Monae’s Room

By Colleen Rowe

Raeshelle Cooke’s 20 minute short film, Monae’s Room, exposes the definition of closure after a woman falls out of the binds of a serious relationship. The darkness of Monae’s room itself exemplifies the seemingly chaotic turmoil that sits within Monae (Delea Mowatt) as she continues to isolate within her room. With a somewhat snobby sister, Kelly (J.D. Achille) enjoying the pleasure in life, with silly phone calls that Monae can’t seem to grasp under the wave of an all-encompassing depression, Cooke’s short touches upon the reality of heartbreak and how words by others cannot simply be the best medication.

The focus of the telephone within the film is important. Its classy grooves stand as a representation for loneliness, as the focus of Monae is, at times, less apparent within her darkened room. The telephone seems to be haunting her, and her inability to lose grasp of her previous relationship, along with the constant talking to herself within her own mind, might make viewers question if she is really as crazy as Kelly claims her to be.

The lighting within this film is also one of the most important of its attributes. Monae sits in darkness and uses her heartbreak as her muse, sitting tirelessly among the rubble of overused cups. Is this rubble chaining her to depression? Is there ever any solace in messes that we can’t clean up, figuratively and literally? Where do our hearts go once they are crushed and stretched out in overplayed songs that dance like evil angels on our shoulders? Monae’s Room gives some insight on a broken relationship through the blackness of wanted phone calls that, once received, we really don’t want anymore. After a certain passage of time, depression falls away and the focus of a telephone becomes less of an option, and more of a reason to put the past behind you. Monae allows this past to shift away from her inner rubble, giving her the perfect opportunity to pick up the phone when someone is actually listening.

The concept of this film is a relatable to the point where you feel yourself sitting in your own quiet room, with music that seems to bounce off the walls in short waves of depressing hope. For at the end of every terrible relationship, there is still a new one to ponder over, to make sense of the past, and with that Monae’s Room gives viewers hope in a hopeless territory.

Women for Equality in One Room

Girl Interrupted:

