Logline: A Malay trans woman is forced into prostitution in jail and fights to survive and regain power over herself.
Synopsis: Malaysia, 1998: KARIM collects his brother Amir from the beach while Amir’s friends make fun of him. Flash forward to 2015 and we met ZEHRA as she leaves boyfriend DAVE in bed and goes to work. At work she talks to her friend Farah, a trans woman who is showing off her surgery. On being asked if Zehra wants breast work done, she says she is happy being as God made her. On the way to a club that night, Dave coerces Zehra into oral sex in his car despite watching police cameras. At the club we see a man (SHAVED HEAD MAN) leave before they enter. Zehra and Dave dance until the club is raided by police. Dave abandons Zehra and the police check her ID – we discover that she was Karim from the first scene. A police officer offers to let her go in exchange for sex and she assaults him. She is arrested for the assault and for “cross-dressing”, sentenced to 1 year in prison.
Narrator: Val Cole
Zehra: Zena Driver
Warden: Nick Baillie
Menni/Jensen: Peter Mark Raphael
Dave/Peter: Russell Batcher
Farah: Valerie Courville
Hafiz: Ryan Singh
Producer/Director: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Festival Moderators: Kierston Drier, Shepsut Wilson
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: Kimberly Villarruel, John Johnson, Kyle Drier
Festival Directors: Mary Cox, Rachel Elder, Natasha Levy
Camera Operators: Hugh Ritchie, Aser Santos Jr., Zack Arch
The Undertow charters the relationship between a mother and daughter in 1990’s Ireland. As one comes to terms with her sexuality, the other struggles to find her independence and agency in a country where the personal is political and being oneself can come with grave consequences.
Set in rural Ireland, Undertow is a character portrait of a unique and powerful mother/daughter relationship. The film focuses on a pivotal year in the life of our protagonist, Saoirse 15, a fiercely independent young woman.
Saoirse struggles to understand her mother Tara, when she comes out to her husband during Saoirse's senior year in secondary school. Tara's confession initially breaks up Saoirse’s family at a time when Saoirse is first learning about her own sexuality. In a country where homosexuality is illegal, Saoirse must keep her mother's secret and steer her own course.
Saoirse and her father find solace through sailing at sea, but with a tumultuous marriage on its last leg, Saoirse must find a way to accept her mother’s new relationship and a sudden change of scenery.
Through a series of increasingly rebellious acts, Saoirse comes to understand her own limitations and redefines her perception of Tara and her unconventional family.
Soairse – Sydney Addison-Rudat
Sean – Luke Robinson
Narration – Vanessa Burns
Bill – Russell Batcher
Tara – Pip Dwyer
Louisa is a graduate cum laude from UC Berkeley’s Art Practice Department where she specialized in film production. After graduating, Louisa studied and then worked at the Saul Zaentz media center where she helped to run the Berkeley Digital Film Institute. During that time Louisa consulted on the production and development of films such as Zaytoun, Witness11, IOU, and most recently Up Pohnpei.