‘Disquieting drama’ ‘Sadie’ homes in on teen angst, families, young people under siege in violent culture
“No one is happy in the hazy, dank world of Megan Griffiths’ trailer-park drama, ‘Sadie,’” says Indiewire, but 13-year-old Sadie herself is perhaps the unhappiest. Her military dad has been deployed a long time, her mother is finding new companionship, Sadie is ignored at home and bullied at school, and the communication gap between daughter and mother becomes a dangerous, dark chasm.
The title character typifies many of today’s teens – anxious, depressed and growing up in an increasingly angry, violent culture. Family First Aid says 30 percent of teens in the U.S. have been involved in bullying, while 2.8 million youth between 12 and 17 have had at least one major depressive episode. Nearly 17 percent have carried a weapon to school at least once, says the Center for Disease Control.
“We’ve spent a lot of time as a culture trying to reckon with the effects of the intense exposure to violence faced by soldiers,” writer/director Griffiths says, “but what about the effects of similar exposure on those at home? How does this steady diet of violence – from the real-world carnage of war, mass shootings and police brutality, to the fictional, cartoonish bloodshed filling our screens – impact those coming of age in this era?”
On Monday, Sept. 10, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University will screen the narrative film “Sadie” at 7 pm. in ETSU’s Brown Hall Auditorium – with Griffiths and producer Lacey Leavitt in attendance. As part of the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers, the free public screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session and reception with the filmmakers.
There’s a war going on in Sadie’s trailer park, Griffiths says, a war going nearly unnoticed. “I always considered this movie to be a war movie with a different focus,” she says, “focusing on the people at home and the soldier being a young girl in this case, with her battlefield being the trailer park.” ‘Sadie’ is “moving, well-crafted and honest,” says The Stranger slog. “It’s also quite pertinent to today’s culture of hostility and violence.”
Variety calls the “methodically disquieting drama … equal parts coming-of-age story and slow-burn thriller.”
“With ‘Sadie,’ I have tried to create a cautionary tale with humor and humanity,” Griffiths says, “that I hope will contribute to a larger cultural conversation.”
While Griffiths started writing the script for “Sadie” in 2009, gathering support came to fruition years later and shooting finally began in 2017, in the Seattle area that Griffiths now considers home. “Sadie” premiered at SXSW in March 2018 and won the Gryphon Jury Award at the 2018 Giffoni Film Festival in Italy this summer.
Griffiths’ work has received multiple awards including the SXSW Emergent Narrative Director Award, Audience Award for Narrative Feature and a Special Jury Prize for Eden in 2012. Her film Lucky Them starring Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church and Johnny Depp premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was distributed by IFC Films. Recently, she directed multiple episodes of HBO’s new series Room 104. Griffith and Leavitt first collaborated on 2011’s The Off Hours. Leavitt is co-founder and CEO of Electric Dream Factory, which harnesses both emerging and traditional technologies to create a diverse array of stories.
Griffiths’ filmmaking has often focused on women. “Sadie” is no exception. “Most stories about disaffected, violent youth focus on boys,” Griffiths says. “Stories about war are almost exclusively a male domain. But no one is immune to the imagery with which we are bombarded every day in this society. Young girls are equally at risk of being desensitized and damaged by this constant exposure.”
Two new faculty members at ETSU, both of whom also hail from the Pacific Northwest, have followed the filmmaker’s work for some time. In fact, Drs. Matthew Holtmeier and Chelsea Wessels made a presentation at a conference on Griffiths’ film Eden and its aspects of ecofeminism and the Pacific Northwest bioregion.
“Along with directors like Lynn Shelton and Kelly Reichardt, Griffiths is making a place for women in the film industry, which has long been dominated by men in industrial centers like [Los Angeles],” says Holtmeier, who is co-director of the ETSU Film Studies minor with Wessels. “Her films also include strong women, such as in films like The Off Hours and Eden, making her an important voice in today’s filmmaking environment.”
The film features a score by Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and “an impressive cast,” says the Moveable Fest. Melanie Lynskey as Sadie’s mother, Rae, has been seen in “Two and a Half Men” and Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers;” Daniel le Brooks as friend Carla comes from “Orange Is the New Black;” Emmy-winner Tony Hale (“Arrested Development,” “Veep”) portrays Bradley; Tony-winner John Gallagher Jr. (“The Newsroom” and “Spring Awakening” on Broadway) plays Rae’s new friend, Cyrus; and Sophia Mitri Schloss (“Grimm,” “The Librarians” and “Portlandia”) portrays Sadie.
“I’m really thrilled that this particular film is on our schedule this fall,” Anita DeAngelis, director of event-sponsor Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. “We love to have narrative films in the Southern Circuit series, and ‘Sadie,’ certainly includes timely topics that merit more conversation. That’s what the Q&As after each film hope to encourage.”
For more information, call the Martin School of the Arts at 423-439-TKTS (8587) or visit www.etsu.edu/martin. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439- 8346. Additional information on the film is available at www.sadiefilm.com.