Roxanne: Regarding Girl, Interrupted ‘s success as a mainstay in stylistic film, few people realize that it is also based on the actual accounts of Susanna Kaysen, a patient at McLean hospital for two years. What makes Kaysen’s memoirs so relevant is also the background story of this era. The 1960’s, can be cited as one of the most pivotal times in American feminism, as it was the brink of the radical feminist movement. Among other ideologies, feminism focused on dismantling workplace inequality, such as denial of access to better jobs and salary inequity, via anti-discrimination laws. Thus, this time period can be marked as a feat in moving away from inequality and oppression.
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Colleen: Girl Interrupted gives a lighter shade of the mental health system during the 1960s, with Valerie (Whoopi Goldberg), a nurse, and the staff that accompanies her as mental health professionals who were, for the most part, just trying to help. Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) is sent to Claymoore, a psychiatric hospital, after a suicide attempt that is triggered by a sexual assault. DSC_0076 DSC_0120 DSC_0139Coincidentally, in Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, Ester Greenwood, is assaulted while she is living in an urban area, and is later brought to a psychiatric hospital after attempting suicide. While in Claymoore, Susanna befriends another patient, Lisa Rowe (Angelina Jolie), after she first gets a taste of Lisa’s antics—Lisa is brought back to the hospital after she escapes and, after spotting Susanna in her new room within the ward, beside Georgina (Clea Duvall), proceeds to scream at Susanna “Where’s Jamie?!” She is quickly subdued by the staff, attendants that were meant to protect patients and staff from the more “violent” patients, with a syringe. Another patient, Polly (Elizabeth Moss), explains, matter-of-factly, “Jamie was Lisa’s best friend. She was sad last week when Lisa ran away, so she hung herself with a volleyball net.” To many patients, in this film, and in the real world, these were everyday occurrences within a psychiatric hospital, whether it was the extreme of suicide or another form of mental stress, instability, and/or breakdown. Feminist unedited Paige Skelly Sarah 1 Location 2Roxanne: The story focuses on wounded, ‘emotional’ young women, which perpetuated the stereotype of the teenage female in current media. The characters that Susanna meets in the institution suffer from self- harming tendencies, eating disorders, and erratic, and non-conventional behaviors. As the story progresses, the audience is able to see that many of these “illnesses” that these women suffer from began after experiencing traumatic, violent events at the hands of the men in their lives. Additionally, many of the characters began to show symptoms of psychiatric disorders as a result of not fitting in to the social systems that were so elegantly laid out for women at the time. For instance, Kaysen is diagnosed as having “borderline personality disorder,” but these symptoms also coincidentally mimic a woman resisting and reacting to harmful restrictions placed upon her. This includes, but is not limited to; impulsiveness that is potentially self-damaging , recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior and inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger, as listed by the DSM IV. Feminist  4 not yet edited feminist 2 not yet edited feminist 7 not yet editedIMG_7625IMG_7610 femme colleen rowe location 2 day 1 edit 2 femme colleen rowe location 2 day 1 edit 1 Sarina penza taken by montsy perez Colleen: While reading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, one can see that the female protagonist, Jane, is apparently abused as a child, by her aunt and cousins—she is tormented in the “Red Room,” locked in by the fear of entrapment. After Jane is sent to Lowood, a school for girls, she is also subjected to unreasonable torment by the male in charge, Mr. Brocklehurst, including standing on a stool for an unreasonable amount of time, after she is unrightfully called a “liar,” as a form of punishment. She befriends Helen Burns, another orphan, who later dies of consumption in Jane’s arms. Helen teaches Jane the importance of forgiving those who have done wrong to her and prioritizing her sincere worship of God before her dedication to other human beings. In the scene before Helen passes away, Jane asks Helen if she knows where she is going to go after death. Helen replies that she is going to God and states, “I rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness.” There’s a similar friendship in Gail Carson’s Levine’s book Ella Enchanted. Ella Enchanted takes readers through the life of Ella of Frell, who is an allusion to Cinderella—later in the book she is called “Cinders” by her step-sister, Hattie. Unlike Jane, Ella initially has a lot of love in her life—a mother and magical cook who love her. Her father, a merchant who is often away on business, hardly sees her, and when he does, he tries to change her, to make her more presentable for prospective suitors. After her mother dies, Ella is sent, by her father, to a finishing school that is similar to Lowood. Here, she meets Areida, who becomes a great friend to Ella of Frell. At one point in the book, Ella sits with Areida, as she cries in the courtyard. She asks Areida to watch her nose, to make sure it isn’t red, so that she isn’t embarrassed by the laughing girls who listen to her step-sister’s rule. Cursed with obedience, a spell by a fairy named Lucinda, at birth, Ella is ordered by Hattie to defriend Areida. Ella chooses to leave, with her good friend in her thoughts, on a quest to break the curse that has succumbed her to control. Ella Enchanted was later made into a movie with Anne Hathaway as Ella. It has a humorous tone that is found within the book, but Gail Carson Levine’s Ella still remains darker, and less comedic, with Ella often subjected to abuse that cannot be charmed with laughter. Gail Carson Levine, although original in her own way, was not the first person to make an allusion to The Brother’s Grimm’s fairytale Cinderella. Anne Sexton wrote Transformations (1971), with a foreword by Kurt Vonnegut, an adaptation of The Brother’s Grimm’s stories written in poetic, free-verse form, with a confessional persona. Anne Sexton wrote Transformations with the intention of modernizing traditional horrific fairytales, while simultaneously incorporating current social norms that have in the past and in her time, stereotyped women. The princess is beautiful, the witch is evil. But Anne Sexton, the witch, tells the tale—she is the teller of this story. Anne Sexton herself, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, committed suicide, a few years after her friend and colleague, Sylvia Plath, did. She explains her sadness for Sylvia’s death, the death that they tried to beat, in her poem “Sylvia’s Death.” The film, Sylvia, with Gwyneth Paltrow portraying Sylvia Plath, depicts more of the inner world, the family life of Sylvia Plath, more similar to Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical collection, Letters Home, rather than the graphic horrors Victoria Lucas described of Esther Greenwood’s life.

Roxanne: But it is unfair to critique a movie based on psychiatric medicine, without examining the scientific practices and standards during this time period. First of all, psychiatric medicine during this time was exclusionary towards women. Drug developers only used men as their test subjects in their drug trials and studies, meaning women were not evaluated equally, (and in science how on earth can you give a proper diagnosis without a fair evaluation?) This disregard for men and women’s biological differences paid no mind to how diagnoses and therapies would differ between sexes with all other variables equal. On another note, it is important to keep in mind that medicine had once coined the term “hysteria” or “hysterical.” It was derived from the word hysterectomy, which refers to a medical practice particular to women due to irregularities in the uterus. Today it is often used colloquially to dramatize people for having emotional reactions, which is a gender specific stereotype. The fact that pseudo- science (which was once thought to be factual) lays claim to a bigoted slant is just one example of how the field of medicine regards women.

Colleen: “Hysteria” was present in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. While staying at Thornfield with Mr. Rochester, a brooding, dark male, as a governess for his French “niece,” Adele, Jane notices strange activities in the night, with an unknown figure retreating to the attic. Jane later finds out, as she is about to marry Mr. Rochester, that the unknown in the attic is actually Mr. Rochester wife, Bertha. Bertha has been locked in the attic by Mr. Rochester, for she seems “unfit” to mingle with society. Her dark persona, animalistic qualities and behaviors disallow her from functioning in the real world. In 1966, Jean Rhys’ postcolonial novel, Wide Sargasso Sea was published to reveal the “truth,” as Jean Rhys saw it, about who the “Madwoman in the Attic” really was. Bertha is Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea, a female from the Caribbean who had been assigned an arranged marriage to Mr. Rochester. In love with another man, Antoinette, is resentful toward Mr. Rochester’s control and feigned interest in her, to obtain the last of her family’s land and funds—marriage isn’t important to Antoinette, or if it once was, it isn’t anymore. Her religious background was tainted at an early age. Girl, Interrupted is held highly among female movie goers, not only because it was a well-produced movie, but because women in general are highly subjected to similar experiences that are depicted in the film. Although this particular account of mental illnesses is rooted in the oppressive earlier half of the twentieth century, inequalities in assessment, treatment and access to care, biases in research and lack of education and training of health care professionals can be cited as common practices in modern medicine as well. The social implications that 1960’s psychology held dear are not quite dead, but merely a microcosm of a bigger picture which reinforces harmful stereotypes and prejudices today. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:

