How do we react learning an un-confronted abuser has peacefully passed away? Un-penned letters of anger that exist in our minds but are never sent. Why? We may think it has been dealt with; that time washes away the layer of slime that sticks to us. But at the core we are still saddled with the shame we continue to bury.
Let Your Sisters Be was a natural response having learned my abuser had passed away peacefully, un-confronted. I had the opportunity to bury him without dignity while exposing the subtleties of child grooming that parents too often miss. Sexual predators are indiscriminate, crossing the firmest ethical lines. I found peace in writing this story through the solidarity of these characters. It is mother Madonna’s fearlessness and the resilience of little Tia that sets us on a path of hope.
When two middle-aged sisters, Alex and Claire, learn of their abuser’s death, they journey to a northern New Zealand settlement to witness his burial. From the opening scenes we see there are other forces at work.
Life is simple in this close community. Everyone is connected. For Tia’s single mother Madonna, a helping hand makes all the difference whether it is from her mother, Nana the Kuia, or a trusted friend and local celebrity Dennis (aka Birdman.).
Alex and Claire roll into town. Triggered memories take us back through their childhood. We witness the subtlety of their abuser, Dennis’s, deception. Blinded by the practicalities of family life, their parents David and Helen miss the telling signs of interference. Helen comes close but she can’t quite put her finger on it.
Eleven-year-old Tia is the unsuspecting link between past and present. Like her mother, Madonna, Tia is strong minded and resilient, though far less trusting. Tia is like her Grandmother, Nana, she keeps a watchful eye. Madonna prepares food for the funeral and whether intentionally or not, Tia uncharacteristically lets down her guard setting Madonna off on the mother of all missions.
A cemetery provides the stage for the final showdown. From a distance Alex and Claire observe as mourners gather by Birdman’s graveside. The burial proceeds but all dignity shatters when Madonna wrecks havoc. The heaven’s quake as Nana commands the soaring Kotuku to damn the Birdman’s soul to the underworld.
It’s evening and Alex and Claire encounter Tia one last time. Nothing is said. A passing glance offers mutual understanding of all that has transpired. What needed to be done has been done. There has been a reckoning. Peace is restored.
From the Director
Every now and then a script comes along and it pulls you up short. You think, ooh, this is really saying something and it’s saying it well. Mary Sewell has written a strong story based on an authentic compelling story, Let Your Sisters Be is brave and it’s true and it’s inspiring. It’s the age-old story of the male predator abusing little girls. But Let Your Sisters Be differs dramatically from the usual portrayal of the girls as victims to deliver a surprising resolution of strength and hope.
Mary sets her story in small town New Zealand where Maori spirituality is in the air. The kaha, the strength, of women is celebrated as three generations of women from two different races, Maori and Pakeha, bring resolution to past and present victims. The story plays with dramatic energies. Undercurrents that are seldom seen or recognized, yet shimmer beneath the surface of everyday life - relationships, memories – where the natural and spiritual worlds meet.
A New Zealand estuary is a great setting, where the brilliant greens of the bush, the dense forest and the wetlands are the ethereal home of the Kotuku - a bird of significance to Maori - a powerful harbinger of reckoning. Past and present histories converge and we find ourselves invested in the future of a delightful eleven year old as two mature women arrive in town to play out the final scene of what we discover is their shared story.
The film will be shot for cinema and distributed for festivals and art-house release internationally. We will seek broadcast placements and offer it for educational distribution. Because this is a story of strength and redemption in the pervasively sad and sinister world of predatory pedophilia we will work with organizations at the rock face working with and supporting victims.
My company, Seannachie Productions, works with top class New Zealand film crews and we look forward to working with Mary and her team to shoot her moving and inspiring film Let Your Sisters Be.
Director, Seannachie Productions