KEEP MUM is an independent short film, a psychological thriller, a drama/horror set on the east coast of England, written and directed by London artist/filmmaker Luana di Pasquale. KEEP MUM is also a short pilot for Di Pasquale’s first feature film titled MY ENEMY WITHIN. The film stars Nadira Murray and his eight-year-old son Cameron and is produced by Lisa Turnbull (Reblis Films) in combination with QareyFilm.
Luana explains a little more about KEEP MUM.
“I was forced to do KEEP MUM because I wanted to tell an original story about a topic that is close to my heart. The challenge was how to tell it in 15 minutes and with very little dialogue. My connection to the topic covered in KEEP MUM comes from my personal experience of trauma, secrecy and grief, all of which are part of the cycle of domestic roughness.
When I was a child, my aunt disappeared; although her body was never found, she is now presumed dead. It was only after in life that the truth of his disappearance was revealed to me. And I realized how much this hideous secret had affected my psyche and that of my family: the consequences of such a secret are as inexorable as they are profound. And therefore, intending to explore the psychological and emotional trauma of the cycle of domestic roughness, with special attention to the children – the hidden victims of this endemic phenomenon-I wrote KEEP MUM.”
I decided to tell this story from Mom’s traumatized point of view, enlivening the multidimensionality of her character and the complexity of her dissociative mindset, the mind of the victim and the perpetrator. Using Mom’s trauma as a lens through which to explore the story, I also wanted to challenge the public’s point of view. The claustrophobic, leave and surreal atmosphere, combined and thwarted by the use of the “flow of consciousness” of the filmy narrative, was created in order to make the audience feel the inner struggle and delirium of the mother.
Through the use of symbolism and metaphor, I wanted to invite the public to join her as she tries to unravel the meanings and understand the terrible circumstances in which she and her son lived. The theme of isolation in KEEP MUM is also part of the current theme of the experience of immigrants and racial integration into the British family. The protagonist is a strange woman. Her appearance and emphasis underline the isolation she would have experienced in an abusive relationship in a foreign country, and therefore her trauma is undoubtedly reinforced by her status as an immigrant: there is a TACIT implication in the film that she is a woman who has nowhere to go.
KEEP MUM was a magical and deeply sincere experience. When I finished the script, I realized that I had written it for my soulmate friends, actress Nadira Murray (mom) and her eight-year-old son Cameron (Mom’s son Danny). Then I decided to film the film in an environment familiar to you, in Ramsgate, in order to achieve a realistic feeling of intimacy between mother and son, which provides an emotional contrast to the terrible circumstances that are otherwise described. As it turned out, the filming on the Kent coast had a special impact on the characterization of Danny.
For example, Danny’s phrase: “SOS-Save our souls…”it was something Cameron kept saying in the car while we were exploring the places. When I heard him say that, I felt that it was right to have it in the script, and it quickly became a leitmotif. There was something so honest – and indeed strange – about Danny asking Mom to “save their souls”. I quickly found myself basing Danny’s characterization on Cameron and his interests, especially his love of the sea.
My artistic decisions regarding staging and montage as a whole were aimed at creating a genre short film that would reveal the true horror of domestic roughness without showing roughness. The montage, for example, is brutal, the frequent use of jump cuts gives the narrative a confusing hash, which in turn serves to bring us into empathy with Mom, whose mind is fragmented. I left the ending open because I wanted Mom’s character to remain morally ambiguous. In fact, the film is the one that stimulates debate… Or WILL the audience KEEP it? – Luana De Pasquale