Fairy tales don't always have happy endings despite what many of us have been taught. Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, even Aesop's Fables have been told and retold as lessons meant to teach us something about how to live better lives even under the worst circumstances. As a child growing up in a tumultuous household, I've always clung to these stories, as a way to find hope in the darkness. These stories also felt more real to me because I'd never had a perfect life, nor could I imagine one.
As I began retelling this story against the backdrop of New Orleans' spiritual history, I began to connect to my own heritage as a descendant of the Caribbean. The Haitian stories about our relationships with the divine and each other not only felt real, but as if I had already lived them. They were scary and dark, about hardship and pain, but also about the indomitable power of our spirits. They reminded me that concrete wealth means little measured against the gifts of things like family, love and time.
The nightmares of my parents' separation, which continued deep into my adolescence, became the source for this story, a tale as much about fear as hope. The Repass tells the story of a young girl who must find her way through the darkness and learn to make challenges, if not triumphs, lessons for how to live a fuller and richer life. It is also a story that taught me that the world of death is not something to be afraid of; it is a world to be revered. The spirits of the dead have something to teach us if we are willing to listen.
Rich in the folklore of my own memory's geography, The Repass is a dark and surreal fairy tale that illustrates how we often hide truth in the brightest light, but can find peace in the serenity of our souls. Song and dance that begin as an expression of pain and desperation ultimately lead us to salvation. Acknowledging the darkest parts of our lives allows us to move on.
Gritty reality is the truest lesson in camera and on set. Film will capture the grim reality of Louisiana’s searing hot burning sun and the varying textures of dark skin on shadowy nights in ways that digital cannot. Devastation will be researched, found and not dressed. Vodou sequences are based in ceremony and not spectacle. Real animals are wrangled. Rainbows are sought. Water scenes are not CGI'd, they are lit as in Jane Campion's The Piano. All of these elements of the earth serve to reinforce that Marie is not magical, she is a little girl who learns how to forgive herself. Marie is the young girl who resides in all of us, the heroine who must learn how to recognize her own strength, her own beliefs and find her place in a sometimes harrowing world.
Now in 2014 this story has evolved into more than a journey of my personal awakening and discovery. The journeys the characters go through are deeply profound and universal. Their stories investigate not only layers of privilege, culture, race and gender, but also the increasingly tense relationship between community and government--all against the backdrop of a major historical international event in American society. It is the second time that citizens felt deserted by their country. There are some stories that simply MUST be told. This is one of them.