PARALLEL is undoubtedly one of the most unique and hard-hitting films currently airing in Indy Film Library’s Student Short Showcase. The collaborative film on childhood sexual abuse was written by five foster youths, and looks to empower survivors to release the anguish of their experiences, while speaking out on behalf of others. Director David Mahmoudieh spoke to Indy Film Library about the motives behind the film, and the important role that art can play in helping give a voice to the voiceless.
Could you sum up the themes addressed in the film?
PARALLEL explores the dichotomy between two students’ sexual assaults within the school system, and how their contrasting reactions to it affect not just themselves but the safety of those around them.
How did the film itself come to be made?
The film was written by five talented foster youths as part of the Kids in the Spotlight (KITS) program; a charity which nurtures talent within the foster care system, providing the kids with the tools and training to write their own shorts – before pairing them up with directors like myself to bring these movies to life.
The beauty of storytelling that KITS offers these kids is, excuse the pun, un-paralleled. The films are often like a catharsis, where inspiration can be come from raw realities the youth have faced or examples that have inspired them along the way.
There is an on-going reckoning in Hollywood and the broader film industry regarding historic sexual abuse; were there any examples which were in the back of your mind when this film was being made?
In this case, the inspiration for the film was from the imprint actor Terry Crews left on the writers, after he came forward with his own story of abuse. They saw the flawed conception that men could never be victims, but at the same time didn’t want to discount the fact that most victims of sexual assault remain young, vulnerable females. It was my duty as the director to try and capture this in a real and honest way, without the need to be graphic.
I chose to focus on the results of the abuse rather than the abuse itself, empowering the victims and not their abusers. We shot the film in a single day, thanks mostly to the incredible cast, crew and foster kids who stayed the course over a long but ultimately rewarding production day.
The icing on the cake was a cameo by Corey Feldman, a man whose own harrowing experiences brought a wealth of wisdom and authenticity to the film’s final message. It was also Corey’s idea to include his #Kids2 callout in the film and the kids and I were more than happy to use the short as a platform for that.
What is your main take-away from your experience helping to create Parallel?
I am both humbled and honored to bring this powerful and timely story to life for the kids who conjured it, and raise awareness that while progress is being made there are still millions more victims out there needlessly suffering in silence. This one’s for them.
For more info on Kids in the Spotlight and their work with foster youth, please visit the organisation’s website.