It’s been a big year for Minneapolis filmmaker Sayer Frey. Her short film, “Abandon ME,” debuted in March at the Walker Art Center’s Women With Vision film festival. In April it was part of the Minnesota Shorts series at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International film festival. Since then Frey has been on the go, showing her film to a number of diverse audiences from film buffs to a women’s support group. In the Atlanta Short Fest this summer it won a best drama award. She was invited to be on a panel of directors at a Cincinnati film festival. The film has been shown at a women’s festival in London geared to empowering women filmmakers and at the Costa Rica International film festival.
“I like the fact that it fits into a kind of consciousness-raising atmosphere in both sectors,” Frey said, from the sophisticated movie viewer to a more issues-oriented group.
The 19-minute short film, “Abandon ME,” tells the story of a woman confronting memories, past pain and unresolved issues. It tells the story of being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, giving voice to that experience and finding the strength to move forward. “Abandon ME” is about Frey’s own experiences with a lifetime of rescuing herself.
Filmed in a cornfield near Hammond, Wis., it is artistic with earthy hues, lush greens and sky blues. “This is a story about the strength of the human spirit,” said Frey, who is writer, director and editor of the film.
“It’s an allegory, a story about a desperate woman trying to free herself from her pain,” said the film’s executive producer, Erin Rasmussen. “How do you [heal] when your pain keeps pulling you back? How do you handle it in the way that you can transform it and move toward healing?”
The kind of feedback that Frey has gotten varies, depending on the audience, but “There’s always one or two small voices that come to me afterwards, they say it was very important,” she said. “What women like about it is that it’s not explicit. It’s more powerful because it’s symbolic rather than explicit.
“There’s so much sexual violence on TV that we’re just so used to,” Frey continued. “Even on programming that’s about sexual violence, like ‘Law and Order SVU,’ they still expose the viewer to the explicit idea of the violence, instead of making people more aware of the long-term, deepening effects of it.”
Frey’s intent is not to traumatize the viewer. The film’s content is less about the abusive act and more about giving voice to the repercussions and struggles that follow. Frey and Rasmussen are at work creating a companion video to add more context to the abuse and dissociation issues addressed in the short film. The package will be available to therapists and support groups.
“In Love With Ghosts” is Frey’s next project, a feature-length film about a prosthetics designer who tries to put other people’s lives back together. “There’s again a real theme of healing internally represented through fragments of the human body, being ill or violated by war,” she said. “I’m moving on to another form of brokenness.”