When Lorena Bobbitt famously cut off her husband’s penis in the ’90s, much of the resulting news coverage descended into “dick jokes”, as Joshua Rofé, director of Amazon’s documentary Lorena put it at Deadline’s Sundance Studio.
But, inspired by a 2016 newspaper article about how the Bobbitt coverage had been the nation’s missed opportunity to discuss domestic violence, Rofé wanted to take a look at the detailed story behind the woman and the incident.
“This story would have been local folklore in Virginia had it happened ten years earlier,” Rofé said, “but it happened on June 23rd, 1993, coinciding with the birth of the 24-hour news cycle. Virtually overnight it was the biggest story on Earth. Lost in all of that is the fact that here’s this human being who suffered some of the worst sh*t a human being could ever be put through.”
Tracking Lorena Bobbitt down (she now goes by her maiden name Gallo), he had to explain to her that he didn’t intend to produce anything like the previous media coverage. “I pleaded my case that I was not like all these other people who’d shown up on her doorstep with cameras in prior years,” he said. “We talked, and then fortunately for me, this wonderful person said, ‘You can tell my story.’”
For Gallo, the documentary was happening at exactly the right time. “To see it through the lens of the #MeToo era also made me more powerful, and gave me strength to tell the story, and that’s exactly what I did,” she said. “As a survivor or domestic violence, I came out and I see hope.”
She also wants the documentary to serve as an education tool to aid those in domestic violence situations. “Unfortunately there are not too many people who are well-educated,” she said. “They don’t know how to come out of a situation of domestic violence, so I want to reach out to the victims and survivors.”
For more from our conversation with Bobbitt and Rofé, click above.