. "I remember when I was like 15 or 16 I started gaining weight because I was going through puberty, and I was called into the studio to redo my vocals, and when I got there, the producer said, 'We're not doing vocals. We're here to talk about your weight.' Whenever I'd go to a video shoot, I remember sneaking Velveeta cheese slices from the fridge at three in the morning, and the next morning would come, and he'd walk in and count them and say, 'Did you eat two slices of cheese during the night?'"
Ultimately, Morissette's said she found "beauty and some elements of accuracy" in the film, but she "won't be supporting someone else's reductive take on a story much too nuanced for them to ever grasp or tell."
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