Vancouver’s Dynamic Duo produces a film about pioneering couples work
“Crossing the Bridge,” a documentary film about the work of Hedy and Yumi Schleifer, shows the power of skillful, deep work with couples in the context of a public workshop. What is striking is the level of intimacy, trust, and truth telling. Indeed the courage of the participants speaks to the radical, transformative nature of Imago Relationship Therapy, developed by Harville Hendrix.
On their return to Vancouver after participating in their second couples workshop, Dennis Ewasiuk and his wife, Anne Dobbie, had an idea. To make a film about Hedy and Yumi. The only glitch was that neither Ewasiuk nor Dobbie had ever made a film and had no idea where to start.
That didn’t stop them from approaching the Schleifers with the idea.The Schleifers were delighted; they’d always wanted someone to film them. They set a March date for a workshop in Vancouver. That was in January.
Dennis contacted a film producer friend to find out about the process. “He moved the rock and got it rolling,” says Dennis. “He was like a mentor through the whole process.”
Then Hedy called and said she and Yumi had just met a woman in Miami, Robyn Symon, who made documentary films.
“When you have a vision or a goal, it’s amazing how things fall into place,” says Dennis. “I thought, OK, there’s a reason we’ve all come together. Once Symon was on board, the rock really started rolling.”
Symon in turn hired a great crew to film the March workshop, which, as fate would have it, was way over subscribed. “We had to turn people away,” says Anne, “and here we were worried we wouldn’t get even 15 couples.”
“Filming in a hotel space is not like a studio,” says Dennis. “We had to get the permissions and release forms worked out. Robyn wanted to talk to some of the couples ahead of time. Hedy and Yumi explained that people were not coming to be filmed; they were coming to do work on their relationships. Hedy said, ‘not to worry: the stars will emerge.’ And that’s what happened. People were tentative at the beginning. To help things out, we told anyone who didn’t want to be filmed to let us know. We put dots on nametags—20% at first. By noon people had forgotten there was even a film crew there. And in the afternoon, a lot of the dots were gone. In the end, out of 30 couples, only two or three didn’t sign a release form.”
Testament to the atmosphere of trust the Schleifers are able to create.
“They are so true to what they’re about,” says Anne. “They’re honest about their own struggles, and they bring that into workshops. You see them in action. They’re able to help others understand what’s going on and give them tools to move forward. The power struggle is normal, and that’s when many go their separate ways. Their mission is to connect couples.”
“Hedy is brilliant,” Anne continues. “She lights up the whole space.”
“When you learn Yumi’s story, you see his evolution as a partner and as a husband,” says Dennis. “In his 40s and 50s, Yumi was fairly non-communicative like a lot of us men. It was only after he went to a workshop with his wife that he took his engineer’s brain and realized that there was more to relationship than just showing up—you had to work at it. That gives an example and hope to other men.”
As Anne puts it, “Yumi fathers men and women into their best relationship.”
And that’s what happened for Anne and her husband. “At one point, quitting was an option for us,” explains Dennis. “Now we have tools to work with. It’s no longer about whether or not to be in relationship. Quitting isn’t an option anymore.”
At times, producing the film was challenging for their marriage. They were undergoing a major house renovation and raising two children. At one point, the four of them were living in a one-bedroom basement suite.
“We had to be strong in our relationship to follow through with this commitment,” says Dennis. “Once we rediscovered and reclaimed the love we had for each other—that was the power.”
“It was a huge creative force,” adds Anne. “We took on something we had no idea about, connected with people through collaboration and vision and belief.”
And the result? An astonishing and deeply moving film.
Last October, “Crossing the Bridge” won Best Documentary at LA Femme Festival.
To order a DVD of “Crossing the Bridge,” visit: http://hedyyumi.org/ctbfilm.html
To find out more about Imago Relationship Therapy, visit: http://imagobc.com/
Dennis & Anne at the film's premier