I watch a lot of movies, and when it comes to the Hot Docs Festival, I watch a lot of documentaries in a short period of time. Documentaries are so special because of the stories that they tell, the real human stories, and the ways that they can touch the viewer that a fictional film never can. Even so, sometimes they begin to run together in my mind. Still, every year, one documentary will stand out to me more than the others. This year, that film is DREAMCATCHER.

Brenda Myers-Powell was not always a good woman. She was victimized, and in turn she played a part in victimizing others. She abandoned her children for 12 years. She worked the streets as a prostitute. She used drugs, and ended up near death with her face peeled off after a savage beating. But Brenda is not that woman anymore.

After escaping a life of drugs and prostitution, Brenda’s life did a full 180. Now, she works by day in prison counselling locked up women. By night, she runs her foundation, Dreamcatcher. Not content merely to escape the life herself, Brenda dedicates every moment of her day and every ounce of herself to saving other women from the life that nearly killed her.

Cameras follow Brenda as she works with at-risk youth in a high school, letting them voice their biggest crises, their darkest secrets and their most monumental of fears. Young girls, one after the other, confess to her the abuse and sexual assault that has touched their lives. What’s scariest is that these young women, still children, tell identical stories to the prostitutes that Brenda takes care of out of her van at night.

These women put on a tough face, but melt within moments of meeting with the force that is Brenda. She draws out from them the most tender, vulnerable parts of their humanity, and shows them compassion and understanding that they have never been afforded by the rest of the world. There is no judgement, no tough-love: she supports them no matter what. She knows their pain, and she’s merely there to alleviate it.

Brenda is nothing short of an angel on earth, and DREAMCATCHER approaches the subject of prostitution and drug abuse in the poverty stricken streets of Chicago with an empathy that no film I have ever seen has done. No matter what these women have gone through, no matter what horrible things they have done, it is the love that Brenda shows them that can truly change their lives.

If you see one film at Hot Docs this year, let it be this one.

DREAMCATCHER plays at Hot Docs 2015 today, Friday May 1st – 9pm at The Lightbox. It then plays once more at Lightbox, on Saturday May 2nd – 11:30am. (official website)