Roxanne: The film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is based off a novel written by Ken Kesey. The plot centers on the character McMurphy, who is institutionalized because he “fight and fucks too much.” McMurphy boasts that he was deceived into committing statutory rape, by a teenaged girl. “But Doc, she was fifteen years old, going on thirty-five, Doc, and, uh, she told me she was eighteen and she was, uh, very willing, you know what I mean.” He goes on to say, “I practically had to take to sewin’ my pants shut.” And this is definitely a good point when considering sleeping with a 17 year and 364 day old woman is plain wrong, but an 18 year old makes much more sense, (especially when your genitals do the rationalizing.

sarina penza by montsy perez

Colleen: The character of McMurphy is controversial. Not initially, because he is blatantly a sex offender who is posing as a mentally ill patient so that he can get out of jail time for his crimes. As time passes in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, we realize that he is not as sane as he thinks. Or did the hospital that contained him make him less sane? His apparent misogynistic ideologies show the sickness within him that had been generated by a male dominated society. Men ruled the world at that time, and I’m sure many who are bitter enough to disagree can disagree, but such unequal gender gaps had been prevalent even during the time of Plato, and continued to pass through time as a known fact. That men were stronger, better than women. John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, an allusion to The Bible that not only confirms its relevance in modern times, but also criticizes it heavily, brings the saddened Eve to a new world of night for women. Later, in her poem, The Moon and the Yew Tree, Sylvia Plath writes “The moon is my mother, she is not sweet like Mary.” Plath’s mother, in this poem, is the moon, and the brightness against a dark sky is the contrast of a patriarchal society, with the brightness of a mother shining against it.

Roxanne: The female characters in the story are an example of the extreme, restrictive and stereotypical dichotomies that women in film face. It seems that almost all of the female characters can fit into either one of two categories: whores or ball cutters. Whores Candy and Sandy’s aim is to pleasure men and do what they’re told, while the latter seems to be intent on dominating men by emasculating them. In the movie, emasculation is stigmatized as the ultimate sin against a man by symbolizing the loss of freedom that they endured in the institution. sarina oneColleen: The character of Nurse Ratched is important, as she is a female with a higher power role who exemplifies a “ball cutter.” She is terrible to the patients she is supposed to treat. Rather than making them feel better about themselves, she turns them into children with the way she feeds them their medication. It’s similar to how Susana Kaysen attempts to refuse her medication initially while she is locked in her own prison, but the staff seems more inclined to help her, than hurt her. She initially, just doesn’t seem to understand that she needs help. Nurse Ratched torments McMurphy until he is sick, just like he torments others. I suppose she finds that he should be punished for his outrageous behavior against women. What was the old saying? An eye for an eye (Lex Talionis), but I have to say I do agree with the one that came after: “An Eye for an Eye makes the whole world blind” Gandhi might’ve been right. Regardless of how badly a person is to another person, retaliation against them in vulgar ways can result in injuries, including mental injuries, that could be life altering and most definitely permanent if one doesn’t seek the right help. Later in the film, McMurphy realizes that he cannot leave, because a psychiatric hospital is not a prison, and the rules are different once you commit yourself and become part of the institutionalization that the mental health system reinforces. How different are they really? Exactly. Another century, because the abuse didn’t start in Kings Park. The abuse started in an attic, long before attics existed. Upon cave paintings upon walls. In rooms that were shared, not owned. The only people who were really owned were the ones who were “hysterical.” In the early 21st century, Virginia Woolf wrote her critical essay, A Room of One’s Own, and soon after women started demanding rooms. To write in, to paint in, to exist in without the bantering of a sad tale. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” published in 1899, the female speaker is locked away, at her husband’s command. The wallpaper begins to peel, and she feels trapped. Trapped in a room that is not her own. It is a room that she has been confined to. In relation to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the character of Bertha is similar. The character of Antoinette elaborates on the “madwoman” in the attic who is animalistic, but chained. It is revealed through Rhys’ story that she was actually made the way she was by the way she was used and abused, and locked away with no key but a man’s. (In Magic Trip, a documentary that includes real footage from Ken Kesey’s cross-country road trip with his friends, it is revealed that Kesey didn’t really agree to the film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest and its making. The character of Chief’s importance was somewhat downgraded in the film throughout, until the very end.)

