Mother’s Red Dress and Social Cause Filmmaking


“Abandon the preservative chill of this cave, give yourself over to strange, pulsing warmth: the flow of blood, the flood of time, immediate, urgent, like bathing warm in a southern ocean, rocked by the currents of another life.  All that pain, and thwarted hope, rejected love, grief, disappointment, joy…”  – Tony Kushner, The Illusion


Recently I attended Ad Council and Google’s Adweek panel for social change.  The panelists talked about integrating social issue stories into mainstream entertainment so that content could be used to promote awareness for important social issues.  It’s amazing how a story can make you feel and perhaps even compel you to act on those feelings, reach out, spread the word, etc.  I recently saw this article in Scientific American, called “In The Minds of Others” (click here for the entire article) about how fiction can help us to understand and empathize with other people.  It can even change our personalities.  From the article:

… in the past 25 years cognitive psychologists have developed a new appreciation for the significance of stories. Just as computer simulations have helped us understand perception, learning and thinking, stories are simulations of a kind that can help readers understand not just the characters in books but human character in general.

When we are engaged in a film, a book, a story, we connect on a deeper level to personal narratives in a seemingly disconnected environment (a dark movie theater, a comfortable chair with a book in hand), and these stories resonate, change us, move us.  I’ve always been impressed by the stories that make me think of people or situations I’ve never thought about, or issues I didn’t even know existed.  Years ago, I remember how I felt when I saw the film, Moolaade, Ousmane Sembène‘s fable about a community of women who speak out against female genital circumcision in a local village:

And I always kept an eye out for more socially aware narratives.

Recently, I screened the newest film released by No Restrictions Entertainment, called Mother’s Red Dress.  I’ve been a fan of No Restrictions for quite some time now because they use social issue filmmaking to create awareness for issues that are somehow embedded in the social consciousness but otherwise ignored by the general public.  Their stories are always harrowing, haunting.  I was enchanted by their first film about a One Hour Fantasy Girl who drifted sleeplessly along the outskirts of society, turning tricks out of desperation, angling for a way in.  It made me think about how there are people in the world who have escaped some domestic nightmare.  They don’t have anyone else to help them and they feel forced to do horrible things (in One Hour Fantasy Girl‘s case, to reenact other people’s fantasies to survive), drained of the ability to create their own dreams.  This is the trailer:

Click here to read my review One Hour Fantasy Girl.

In newest film from No Restrictions, Mother’s Red Dress, we follow a young man with amnesia, troubled by his persistent and recurring dreams that linger over a seemingly idyllic suburban image of  a backyard hammock.  He runs from his mother and meets a young woman and her friend and he attempts to create a new life for himself.  He falls in love.  But the pull of his mother is strong, and the dark, forgotten past is surfacing and luring him back into a mosaic of fragmented memories.  This is a film about domestic abuse that feels almost dream-like (like One Hour Fantasy Girl), and  it’s wildly affective and important to see.  It’s a social issue story, wrapped in a dream, about a dreamer who can’t remember a past that culminated and cut off in one violent moment.  This is the trailer:

You can watch the Mother’s Red Dress Kickstarter trailer here:

And the entire film is available for rental here:

No Restrictions also has an interesting method of raising money, building audiences, and distributing their films.  Click here for a great article with John Paul Rice from No Restrictions about their “Do-It-With-Others” distribution strategy.

John Yost for Filmmaker Magazine, in the article, “The Microbudget Conversation: Social Change,” (Click here for the whole article) says:

“that both art and revolution help people see that the future doesn’t have to be as the present appears…with the birth of social media, crowdfunding and transmedia, feature films now have an opportunity to reclaim the mantle of social justice from documentaries.

Yost continues:

… we tackle the subject of using our films to make a larger audience aware of a subject or group, and in turn gain a network of people we would have never come in contact with. If crowdsourcing is a way to gain a new following and engage an audience in the filmmaking process, then social change can do the same thing, but also give back to a community or group in more ways than just one narrative film can. It can also serve to engage a larger network in a very specific community need or cause… I was curious how micro-budget films could spark such awareness. I now realize not only is it possible, but almost necessary if we are to grow as a grassroots film community and human community.

No Restrictions is developing a very human network, a community of socially aware film fans (and according to Filmmaker Magazine, this includes “Charities and nonprofit organizations focusing on abuse, like Safe World for Women”).  And with extraordinary films like Mother’s Red Dress, stories are creating awareness for important issues, like domestic abuse, PTSD, and mental illness.

Click here for media, press and reviews of Mother’s Red Dress.

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