On September 27, 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford stood before the entire nation to recount an alleged incident of sexual assault she experienced as a young woman at the hands of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It was a pivotal moment: A woman forced to publicly relive her trauma only to be told she is lying, seeking attention, and/or being used as a pawn to advance political agendas. The result of both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh’s hearings aside, something significant happened that day, similar to when Anita Hill gave her testimony detailing her sexual assault by Judge Clarence Thomas. A woman fought against a man who had for so long used his power to override her
Enter Maverick, the enigmatic, and visually stunning debut short film from multi-hyphenate Cara Stricker. Starring Abbey Lee, it follows the mundane day-to-day of a young woman whose quiet life gets shaken up upon the arrival of her ex-lover Dick. The result is a whirlwind of psychedelic splendor that showcases raw female complexity through the protagonist’s liberation from a destructive love. The film, too, centers around a dynamic similar to that of Ford vs. Kavanaugh, resonating with the experience of being a woman in a patriarchal, white-cis-male driven society today. “When people watch the trailer before they’ve seen whole film, I'll get calls from [them] saying, Wow I know what that feels like,” Stricker explains. This relatability comes from the narrative’s depiction of gaslighting, a form of psychological manipulation in which a person is made to question their sanity and their reality, a common thread that connects most women, according to Stricker. “There’s that moment of a complete lack of confidence in her identity...Every woman knows exactly what she's feeling right there. They've all had an experience like that.”
The short film premiered at the annual FFFest (Female Filmmakers Festival) on October 12 in Los Angeles, CA. We caught up with the two powerhouse women on womanhood, the mental state of society, and how they hope audiences will react to the film.
The film is relevant to the current social and political climate where women are being virtually ignored by men in positions of power. Do you see a connection between that?
ABBEY LEE: I don't think it's ignored, it's more that women get violently squashed. There's something very ominous about the relationship [in the film]. The central theme is about a woman fighting against somebody that used to throw their weight around and use their power—their sexual power, their manipulation, their intelligence—to override the person.
A beautiful thing about the film is the responses that we've gotten from women who were watching it. Regardless of what your experience has been as a women, it is so relatable. The core of what it's saying seems to penetrate every woman that watches it. It doesn't need to be blatant, it's not just a stand or a message. It's an art piece that is enigmatic and it still translates to each individual in their own way. Everyone has their own personal response to it, which is my favorite thing.
As women who work in the creative industry, how would you diagnose the mental state of society with regard to women living in this time?
CARA STRICKER: Looking around and seeing culturally what is going on, and that stems from the home. Just in being a woman—and I feel like most women have shared this—in this particular case that came out with Kavanaugh, it's every woman. It's weird, like [Ford] was saying he was talking about copying from a girl and pushing her down is almost like a coming of age moment for a guy. All of us have had this experience of getting pushed against a wall and some guy is trying to undress you uncomfortably and it’s okay, ‘cause he’s on testosterone and he was just trying to feel you up and you don't know what to do and you get scared, and it's definitely a scarring experience. I swear, I don't know one girl who hasn't had that happen to her.
AL: That's what's so amazing about what's happened—with these movements. What has been so polarizing to me, is when the discussion comes up at the dinner table or in a car, you realize that every fucking woman has more than one story to tell, and half the time you're like, ‘Oh I never thought it was a thing! He made me suck his cock and I didn't want to, and I thought that was part of growing up.’ It's super fucking crazy! Every woman.
And when you get down to the nitty-gritty and you ask men, the amount of conversations that I've heard between groups of men saying things like, ‘Shit! I think I've done that’ and ‘Maybe I should text this girl I knew 10 years ago and make sure she's okay.’ It's this weird thing where a lot of people are realizing that we’re affected by it. It’s almost like it’s this accepted thing that’s been going on. I think that people need to keep talking about it. I know some people are sick of hearing about it, but I'm not. I think that people just need to keep talking about it. The men I’m sitting around at dinner parties with, they need to be able to say those things so they can realize that their behavior needs to change. We need to keep talking to each other.
A lot of what happens with the way society treats each other is learned behavior, we do need to help men through the process as well and let them speak out and be honest and wonder if they are doing the right thing, or not. Listen to women. Everyone needs to listen to each other and feel okay to speak out. It's really important.
With this movie, what are some things that you hope to communicate to the public?
AL: I want women to come out of it feeling like they can be brave. I want people to feel like, Yeah man! She did it. I can do that shit too! Hopefully it communicates bravery.
Bravery. I love that.
CS: I definitely hope it makes women feel brave. Also, I hope it makes people question what is happening around them. Sometimes we can go through every day and not even question it. Like you don't even think, Is that okay that they're saying that to me? Is it okay that I'm living this life? Is that my own want or is that being told to me that I want this? Is this relationship ok? And really taking a look at life and thinking, Is this good for me? I really hope people walk away with that because otherwise there's no way your life is going to get better, and there’s no way that society can get better. It’s very symbolic.
AL: Yeah, It's visually stunning. I hope it brings people joy, the visuals.
CS: Yeah, and also the color palette, how we built everything with suggestive metaphors, like how Napoleon defeated a whole nation, and [how] he cooked chicken for his troops. If you go back and watch it, you can pick up [on] these things. It's like she's killing off this part of herself—it's a struggle—[like] a fight within herself.
I hope it inspires other people who are into non-traditional ways of filmmaking to just go and do that, as well as leaning into what you're good at. You don't have to spell out a film for someone, so it's a beautiful thing to explore feeling and sound and have that be as important as your narrative, your visual palette. I found a bunch of those growing up, and there's no reason why we have a certain kind of way of presenting something to the world.