Roxanne: For example, after group therapy, according to the novel, one of the patients, Harding, is compelled to declare; “We are victims of a matriarchy here,” which is almost as plausible as the oppression of unicorns. McMurphy quickly asserts [Nurse] “Ratched ain’t pecking at your eyes. That’s not what she’s peckin’ at.” Although Harding argues “No, that nurse ain’t some kinda monster chicken, buddy, what she is is a ball-cutter. I’ve seen a thousand of ’em, old and young, men and women. Seen ’em all over the country and in the homes — people who try to make you weak so they can get you to toe the line, to follow their rules, to live like they want you to. And the best way to do this, to get you to knuckle under, is to weaken you by gettin’ you where it hurts the worst.” Still, the movie was able to effectively polarize the battle between repression and freedom in a mental institution as a battle between negative generalizations of femininity and positive generalizations of masculinity.

Colleen: Oppression within the mental health field, specifically within large institutions did not help the mentally ill. Sure, the stories we are told are “fictional” but they are based off of real occurrences. These aren’t stories, really…they are life in a world that has dominated the sick. In Kings Park, a documentary based on real life occurrences, we see the trauma that had been put on the mentally ill patients at the psychiatric center in Kings Park. As Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte’s character once said: “‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.’”

Leon: The Professional.

Roxanne: The ambiguity of Leon and Mathilda’s relationship is what provides most of the contention in Leon: The Professional. During the scene where twelve year old Mathilda exclaims that she wants to play charades, the stark contrast between Mathilda’s quirky and carefree personality versus Leon’s monotone and serious exterior becomes ever present. Mathilda proceeds to play dress up in thongs and undergarments in an innocent attempt at cos playing as Madonna and Marilyn Monroe, (which doesn’t seem overtly mature for her age when compared to wielding a pistol.) But Leon is so far removed from society he doesn’t even seem to be familiar with the characters, and instead he stares uncomfortably with his jaw hanging open. On another note, although Mathilda is twelve, she has an almost infantilized stylization, clinging to a teddy bear at times, and most notably, the haircut every three year old girl had, complete with bowl cut and bangs. It is pretty clear she is fulfilling the trope of a sort of mini-“manic pixie dream girl,” which is yet another example of the lack of professional female characters in film. Moreover, the scene where Mathilda tells Leon she loves him also builds tension between the two characters. The audience has already been asking themselves throughout the whole movie what a twelve year old girl and a middle aged strange man have in common. At this point, he begins to question what their relationship is, but in the end he admits he loves her too. We are not supposed to be caged in, as humans. As humans, we should come and go as we please, as we see fit. There needs to be a perpetual option. sarina by montsy perez Continue reading

Happy Valley (2014)

In this country, many can agree that rape, molestation, and using manipulation to do so is not only legally wrong, but also completely morally unacceptable. Society wonders where those with a preconceived idea that rape and molestation are okay, and one has to assume that such people who do pursue such outrageous acts are very, are actually very sick.

Jerry Sandusky raped and molested children and pursued this personal goal of his through manipulation. Amir Bar-Lev’s (Producer/Director/Writer) documentary film, Happy Valley, observes this and examines the people who chose to protect him, even if their eyes were cast down in an ignorant haze. Society wonders if those who condoned such acts were also manipulated themselves, and one must assume that they were. Regardless, is it somewhat acceptable to look down, away from the horrors of reality, if they are too opaque to notice at the moment, but once the truth is revealed…it is better to take action. Look straight ahead at the opposing force, and that blank stare it holds, and challenge it with every inch of reason, and more importantly, heart, that you might have. Happy Valley does just this.

Spread through newspaper clippings, on online press outlets, and social media posts, many readers and users of these sites have posted, “shared,” and expressed the blatant sexual assault that Jerry Sandusky subjected his victims to. How could such a respectable man do such horrible things to impressionable children? How could the men who worked around and supported him condone this? Amir Bar-Lev chose to examine this, to delve into the words of the people who surrounded him during this time, including one of his victims, his own adopted son. As the documentary presents it, Jerry Sandusky’s family didn’t seem to know what he was doing behind closed doors with the boys he had brought to games: as a reward, a gift that screams keep quiet, if you won’t tell, I won’t.

Clearly these children were manipulated. They were given perks in exchange for their innocence. As many rapists and molesters do, Jerry Sandusky manipulated these boys by giving them options that appealed to them most.

Under normal circumstances, a lot of boys want to go to football games. They are fun, entertaining, and it’s a part of childhood for many boys…to be a part of a team, or to watch a team succeed. But Sandusky exploited this. He took advantage, and this is where the lies he formulated really took their place among the saddest occurrences that have happened in college football. How could a sport that is so full of life, and fun, be turned into a sick game of manipulation? As the documentary shows, Sandusky performed these acts of manipulation so blatantly, and this is why he got away with it. It’s important to understand how such horrors occur, rather than why. The “why?” is something that one really doesn’t have to know, because only the perpetrator, in this case, Sandusky, really knows why exactly he chose to rape and molest children. The how will tell people the signs to look out for in the future, when all seems well.

