Ora DeKornfeld created Sensei, a short documentary about Brenda Mayfield, a Durham woman who became a martial arts teacher, or sensei, after being raped. We asked Ora to share with us her video and how it came to be. Watch the documentary and read more about Ora and Brenda below. (*Trigger warning)
The first time I spoke with Brenda was on the phone. I had seen her number listed on a flier advertising ‘No Nonsense Self Defense’ at Joe’s Diner in East Durham and decided to give her a call. Her voice was immediately familiar and warm. She was so open, telling me about her childhood in foster care, the violence in her neighborhood and how she uprooted her life in Boston to move to Durham seven years ago. She didn’t know me at all and yet she warmly agreed to help me when I proposed to make a documentary about her. Little did she know this documentary would practically mean living together for the next month.
I followed Brenda’s every move— we went everywhere together, anywhere from the Harris Teeter to buy microwave dinners when her oven broke to trick-or-treating around the neighborhood on Halloween. She quickly got used to the camera and learned to ignore me. Though our hangouts usually ended with Brenda saying, “Okay Ora, get out of my house,” as we spent more and more time together, we became friends.