A cautionary tale set in a chilling dystopian future where rape is legal.
Interview with Writer/Director Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Director Nathan Hughes-Berry
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
We wanted to make a statement about the current sexual assault crisis and to try and get a conversation started around the notion of consent and to debunk some of the myths about rape victims. We started off by thinking of the worst possible scenario that could exist and landed on a society that has actually deemed rape a necessary facet of everyday life.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
We know this is not an easy film to watch! But also really hope that people aren’t just looking for easy when they walk into a cinema. You should watch this film because it poses some really uncomfortable questions about the world we live in, and holds a satirical mirror up to some ugly truths in our own society.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
The deeply personal usually becomes universal as we find that many people share the same deep feelings, the same secrets, the same sensitivities. This film bypasses the personal journey of the protagonist and her feelings, in favour of showing that rape victims are often just another statistic - even more so in the fictional world of the film. On a universal level the film can be looked at as the problem people have when they find themselves part of a society that imposes rules that they must adhere to - no matter how barbaric those rules are. Then what do you do? You either follow them or face the consequences. In this film the protagonist finds herself in a very clear lose-lose situation. Her attempt at control becomes perverse when taken out of context of the world she is living in.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The script started off a lot lighter! I was actually interested in writing a comedy about rape, as a response to how dark I was feeling about the patriarchy and misogyny in general - but the script just kept getting darker and darker! Actually it was Nathan who really pushed me to realise how dark we had to take it - otherwise we’d risk losing the themes that were so important to us. Once we started filming we realised there were more tweaks needed to certain scenes and actually re-shot and re-wrote what would become the pivotal sections of the movie.
The final film becomes almost abstract and fairly cold in its delivery of the message and it's presentation of the world. We weren't interested in trying to hook the audience by playing on their emotions and this approach was taken even further once we got into shooting - focusing on the events and rules of the world, rather than the feelings we should try and illicit.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
It has been very mixed. Some people love the film and feel that it says something very important. Others don't understand and are looking for a more emotional character journey. We knew it would be a difficult film to program and get out there and it has been interesting that even having the word 'rape' in the title still makes people scared and unsure about their feelings on the film - even before they have seen it. A few fellow filmmakers assumed we would change the title for festival submissions and were baffled when we stuck with the original. But that was the point for us - to really say something and not dampen it down. Other people said they struggle to connect with the film on a personal level, which I understand. It comes from the notion that a film has to please an audience or has to leave them feeling some kind of catharsis or recognition with the characters.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
What surprised me was that people still pick up on some of the dark humour that was left in the script. There is a scene where the young boy accidentally sets off the car alarm when he slams the woman into it and he starts worrying that his Dad will hear. The audience started to laugh but then there was this sense of it settling down again, like "oh yeah we can't laugh, it's about rape."
The biggest surprise for me was when I screened the film at York University. People were offended because the film depicts a woman who wants to be raped. But they didn't grasp that that is contextual to a society in which she will inevitably be raped and that it was part of the point we were making.
It was surprising in that academic setting that many people did not understand the satire of the film and started to assume it was a pro-rape film designed to shame women. It also surprised me that people just wanted to have their own feelings of offense validated and that it quickly got out of hand and was no longer even about the film at all. Although it was a tough screening it actually felt good because a lot of the arguments were about the issues we wanted to raise.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We think it's an important film with an urgent message and we want to engage with people to show them the film and get some kind of debate going. We want to hear what people think - good and bad and just start a dialogue. I don’t think films should be limited to the festival audience as it’s too small a demographic so we’re hoping to open it up to a wider film audience.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
What we really need at this point are journalists who would be willing to review the film and get it out there. We're aware that short films still don't hold anywhere near the weight of features but some online publicity could help spark interest and get some interesting comments and discussions going.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
With everything that is happening in the film industry right now and with the #metoo movement - we would like this film to be part of the discussion. What happens if we follow the excuses made for perpetrators to their logical conclusion? It is a difficult film to watch and a risky film to program at a festival but it has a strong message and we would like people to watch it and think about the bigger context.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
It comes back to the script and an exchange between the young boy who has been propositioned by this woman.
He says: "It's not rape if you want it is it?"
And she replies: "Who said I want it?"
That raised so many questions when I first read it and really got me thinking about the context of consent. If you are in a situation where you accept something or submit to something, is it really the same as wanting that thing? This woman is in a desperate situation and attempts to take control by finding a rapist and controlling the terms but if she was free to live in a world where rape wasn't legal - she wouldn't do this.
Would you like to add anything else?
A thank you to the crew - Emma Wardle, Greg Biskup, Karis Malszecki, Daria Savic, Dave Tebby and to the actors Rafferty Blumberg and Steven McCarthy for helping us to bring this film together and for really getting behind the message. And a huge thank you to everyone at Panavision and Redlab (especially JK) for their massive support and help.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Madeleine just finished a short about a man and a woman who have an altercation on two sides of a bathroom stall, and is writing a feature that tackles similar themes as Rape Card. Nathan is preparing to direct his first feature about a man who is trapped in a self imposed isolation.
Interview: April 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTIAQ+, scifi, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
A cautionary tale set in a chilling dystopian future where rape is legal.
Length: 15 mins
Director: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Nathan Hughes-Berry
Producer: Coral Aiken
Writer: Madeleine Sims-Fewer
About the writer, director and producer:
Madeleine and Nathan are a filmmaking duo who trained at The Drama Centre London and are both current grad students at York University, Toronto. Their short film The Substitute screened at over 50 film festivals worldwide and won 10 awards, including the Kodak Student Scholarship Award. After Madeleine took part in TIFF Talent Lab, they were both selected for Berlinale Talents in 2016 where they developed Rape Card.
Coral Aiken (Producer):
Aiken Heart Films collaborates with a new generation of filmmakers to create exciting and relevant cinema. Founder Coral Aiken is an alumni of Berlinale Talents and was one of eight producers selected for TIFF studio producing lab in 2014. Aiken Heart Films has screened work internationally notably with two short films in competition at the Festival de Cannes Cinefondation program.
Key cast: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Rafferty Blumberg, Steven McCarthy
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Journalists, buyers, film festival directors
Social media handles:
Funders: Shorts International, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Made in association with: York University
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? It will be screening at Mecal International Short Film Festival in Barcelona and then is part of a curated section of short films with Not Short on Talent at the Cannes Short Film Market. An online release is being scheduled with Shorts TV but in the meantime anyone who really wants to watch it should just email one of us.