Sandusky brought the children he abused out in public, to games and events. A great treat, I guess it seemed, when behind closed doors, he chose to rape and molest them. Happy Valley exhibits that this is why so many people didn’t realize that something was wrong. One expects that after a rape, the individual who performs the violent act of degradation will flee the scene, but it was very clear that Jerry Sandusky knew better than to run. Happy Valley shows that if he had left suddenly, without explanation, or cut off contact with these children, he would have been caught sooner. Here is where the sickness of the crimes he committed really took shape and revealed themselves as a formulated, premeditated plot to deceive the society he had worked so hard to impress. The documentary shows people, even those who were close to Jerry Sandusky, that society was deceived by this plot, these notions to cut off all ties of rescue for these children—these young, impressionable boys.

At one point in the documentary, tourists flock around a statue of Joe Paterno to take photos with it before it is torn down. Was taking this statue down rightful? You’ll have to decide based on the sufficient evidence that is revealed in Happy Valley. Paterno sent emails revealing that he knew of Sandusky’s abuses against the boys that he raped and molested. In one short line of an email thread, it is revealed that Paterno said that he would take care of these abuses. He eventually reported it, with a short time lapse in between his report. For the benefit of avoiding a scandal, it seems, that Paterno attempted to slip these abuses beneath the cover of a respectable institution.

Throughout the film, there are different scenes focused on a mural of individuals who have presumably shaped the positivity of Penn State University. Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno were both a part of this mural, their individual figures monuments for the university. The initial mural is first shown. After the documentary progresses to different scenes, the mural reappears. Throughout the course of the documentary, the mural’s artist decides to paint Jerry Sandusky out of his respectable cover. Another scene shows the artist painting a halo on Joe Paterno. Later in the documentary, the artist removes Paterno’s halo, when it is revealed that he might not have reported Sandusky the way he should have—with force and without resistance. Eventually, the artist painted a flower into Paterno’s hand, after he passed away. At one point, the mural’s artist mentions that deciding whether or not to remove Paterno’s halo was the hardest thing he’s ever done. Hyperbole does not work when you’re talking about something as serious as sexual crimes against children.

Regardless, Joe Paterno did not commit this crime, he only chose to condone it. Amir-Bar Lev said at the Hamptons International Film Festival Q & A: “Joe Paterno went from, overnight basically, went from being this sanctified paragon of virtue to a person who was reviled by most of America.” The real focus should be on Jerry Sandusky and how he was able to commit these crimes.

There is a scene in Happy Valley where, presumably, Penn State football fans are attempting to take photographs with the statue of Paterno that was to be taken down. The documentary shows that it was incredibly difficult for Paterno’s family to know that their husband and father’s credibility was now tainted and that such monuments that were established in his honor were going to be dismantled and discarded as trash. For his family, who hadn’t known of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual exploits, it was incredibly difficult, the documentary shows, transiently. For the children who were abused, one can only assume that it was and is still incredibly difficult to move past the fact that they were tricked by a man of power—similar to a witch who only acts upon his victims with a simplistic motive, driven by the impulsivity of carelessness— with candy and game tickets. An activist who was daringly standing in the photographs that these fans were trying to take before the statue was taken down, assured that the people he seemed to be bothering, or so they said, that he had the right to be standing there, as they complained. After calling one of the men, who wished to take a photograph with Joe Paterno’s statue, a “pedophile enabler,” the activist was verbally abused by this fan’s insults. Although Joe Paterno was not a pedophile, it is implied that because Paterno wasn’t as forceful about finding justice for these children as he thought, he directly became a condoner of these acts, and the people who wish to hold Joe Paterno on a pedestal, are pedophile enablers themselves.

During the Q & A after the screening of Happy Valley at Hamptons International Film Festival (2014), Director Amir Bar-Lev spoke of semantics, drawing upon symbols. How his previous films were focused on symbols of a “hero” and an “angel,” and how, in a way, Happy Valley was a film that partially touched upon fatherhood—it is not so much applied to Jerry Sandusky as a father, but to his adopted son who protects his own children from the abuse that his adoptive father subjected him to. Sadly, this happened, and initially, in the documentary, Sandusky’s adopted son denied that these acts of abuse happened to him, because he, like the other children Sandusky abused, did not realize what was happening to them at the time, because of the manipulation they were subjected to.

Jerry Sandusky’s adopted son, Matt Sandusky, is a father who builds for his children. To protect them, to keep them safe, and in this documentary, he has assured his children that the people who they knew as grandparents “are not good people.” Matt fills a wall in his basement for his children, and before anything else it is a labor of love.

