Animated film on the psychological violence of parental alienation.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I decided to make a film about the psychological violence of parental alienation since I unfortunately had to experience it myself. Without going into details of my personal life, I will say that I decided to create a fictional film about this terrible situation because I wanted to raise awareness about this issue. It’s such a sad situation when a child is torn between his parents; brainwashed into believing one of the parental figure is a bad. Parental alienation has no prejudice: it can affect any social class, culture and it is geared towards the fathers as much as it is towards the mothers.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
I would like this film to be watched by as many people as possible because it is exploring a taboo subject, parental alienation, a condition that is wide spread. Parental alienation occurs mainly after a separation and, as we know, the divorce rate is constantly accelerating around the world. More and more children are subjected to the psychological violence of parental alienation which has tremendous repercussions on the child’s psychological well-being. Similar difficulties affect the parent who is being alienated from his child. This problematic touches many families and as a society, we are just slowly beginning to explore this issue.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I have taken my personal experience, transposed it into a fictional film, in the hope of creating a universal story that can touch people no matter their age, origin or gender. I have used the simplicity of the white animated lines on a black background because the subject of the film is very heavy. With few backgrounds and elements, it brings the film back to the essential: love and hate are so closely related. Parental alienation is quite vicious.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
From the original idea to the finish product, it took about four years. In my career, I mainly make short animated documentary films (like McLaren’s Negatives, 2004, Jutra, 2014 or Oscar, 2016). The creation of those films is quite different because they are heavily influenced by archives. In Your mother is a thief!, I had to write a fiction script for the first time. I found the transposition of written words into animation quite challenging, because it is another language. Written words and animated lines are two different worlds. Until the end of the production scenes were added and deleted. The film seems quite simple when you watch it, but lots of thoughts went into the creation of this animation. It’s a delicate and taboo subject and I was close to it.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The presentation of the film through the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival (through the initiative Not Short on Talent! from Telefilm Canada) is the first screening of my new short animated film so I have not received feedback so far, but I am confident the film will be able to reach its audience.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I wanted to have a window on your website because you are an advocate for parity in the film industry, which is quite an important issue. I also wanted to make people aware that there is a new animation film that has just been released about parental alienation and it’s called: Your mother is a thief!
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Now that the film is finished, I hope it will be presented widely. A film festival director can program it for its audience, a journalist can write about it to inform the general public, a social worker can use it to warn parents about the dangers of parental alienation or a child psychologist can watch it with his young patient to start up a conversation about the violence of the situation. The film has been made to raise awareness about this problem and I hope a wide variety of usages can be made from it, not limiting the projection of the animation to cinemas.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I think it is a film that, without being didactic, can be used in many ways to raise awareness and promote a healthier relationship between the parents while they are going through a very rough patch. Parents need to ensure their children’s psychological well-being.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
I remember when I made the film Passages (2008) about the traumatic birth of my first daughter Fiona, I was terrified to go to any of my film screenings. For one, it was difficult to relive the ordeal while watching the film but, as well, it was so confronting to deal with the fact that I had made such a personal film. I was placed in front of an audience of strangers that knew everything about the most traumatic experience of my life. But the more I went to these screenings, the more I realized how universal the condition of difficult childbirth was. After the screenings, women would come to me and tell me about their difficult personal experiences or about someone else they knew. I once sat through a screening while the woman behind me was crying. I now know it was an important film to make for women.
For Your mother is a thief! , I hope it will help children and parents to be aware of the psychological unhealthiness of parental alienation. I also want the film to convey a message of hope. The main protagonist of my animation seeks help at the end of the film in the hope of deprogramming the alienation her child has been the victim of. So I guess a simple key questions to spark a debate about this film would be to ask the audience if they have ever experienced any kind of parental alienation. Is our society doing anything to stop this psychological violence against children and their parents ?
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Right now, I am writing a PhD thesis about how feminist animated film emerged at the National Film Board of Canada (1970-1979); it’s a strong historical moment of the “second wave” of the feminist movement. I am looking at how the women animators at the NFB were able to incorporate feminist issues within the state funded production. I am also directing a film about Jean-Claude Lauzon that is being produced by Yanick Létourneau from Périphéria Productions in Montreal.
Interview: May 2018
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Your Mother is a Thief!
Animated film on the psychological violence of parental alienation.
Director: Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre
Producer: Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre
Writer: Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre
About the writer, director and producer:
Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre is an independent producer, scriptwriter, director and animator who has been working in the film animation industry for fifteen years. Her films have been recognized internationally and awarded over fifty prizes. She is a PhD student at UQÀM in the Études et pratiques des arts program, with a concentration in feminists studies.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):
Travelling, les films qui voyagent (sales and distribution) - firstname.lastname@example.org