Society is always evolving and the laws must evolve with them. However, in an era when human rights, personal rights and dignity is on the table, the Supreme Court seems to trump common sense and personal choice. I’m referring to a woman’s right to choose and the new Bill 8 struck down in Texas that denies women the right to abort a fetus, even in the event of rape or incest after a period of 6-weeks. I thought we had moved on from Roe versus Wade but Texas says “Whoa there… I’ll tell you what you can do with your body!” Society is divided on many issues and this new law compounds the dire situation with no solution in sight.
FRIMAS is a film that address a desperate future and dystopian society, where getting an abortion has once again become a criminal offense and Kara is confronted by a grim and brutal reality. Even though obvious dangers are at play, she seeks out the services of an illegal mobile abortion clinic. Once inside the morbid clinic, she is faced with devastating repercussions. The film is performance driven and unfolds with the art of gestures and nods, to keep an underground operation a secret. It’s a desperate depiction of a future that screams assault, barbarism and violation of women’s rights. Powerful and unapologetic because it speaks for many that cannot. That’s the beauty of film, because it won’t be silenced and you can keep rewinding it.
FRIMAS is the brainchild of Montreal’s Marianne Farley – writer, director, producer and actress. The film stars Karine Gonthier-Hyndman as Kara. The incredible and beautiful cinematography was created by Benoit Beaulieu and it was filmed in the back of a meat truck… and it was -25 outside. Marianne is proving to be a remarkable storyteller and director, as well as an accomplished actress and producer. She makes the films that spark conversation because they seem to mirror the cracks in our society that can’t be patched with a tube of silicone or duct tape. Marianne is known for her multi-award-winning film MARGUERITE, which has garnered over 20 awards across the globe. Never one to sit idle, she currently has 2 feature films in post-production and other projects in development.
I had the great privilege of speaking with this multi-talented artist from her home in Montreal. Roll the tape!
HNMAG “Congratulations on a great film that tackles an important issue. Considering what’s going on in Texas, what was the motivation for this film?”
MARIANNE “I’ve always been extremely passionate about human rights and women’s rights in general. I’ve been researching the subject, as well as watching documentaries on abortion rights. One was called Vessel, which I watched 3-4 years ago and the other was Reversing Roe, which talks about the far-right agenda to reverse Roe. Envisioning what that future might look like, really motivated me to write this film. I must say that the timing is a little scary, in that – it premiered the same day as the new Texas Bill to ban abortion came into effect. Next week, Mississippi is going in front of the Supreme Court to reverse Roe vs Wade. Many states have been focusing their efforts on reversing it for many years.”
HNMAG “When you tackle a sensitive topic like abortion, does it open yourself up for criticism by anti-abortion supporters?”
MARIANNE “It definitely does… but I’ve gotten much more support for the message in this film than criticism. It’s something that I’ve already had to face but I’ve been ready for it. If you’re against abortion, I understand. My point is that a woman should still have the right to choose and I don’t believe that our personal beliefs should affect other people’s lives. Many people believe that abortion is the killing of a baby and I fundamentally believe the opposite is happening. A baby is not an embryo or a fetus. There are religious individuals that believe, from the time of conception, it is a child. I understand that it makes them uncomfortable but I still believe it’s a woman’s right to choose.”
HNMAG “In this film, it would appear the majority of the filming took place from the inside of a mobile meat truck. Was any of that replicated inside a studio?”
MARIANNE “It was all done inside the truck but the truck was inside a studio. The movement, the motion, the bumps were all done by the crew shaking the truck (laughing). It was tight, it was difficult and it was cold. I suppose it goes with the territory when you work on a difficult subject.”
HNMAG “Having an abortion in the back of a moving meat truck, does seem quite extreme. Have you heard of similar extreme measures, used in other countries or locations in the world?”
MARIANNE “I haven’t heard of anything this extreme… but in talking about it now, the documentary – The Vessel, about Rebecca Gomperts, who’s a Dutch doctor that formed an organization ‘Women on Waves’, and sails a ship around the world to provide abortions at sea, for women who have no legal alternative. Although a large truck is not the same as a boat, I think subconsciously the ship had sparked something for me. I wanted to think of the least obvious place to not have an abortion. Desperate times call for desperate measures and the meat truck was a consequence of my crazy imagination.”
HNMAG “In the truck, there were hanging sides of meat. Were those props?”
MARIANNE “Those were real pig carcasses. We rented the truck from the shop that owned it and we bought the pig carcasses. We were very careful to not spoil them and we gave them away afterward, to feed people – that was very important to us.”
HNMAG “How was the smell inside the truck?”
MARIANNE “(Laughing) It wasn’t too bad because they were really fresh and we’d bring them back out into the refrigerator or outside where it was -25, so they never smelled bad.”
HNMAG “FRIMAS premiered at the Oscar qualifying festival Regard, then it went on to screen at Off-Courts Trouville, Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival, and can soon be seen at Mill Valley Film Festival, Cinéfest Sudbury in Ontario and many more. What has the audience response been to this film?”