On a larger scale, Happy Valley touches upon problems within our society that are happening every day, among people in power. If a person has the opportunity to direct a situation, he or she should remember that taking advantage of another human being, depending on the situation, is illegal, immoral, and disgusting, whether it is sexual, emotional, mental, and/or physical abuse you are subjecting that person to. People are not only traumatized by sexual abuse, but there are many situations when their lives are permanently ruined if they cannot handle the situation properly, through therapy or emotional support by non-abusive family members and friends.

It’s also important to remember that Penn State as a university should not be blamed for the actions of the few individuals, who either pursued or condoned such abuses. The team players, students, staff & faculty, and other members of the administration who had no idea what was happening should not be blamed. There were many people who were included in this film who assured, with honest demeanors, that they had no idea what was happening behind closed doors, or even, within open locker rooms. In contrast, there are a few individual administrators, who according to the documentary, were to be reprimanded for condoning these abuses for, simply, not reporting implications of these abuses. Amir Bar-Lev mentioned that it may happen in 2015 now, and that their trial had been pushed back since the making of this film.

Matt Sandusky fills a wall in his and his children’s basement, and it is love and protection that drives him. When so much wrong has been done to a person, the fact that he is able to continue to love and care for the people that he, noticeably, unconditionally loves is something that more people should learn to do. There’s a lot of negativity in this film; the general premise is very depressing. But it ends on a positive note…that someone, and people in general, who have suffered through so much can and will have a chance to make their lives better every day. The honesty within this film does not make up for the dishonesty that the manipulator ticket salesman extraordinaire practiced for much too long, but, perhaps, it brings to light questions that weren’t answered to those who read off the sides of days old newspaper clippings in the street. It fills in the blanks for the people who didn’t know what was truly happening, and more importantly, how the victim turned heroes really do prevail once they fill in the blanks, or really, the walls themselves.

Before you accept an offer, recognize the motive, the setting, the tone of voice. Happy Valley will teach you to do this, and in a world that hopefully progresses with such honest filmmaking…perhaps the world can become somewhat of a better place.

Amir Bar-Lev gave credit to Molly Thompson, a person who he told the audience “I do all my films with.”

Happy Valley screened at Hamptons International Film Festival this October (2014)

Hamptons International Film Festival 2014: Photo Collection

The Hamptons International Film Festival took place this October. Film Syrup covered the festival as press, providing a few articles, so far including films, “The Duke of Burgundy” and “Force Majeure.”

Hamptons 2 Film Syrup Colleen Rowe Paige Skelly

Hamptons 4  Film Syrup Colleen Rowe Paige Skelly

Hamptons 3 Film Syrup Colleen Rowe Paige Skelly

Hamptons 5 Film Syrup Colleen Rowe Paige Skelly

Hamptons 6 Film Syrup Colleen Rowe Paige Skelly

Hamptons 8 Film Syrup Colleen Rowe Suzanne O'Regan

Hamptons 9 Film Syrup Colleen Rowe Suzanne O'Regan

Hamptons 10 Film Syrup Colleen Rowe Suzanne O'Regan

Photographer: Colleen Rowe

Photo Editors: Paige Skelly & Suzanne O’Regan

Peter Strickland’s “The Duke of Burgundy” (2014)

By Colleen Rowe

It looks as if colored oils are being splashed and organized into figures on canvas before your eyes. Director Peter Strickland’s full-length Drama, The Duke of Burgundy (2014), is like a homoerotic Baroque painting, with its two female leads, played by Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna, dominating the screen in separate, but conjoined spheres. Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is Evelyn’s (Chiara D’Anna) employer, but their relationship escalates quickly with a peer through a doorknob’s keyhole. Looking in from the outside, Evelyn peers into her ruler’s world: Cynthia’s matured body in lingerie as she undresses in unassuming privacy. Does she know that Evelyn is watching her as her dress slips from her waist, down her thighs…and falls upon the floor like a splash of flowing ink?

And so, the ink dries and the women continue with their master-servant relationship. Cynthia orders young Evelyn to do her bidding, which includes cleaning her boots vigorously, her eyebrows raised almost as high as her expectations. Cynthia’s impatience grips Evelyn forcefully, pushing her into seemingly torturous punishments—at first these inflictions are usually unseen, initially; the bathroom door is closed and there are gurgling sounds of a mouth full of water, Evelyn is choking, sputtering…but somehow loving every single moment of it. If the master had been a man, these interactions would have been looked upon with disgust, and people would shake their heads slightly with immense disdain for the abuser. But, as an attractive, mature woman perpetuating the servant’s liking for her punishments, the audience seemed intrigued, and turned on to understanding the parallel roles that are expected of women. Are these expectations acceptable to condone? Of course not, but they are there.

