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Living with the consequences of rape today in short film 'Lullaby' (Part 1)

Living with the consequences of rape today in short film 'Lullaby' (Part 1)
Photo Credits: NINE X THREE FILMS

Camille Kane and her largely female key crew team up with production company NINE X THREE FILMS to bring to life her debut self-written and directed short film Lullaby. This short film spreads awareness about rape statistics that are largely unknown:

“19 states allow rapists to assert parental rights over children conceived through rape. Another 21 states require a rape conviction in order to terminate rapists’ parental rights, yet less than 2% of sexual assaults ever reach a conviction.”

This submission to Cannes 2019 is about a 21-year-old young woman who is being forced by family court to share parental rights with her rapist. Left with no choice, she has to stomach the memories that have haunted her for 8 years, and reluctantly hand over her daughter to the rapist father.

Kane’s film approaches this sensitive topic through the relationship between the young mother and her daughter. Seeing the natural bond in their relationship only heightens the stakes of the latter scenes, making us wonder where is justice and why does it not stand on their side?

Below is an interview with director Camille Kane (CK).

1. What was your first encounter with film as an art form? Have you made previous shorts or is this your debut?

CK: It was admittedly late in life, when I was 18. I was deeply obsessed with films growing up but most of me was under the assumption that movies were real, or at least the characters were. No one really talked about art where I grew up, if they did say “art” it was always followed by “and crafts.” Somehow the construction of movies and film as an art form didn’t occur to me for a long time and then suddenly all at once when I watched the film “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.” All of my senses were ignited. I was consumed with the idea of being able to stimulate an audience both intellectually and sensorially. I consider Lullaby to be my directorial debut.

2. What was the inspiration for this film—is it personal or is it from observing other people and materials around you? What made you dedicate yourself to spreading awareness about this topic specifically?

CK: The inspiration for this film was extremely personal, though I don’t think I realized that until I had finished the script. It was initially a curiosity about the bounds of human spirit and the capacity one has for love. I was doing research on the subject of rape being used as a weapon of war, trying to understand what it would be like for a mother to conceive a child through the most horrific circumstance of her life when I saw an article on a young woman in Massachusetts who was being forced to co-parent with her rapist. The fact that people in a position of power were making conscious, coherent legal decisions in favor of this was absurd. I was furious, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

3. Out of all the artistic formats, why did you choose the format of film for this story, and do you think film does this story more justice than others would have?

CK: What I crave is what I feel film offers. It is multi-sensory in terms of the audio/visual but it also allows one to explore the way pacing, sound, silence and textures can engage the imagination and other senses. I’d like to submerge people in a visceral experience. People try so hard to numb themselves against the things that are hardest to hear and see yet film can stimulate an involuntary participation. It is an immersive platform to journey through the authenticity and psychological realism. If I could really take the audience through the feelings of how impossible this young woman’s life would become, they might be able to see her vulnerability as strength in the face of a helpless circumstance, rather than judging her. Creating that compassion and empathy with the characters challenges the dehumanization society creates in order to ignore victims. True empathy leaves one feeling that remaining indifferent is a sense of betrayal. I feel film has the most incredible ability to inspire empathy and that gives us an avenue to bring about social change.

4. How did you conduct research for the script and how long did it take? Did you find that the people were willing to share their stories?

CK: The first thing I did was immediately look into the laws. I really believed if there wasn’t a law there had to at least be regulations that protected mothers and their children. I started speaking with lawyers and women co-parenting with their rapists as well as women being forced to co-parent with abusers and researching the family court system. I read every single piece of text I could find that the internet had to offer, spanning from law journals, open letters, medical articles, and psychology of trauma. It's all very convoluted and misleading. There are loopholes and contradictions and inevitably these decisions are based off of stigmatized opinions. The women I spoke with were courageous and I read things that were so horrific I couldn’t sleep at night. People were willing to speak, but only anonymously. Research was never ending. Even after the shoot, in the editing room I decided to add a phone call which took the consultation of two lawyers and a police officer, so it’s an accumulation of about two and a half years of research.

5. How similar or different would you say the end product is to the idea you initially conceived of?

CK: There are pieces of the film that look exactly like I imagined them in my head. It really felt like Frances Kroon (Cinematographer) had climbed into my brain and taken a look around. There are parts that are elevated and there are moments that were lost, but those “failures” are absolutely what contribute to my progress as a filmmaker. I never pictured it as a finished product, authenticity was my priority. It was an exploration rather than being result oriented.

Photo Credits: NINE X THREE FILMS

To read the second part of the interview, please click here.

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