Malgorzata Szumowska’s horror film The Other Lamb will be available to stream on VOD and other digital platforms April 3 and is a part of our Women’s History Month series – films that can be watched at home in an effort to support female filmmakers.
The Other Lamb is the test of female strength; a story of rebellion against patriarchy, the film portrays a smart and strong woman and the fight against anything that stands in her way.
For her entire life, teenage Selah (Raffey Cassidy) has known only an oppressive and dangerous cult that has shaped her worldview and way of life. Along with many similarly cloistered young women, she is cut off from modern society and presided over by a man named Shepherd (Michiel Huisman), a controlling, Messiah-like figure with a sick and twisted dark side. But when her inner world is rocked by a series of visions and disturbing revelations, Selah begins to question everything about her cult and the life she has been living for so long —including her loyalty to the increasingly dangerous Shepherd.
In an interview with FF2 Media, Polish film director Szumowska says she was drawn to the concept of Catherine S. McMullen’s script, one delegated to the Black List in 2017, “I was struck by how the story is very much an allegory for the present moment — a moment where women across the world are rewriting history by coming forward in droves about the abuses that they have faced at the hands of powerful men over the years.”
When Szumowska saw Raffey Cassidy and her big blue eyes in other films, she found her striking and perfect for the role. “[Raffey] has a screen presence that is unabashedly wild and modern, which exists in stark contrast with the tradition and severity that Michiel brings,” she said. For the male cult leader, she wanted someone sexy, attractive and able to hide his intentions. In finding Michiel Huisma, she cast an actor that did not fit the typical old, unattractive male lead one would expect.
The film is beautifully done with picturesque cinematography – precisely what the director wanted to achieve. Szumowska wanted to find something similar to her home and her culture in Poland that connects the European style and her beliefs. She wanted to apply it to the Ireland landscape, which helped her “create her poetry” in the film.
“Cinematographer Michael Englert and I worked closely together to develop a world that reflected this particular sensibility,” she said. “We drew great inspiration from a wide range of artists that have produced landscape work including contemporary photographers Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson. The film is also steeped in rain, fog, and rotten leaves, which adds a raw texture to the atmosphere that further complements Selah’s growing defiance.”
The beauty of female empowerment, even in the midst of submissiveness and male dominance, is woven into the film as a reflection of what women go through even today. “The cult operates as a microcosm for the physical and psychological horrors that women must contend with throughout their lives.”
Szumowska brings her own personal strength into the film as a woman who had to fight male dominance and chauvinism in her own country. “I wasn’t treated very seriously [as a female director] in the beginning. When I started I was 25. Everyone tried to ignore me. I was fighting from the beginning but I am very strong. I was trying in Poland in a very patriarchal society after communism. But I didn’t care. I was stronger than my colleagues,” she said.
While she spent 20 years fighting her way as a female director, now Szumowska feels she is contacted more because she is a woman. “Now is a moment when many authors are coming to me because I’m a female director. But it is kind of late. I was working for this for 20 years and they tried to ignore the fact that I am a woman and now I get work because I am a woman. My way is the international way,” she said.
While never looking for success in America, Szumowska seemed to find it when she least expected it. “I didn’t know I was going to do an American movie. With this story, I felt really connected even though it was very difficult to do the project.The film finally happened and I appreciate it!”
Even though times are tougher now for the entertainment industry because of COVID-19 and social isolation, Szumowska remains hopeful and inspired about the future while staying at her village in Poland, working on her next film.
“Be yourself and don’t be pushy. That’s what I did. Now is a different moment of history. Feel confident. It’s our time, our moment. We can get more jobs than before. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone,” she said.
Born in Kraków in 1973, Malgorzata Szumowska is one of the most prominent Polish directors. She has been honored with several international awards, including the Teddy Award for “In the Name Of” at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival and the Silver Leopard Award for “33 Scenes From Life” at the 2008 Locarno Film festival. Her film, “Elles” (2011), featuring Juliette Binoche and Anaïs Demoustier, was sold to over 40 countries. “Body” (2015) won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 65th Berlinale and her most recent film, “Mug” (2018), was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Berlinale.
© Nikoleta Morales (3/28/20) FF2 Media
Photo credits: IFC Films