Most graduate film students can’t say that attending a meeting of Conversio Virium, Columbia’s consensual BDSM group counts as work. But for Rachel Del Giudice, SoA ’16, attending one such meeting was necessary to do research for her new film.
“Don’t Trust Her” is an eight-minute short film written and directed by Del Giudice. The film will screen on April 9 at the third annual Take Two Film Festival, which showcases independent films and documentaries from all over the world, with a focus on New York-based filmmakers. “Don’t Trust Her” has been nominated for Take Two’s Manny Award for Best Film.
The film’s premise is simple, but dark: Twelve-year-old Maggie takes an instant dislike to her sister’s new boyfriend. Jealous and over-possessive, Maggie devises a plan drive him out of the house.
“It’s about a child trying to figure out what’s going on in a world she doesn’t fit in yet, which is dating and relationships and sex, and feeling like she’s being left out and abandoned. So she does something malicious,” Del Giudice said.
The idea for the film first struck Del Giudice after she read an article about BDSM clubs in Ivy League schools. In the film, Maggie discovers the sadism and masochism aspect of her sister’s relationship, which she then uses for her own ends.
“She’s a kid, so she doesn’t entirely understand what that means, but she uses it to get the boyfriend in trouble,” Del Giudice said.
Even though the film doesn’t directly portray graphic sexual scenes, Del Giudice researched the BDSM scene in New York extensively in order to represent the issues involved as accurately as possible. In that respect, she admits that writing the story was a challenge.
“I’m very concerned, especially with something as polarizing as sadism and masochism, that it be portrayed accurately,” she said. “I didn’t want it to be exploitative, or a distortion of what happens.”
Casting an actress to play Maggie presented difficulties for Del Giudice, as it is not a typical role for a child.
“I needed somebody who could embody that kind of maliciousness but still be a child, and also whose parents were comfortable with having their kid in a movie that’s kind of dark,” Del Giudice said.
She finally found 13-year-old Kylea Bigus to star as the film’s complicated protagonist. Del Giudice has found that audiences start out on Maggie’s side, but, as the film progresses, they begin to see Maggie’s actions as questionable and malicious. For her stellar performance as Maggie, Bigus has been nominated for the Manny Award for Best Child Actress at the Take Two festival.
Bobby Andishmand, the producer for the Take Two Film Festival, said that Del Giudice’s film was chosen for the Best Film award because it maintained “a good balance between technique and substance.”
“It’s very well-acted and very well-made,” he said. “You forget that you’re watching a film.”
Del Giudice said that her goal was to make the characters as realistic as possible.
“I’m not trying to make a propaganda film, I’m not trying to guide the audience in feeling like they’re rooting for this girl or they’re not rooting for her, or she’s evil,” Del Giudice said. “I just want it to be real, and people can have their own emotional response to it.”
“Don’t Trust Her” screens on Wednesday, April 9 at 8:20 p.m. at the Anthology Film Archives, which is located at 32 Second Ave. Tickets cost $8.