By Jessica G. Ferrer
A topic that still in our era is on the rise, one that many females across the globe can relate to and one that many choose to keep silent, because of fear and other factors that only those who experience it understand it. Domestic Abuse is still among women of all ages. Creating awareness and conversation about this issue is writer/producer Felipe Piña’s goal. After writing a script that would not only speak to women everywhere, but also create awareness that this issue should not be kept silent, Felipe decided to share with the world a personal story in which he calls, "A Truth in Silence”.
Directed by Jonathan Salemi, A Truth in Silence captures the emotional and violent reality of domestic abuse. The short film tells the story of one weekend, out of the seventeen years of domestic abuse in the life Elizabeth.
Piña’s mother was the inspiration to the film. “The idea sort of came about because my mom was taking a course in college and so she wrote a short essay. She sent it to me to review… and so it was such a great piece and at the time I asked her if it would be okay that I could turn it into a short film… Because it was something that I never really knew about her past because she doesn’t talk about her past very often.” Felipe tells me that time went by before he decided to pursue the project. It was then when he asked a friend to read his story. “My script had been sitting in my computer at work for about three to four years and I hadn’t touched it. I pulled it out because I was like, well I’m gonna start working on my scripts again so I gave it him to see what he thought and he just so happened to live with Jonathan and I guess passed it over to Jonathan…. He loved the story and thought it was great and asked me a few times to make it.”
Piña and Salemi talk about casting their stars Vanessa Garcia (Elizabeth) and Abimael Linares (Hector). “I met Vanessa a year prior to even doing the project. I met her at a party and she sort of looked like my mother… I told her I was working on a short that I wrote a long time ago… and I asked if she would be interested in coming in for an audition if I decided to make it… I was interested in her and a few other people. I wanted great actors. I just wanted to give my mom’s story justice to make it as phenomenal as I could,” says Felipe. Meanwhile, Jonathan explains how Abimael was a favorite from the very beginning. “Abimael was in all three of our lists… but it was more Abimael’s choices when he was there that rose him above the rest.” Piña adds, “Plus he resembles my dad a lot when my dad was younger.”
Abimael talks about bringing Hector to life. “I try to pull emotions that I normally feel but I’m not allowed to express in certain situations and you know, from experience I’ve seen that happen and I’ve seen myself drunk before and seen the way I acted when I was drunk, irrational. I used that to fuel Hector’s character.”
As the director of the film, Salemi explains the importance of capturing the right elements and emotions. “I wanted to make Felipe’s mom proud of it so I didn’t want to make anything too theatrical. I wanted to really stay true to what he told me so for me the most important thing was coming as honest as I could to the story that Felipe told me. And his mother, who I have yet to meet, I really wanted her to watch something and be like, yea that’s my story.” Felipe adds, “This whole process, last year, was probably the worst year of my life… I found out through the therapeutic process that I was regressing back to when I was a child, and the fear and the anxiety, just paranoid about like walking on eggshells. That whole feeling that we tried to capture in the film was sort of becoming my reality. I ended up getting a therapist for it and he brought me back down and said, 'look you have to go through the worst part to come back out'. And a lot of people that are victims or survivors of domestic abuse, they don’t know that. They don’t know that they're gonna have to revisit their past to get back through the other side and make peace with it, within themselves.” He continues, “And so I think that is something that once the film was done I’ve been sort of advocating my mother to do and just telling her it’s important. She’s opening up more after seeing the film and after realizing that you know, wow it is a great story. It’s making a difference with my mother and my brother’s too.”
Not only has this project made a difference for the victims; it can also be of help to the abusers, which at times don’t understand the reasons to their behaviors and the damage they cause. Abimael (who plays the father and abuser) talks about playing Hector and experiences of his own. “I have a pretty short temper, that’s my biggest flaw. I didn’t realize for a while that I was developing a problem with alcohol. I got to a point where I was getting wasted and getting violent. The last time I had a drink I just, I got really violent with the person closest to me. I could’ve killed myself and her while driving drunk and yelling, arguing and throwing things and it just… All that stuff came on and I said I need to make a decision and I don’t ever want to be like that again. Then soon after that is actually when I got the audition for the movie. So I pretty much saw myself in that guy… I gave it all I had. I tried to be as honest as I could and I, you know. When I played hector… by being honest and showing it and letting that out during the performance, it had the effect that needed to show how ugly it is and show how bad it is when it comes to a relationship or any household. How much other people suffer because the uglier Hector looked, the more shocking it would be to people that don’t realize this is going on.”
With such an emotional and personal story, there are many challenges in executing a project that is so close to the heart. Piña tells me, “There was a lot of doubt. I thought about it so hard because I thought I don’t want anybody knowing, you know my past and how I grew up because I was always the one who was always smiling and always happy, but then I found that was the way I was masking, you know, the issues from years and years ago.” He explained how even on set, it was not easy for him. Salemi admits that while it was all reenactment, “It was difficult.” Felipe comments, “It was really tough and very real. But you could tell it was doing what it was supposed to be doing because there were crewmembers on set that came up to me and they told me their stories. I though to myself, wow this is really gonna help people.”
Jonathan Salemi concludes by sharing an interesting fact, “1.5 million women in the U.S. are abused by an intimate partner each year and only 20% of them actually report that for fear of economic dependency, fear, and shame that they’re embarrassed.”
To victims everywhere, remember you are not alone; let the truth be spoken.
Visit www.atruthinsilence.com for help and more information.