A male “master” can be more frightening to a woman, because of the power men have tried to hold over women since written documentation was first recorded in the grand scheme of time. There is also the vast history of social inequality between men and women that really taints the filters of perspective while watching this film. In the past, women who were unrightfully enslaved were raped by their masters; an account of this was recorded in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, written by Harriet Jacobs, a true story of a young girl who struggled for equality in a world where her race and sex subjected her to the abuses she faced. Jacobs’ written work was influenced by Samuel Richardson’s famous novel, Pamela, also known as Virtue Rewarded. Pamela is a tale with dense misogynistic undertones and a plot that circulates around a male master who follows, confines, and stalks his servant until she finally succumbs to his rule and has sexual relations with him. Yes, her virtue is rewarded in the end. Let us make it clear that any forced sexual relations are abusive, even if they are “achieved” by manipulation.

A woman ordering another woman to do something is more comfortable, simply on the level of an employer/employee relationship, but one should not assume this is the reason why Cynthia’s inflictions against Evelyn, as they pursue a more personal relationship, are somewhat condoned by viewer reactions. It’s because they love each other, and that’s where gender or sex is stripped of relevance here. These two people love each other, and if the master had been a man, in the context that they truly care for each other, the accepted “abuse” would seem less horrible because Evelyn is constantly begging Cynthia to “punish” her. Evelyn, at one point, asks Cynthia to lock her in a chest that is large enough to hold her small frame. Cynthia allows it, but, she is concerned for Evelyn soon after, asking her to come back into the bed. Evelyn proceeds to tell her to leave her in the chest, as if she is enjoying her opaque cage. Cynthia eventually enters a dreamlike state, where she seems to imagine that she opens the chest and all that is left is Evelyn’s rotted skeleton, lying in the same position that Cynthia left her in. This scene is comparable to William Faulkner’s short story, “A Rose for Emily,” in which the character, Emily Grierson, is found out to have been sleeping beside her dead lover for decades, after a single strand of her hair is found on the pillow beside his skeleton. Morosely similar, The Duke of Burgundy uniquely portrays this implied necrophilia in a series of frames that demonstrate a transient passage of time. With shots focused on a clothed female crotch, delving into all-encompassing darkness, and Cynthia’s venture into the woods to metaphorically revive her skeletal lover, lifting her from the chest that has become her casket, they are swallowed into the darkness together.

There are two scenes that are brilliantly paired in The Duke of Burgundy; one takes place at the beginning, where Cynthia reprimands Evelyn for incorrectly washing and tending to her clothing. Cynthia is the master here, her deadpan glare ripping into Evelyn’s timid demeanor with disrespectful loathing. A flicker of hate for Cynthia might rise in your chest, temporarily, during this scene. Her pretentious, lifeless glare is captivating, and you sort of feel like she owns you, too. In a later scene that parallels this, after the relationship between Evelyn and Cynthia has been established through playful, loving nights as they sleep beside one another, and Evelyn’s obsession with gaining new items and wealth becomes a dominant factor, disrupting their connection, the roles are reversed. Evelyn, the now master reprimands Cynthia, the previously glaring, dominant force within the film, and the woman you once hated, becomes the woman you now feel sorry for. With the dialogue and setting matching the earlier scene, Evelyn’s manipulations to rise above her social class have now succeeded, and as Cynthia cries, Evelyn reaches for her, as Cynthia once did, and whispers to her soothingly.

With profound directing, cinematography, acting, and editing leading this film into the depths of greatness, it’s almost impossible to look away as the storyline progresses and you watch the character development escalate.

This film is a work of art. However you paint the picture, after viewing The Duke of Burgundy, you will find your mind to be a color so incomprehensible that you won’t be able to forget what your eyes were just captivated by.

The Duke of Burgundy was a part of the Hamptons International Film Festival 2014 program.

CBGB MUSIC AND FILM FESTIVAL 2014: BOWERY ELECTRIC & VILLAGE EAST CINEMAS

Film Syrup made its way down to the CBGB Music and Film Festival in the East Village, NYC, last Friday, October 10, 2014. The Bowery Electric, a dimly lit venue with lighting that casts a casual, personable tone upon its stage hosted a few music artists: highlighted here are Silver Dollar and Marc Ford with Elijah Ford and The Bloom.

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You have to love a band with a sense of humor.

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Silver Dollar:

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Marc Ford with Elijah Ford and the Bloom:

Elijah Ford took the stage by himself, initially.

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Film Syrup then headed to Village East Cinemas, where people were gathered around the theatre, getting ready for screenings.

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Overall, the CBGB Film Festival made a big impact on the city last week, bringing music and film together to form a collaboration between industries that help to entertain the masses. Film Syrup chose to cover the East Village venues where the personality is contagiously direct. There were many other venues that hosted different artists, and with high hopes we look forward to CBGB 2015.

CBGB Music and Film Festival says “Thank you New York: See You Next Year!”

Filmmaker Raeshelle Cooke Invites You Inside “Monae’s Room”

Interview conducted by: Colleen Rowe

Film Syrup (FS): I understand that you are currently working on a film. What made you want to make a film based on this idea?