MARIANNE “I realized it is a difficult film to watch, after watching an audience screen it, but I really didn’t set out to make a romantic film about abortion rights. For those that believe in abortion rights, also believe that this film needed to be made. We have gotten great feedback on the film.”
HNMAG “I enjoyed the way you directed this film. I’ve read that you direct from your experience as an actor. Can you elaborate?”
MARIANNE “I love directing because I really understand it well. For me, it’s always about going through the motivation and the subtext with my actors – what does she mean when she says that, what is she trying to hide, what information is she trying to pass on and emotionally – where is she, at that specific moment? That’s how I approached acting and that’s how I approach my actors, as a director. They have their point of view and I have mine, so we figure it out together – where we need to be emotionally at that moment. A story has building blocks and there has to be a connection. I really enjoy it. I’ve worked with too many directors that don’t understand that. In a short film, you don’t have a lot of time to tell that story. When the character is one way in the beginning and changed at the end, you have to build that delicately, so the payoff is good at the end. You feel like you’re on the journey with the character.”
HNMAG “Was it difficult to find an actress that could pull this role off?”
MARIANNE “We interviewed 5 or 6 actresses and when Karine walked in, she was so emotionally open, generous and she really connected to the character. I don’t think she had even opened her mouth, when I knew it was going to be her. I believe the audience connects with her and helps us to realize what she’s going through.”
HNMAG “We see her reunited with her husband at the end. Was he one of the police officers that pulled over the truck?”
MARIANNE “No, he wasn’t but interestingly enough, the idea was that he could be. He really believes and supports the new law to criminalize abortion and doesn’t realize that the baby wouldn’t survive to full term. She just found out that it wouldn’t survive but knows that her husband would force her to carry it. He also works for the government but the backstory is, he’s a cop.”
HNMAG “How long did it take to shoot this film and what size of crew did you use?”
MARIANNE “It took us 4 days and there was a small crew of 25-30. We shot it just before the pandemic, so we were incredibly lucky. I did all of the post production while Covid was happening, which was challenging. It was a great crew and we all worked outside in -25 weather. The crew really responded well to the story, they believed it was an important subject and felt that the film had to be made.”
HNMAG “The images were outstanding and very clear. What did you shoot it on?”
MARIANNE “We shot it on the Sony Venice large format. We shot on macro quite a lot because I wanted to be close to the actors. It’s a great camera and I was really happy with the way it performed.”
HNMAG “You’re also in post production of your first feature film, NORTH OF ALBANY (co-written with Claude Brie). What is that film about?”
MARIANNE “The mother, her 14 yr. old girl and 11 yr. old boy all flee Montreal because her daughter has done something awful. They’re on their way to Florida when their car breaks down. It’s a story about running away from your fears and life forcing you to face your sh!t. It’s also about family and relationships and we should be finished in time for Christmas.”
HNMAG “Your previous film, MARGUERITE has won over 20 Awards from around the globe. That story was about an elderly lady that was dying and finds comfort from her nurse before passing on. Another delicate subject. What subjects are you most drawn to when you make a film?”
MARIANNE “For me, there has to be an innate message in the film I’m trying to make; I’m also drawn to social content. Marguerite is about an elderly woman who comes to terms with her repressed homosexuality. It allowed me to talk about these generations of women that didn’t have the opportunities that the current generation has. It’s much more accepted and it’s much more mainstream in comparison to the 1920’s or ‘30’s… it was criminal back then. We tend to focus most of these stories around men and their point of view, but these stories about these women are seldom told.”
HNMAG “You also produced LES NÔTRES by Jeanne Leblanc with your production company SLYKID & SKYKID in which you play one of the lead roles. What is that film about?”
MARIANNE “It’s about a 13 yr. old girl that becomes pregnant in a small town and the pressures put on her to divulge the fathers name. I’d describe it as a suspense/drama film because you’re kept from knowing who the father is. When you do find out who it is, you realize that society will try to suppress the truth. It’s also about sexual abuse and the shame that we inflict on these young women and their bodies. It’s a beautiful film, and that’s not because I acted in it or produced it.”
HNMAG “Where can the public catch FRIMAS?”
MARIANNE “It’s still doing the festivals; I think it was in Rome this week and going to Greece next – it was just in Miami. It will be on Omeleto.com from now until mid to the end of Dec. in the drama section for free.”
HNMAG “I just have one more question for you. What is your biggest fear?”
MARIANNE “I’d have to say global warming. With what’s currently happening in Vancouver with the floods, the forest fires get worse every year. What scares me the most, is that we don’t have a government taking it seriously enough to put in the effort and people that don’t want to make the necessary sacrifices in order to sustain the planet.”
It was an extraordinary talk with an exceptional filmmaker with a gift for great storytelling. Marianne is putting her signature on films that need to be told and her audience builds with every new production. Catch Frimas online while you can.