Raeshelle Cooke: Yeah I just recently finished editing! The film stars Delea Mowatt and JD Achille with William Smyth on camera. I wanted to make a serious film about the breakup process because a lot of people relate to this topic. I relate to this and I write about my truths. I’m going to be very honest: this film is about my experiences, only I’m exaggerating and having fun with it by making it darkly humorous. I am a hopeless romantic and speak to other hopeless romantics. Everyone’s been broken up with and have been hurt. At the time I wrote this script, I was listening to a lot of Drake’s “Take Care” album, and one of the songs on it, “Marvin’s room” really stuck with me. I also had to use the writing process as therapy. Strangely though, I find the film really funny. I had a lot of fun with it. Some people handle breakups badly. They sit in their rooms and they just go crazy. A lot of people will look at Monae as crazy but you know what, many people act this way during a breakup and don’t admit to it. Many people will, in fact, relate to this film. I’m just telling the truth and having fun with it all at the same time.

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FS: What would you say the tone of the film is? Do you think people will perceive it differently depending on their own experiences with breakups?

Raeshelle Cooke: The tone is dark because the subject matter deals with dark stuff; it deals with pain and betrayal. It deals with being tired of the foolishness that is dull life and the cold people that make it all worse. It’s like, you think you find real love, and that real love makes the cold world easier to live in, you know? But then the person you trusted and found happiness with doesn’t accept you for who you are when you open up to them, they want something or someone else and forget about you. You had all these great ideas on how your future with that one man would be, and he ruins it for no good reason. That is painful and angering and that is what I wanted to convey. That is Monae’s Room.

I used the darkness of Monae’s room and wrote the explicit lyrics you will hear in this 20 minute short, to show that anger and hurt. You hear Monae’s dark and distorted voice over the music. I wrote the lyrics raw from how I was feeling at that time, but two years and yet another breakup later, I’ve found it still relates to me today. Some people will interpret it differently based on their own experiences, some will appreciate it and find it funny or intelligent, and others will complain that the film is yet another “woman pining over a man” story. And that’s okay with me.

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FS: What do you hope to accomplish with Monae’s Room?

Raeshelle Cooke: I want to create something that is distinct from most films that are shot today. I think Monae’s room is different from what we see in a lot of films today. You see the same genres and content being made over and over, and I wanted to write and shoot something about real human relationships, real human emotions, and the rawness that goes into these emotions. I am unfiltered and very honest in my writing of this film. The story and content will either make you feel uncomfortable, make you relate, or think. It will definitely hold your attention because music and lyrics dominant it. You’ll remember it…

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FS: Where are you planning to premier the film? Is there a special screening planned?

Raeshelle Cooke: I plan to enter Monae’s room into festivals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island starting this fall and going into next year. I plan to premier the film In November of this year at a screening. Details on that coming soon.

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FS: What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Raeshelle Cooke: I have things to say and a message to get across, and creating visuals with music (my style) is a fun way to say those things. Making films is a cathartic way of releasing inner tension for me, so instead of doing something crazy, making films is a positive and productive way to get everything out in the open. People relate, listen and build relationships with you just by seeing who you are through your work. It’s a great feeling and I want to feel it over and over again.

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FS: Are there past films you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of?

Raeshelle Cooke: I’m just starting out as a filmmaker so I’ve finished only my fourth one (plus 2 music videos), but I’m really proud of What’s the problem with Bill Winer?, Aside from Monae’s Room (and On Her Way is a good one too), but the Bill Winer film is really personal and touching. I still get goose bumps when I watch it to this day, and I mentally go back to that time. It wasn’t a good time. But I look back and am grateful it happened, because beautiful art was created from that. I appreciate pain and what it can do. The Bill Winer film is a mature and intelligent film. I can’t believe I actually wrote it but, then again, I give credit to the fact that it actually happened. I didn’t make the film up. It’s based on a real story. Monae’s room is actually a sequel to the Bill Winer film, only it’s being told in the perspective of the woman “Bill” screwed over. I think my first feature will be the feature-length version of the Bill Winer film, which is already written. All of my films are based on real situations whether literal or metaphorical, but anyway, shout out to to the real Bill. I heard that his life now, is exactly how it turned out for “Bill” in the film.

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FS: Are there any specific techniques you used to make this film special (in regards to, editing, directing, etc.)?

Raeshelle Cooke: Yes! I had a ton of fun making the film what it turned out to be, and you’ll see it when it premiers. But first and foremost Sean J. McCall composed the music for the film, and it is an inspiration from Drake’s music. The music is distorted and dark, but hip hop at the same time. I actually altered the music at points, I reversed it as I was just having fun with it. Monae’s room is a tribute to hip hop and Drake. Love that man. The lighting is varied as it has reds, blues and black and white. I wanted to show anger, the anxiousness; the unsettled way of Monae’s emotions through the varying colors…and I think it worked. I edited the film and I think the style complements the tone perfectly. I can’t explain how though. Not in words anyway. You’ll just have to see the film!

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All photos for this interview were provided by Director: Raeshelle Cooke. For more information on Monae’s room and updates from Raeshelle, you can Follow her on Twitter.

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