It is fitting that ‘Cut-Out Girls’ opens the 22nd of November, a week before sixteen days of activism for no violence against women and children. This frighteningly relevant and unsettling film follows the lives of six women that become interwoven through the dark actions of two aspiring sportsmen. It is a disquieting film that looks into the complexities of date rape. The young and remarkable cast of fresh new talent venture bravely to where other actors might fear to tread. Under the guidance of writer and director, Nicola Hanekom, they enter an uneasy landscape of blurred lines and misplaced morals in a film that is sure to surprise and move audiences.
The violence perpetrated against women in South Africa has ignited outrage, street protests and a media storm. In the Twittersphere, the words of poet, Koleka Putuma, retweeted 1.8 K times, summarised the thoughts and feelings of many: ‘I don’t want to die with my hands up, or legs open’. This sentiment of fighting back is what drove Hanekom to make ‘Cut-Out Girls’, her debut film.
‘’The film comes straight from my heart,” she says. “It is not a piece of elitist art or entertainment. I wanted to try to make an impact on the epidemic of rape in this country by reminding audiences how date rape, affects women. This is me raising my fist. This is me saying a prayer. It is a reprimand. It is a warning. It is a glimmer of hope.”
Hanekom’s film was funded in part by an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign. “Many of the donations received were from survivors of rape who believed in our project,” she says. “Strangers I didn’t know sent me their stories via social media and urged me to make the film even if the journey was tough.”
As a female director, she took great care to not include any nudity or overt violence. “I listened to the voice inside me that told me to take care, to work with sensitivity, and to make something which is true to the emotionally shattering effects of rape but does not make it attractive or glamorise it in any way.” Hanekom stresses, “I wanted to ensure that the film empowers women, rather than objectifying them.”
She says the cast and crew alike believed in the message and thus far, the audience response to the film has been overwhelmingly positive. “From the survivors of rape through to the daughters, the mothers, the aunts, grandmothers, their fathers and brothers. Everyone has urged us to give this film as widespread an audience as we can to make it an effective tool in the fight against rape. People want this film to be seen.” But don’t be fooled. Although the film has a moral lesson it is in no way didactic or preachy. It is a thriller that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
‘Cut-Out Girls’ is an ensemble film with unpredictable plot twists and the different stories of the women intersecting. Kevin and Mike are trying to get ahead in the competitive world of tennis. When one of them discovers a dangerous key that can unlock their potential, things get out of hand. Their world spirals out of control. A small series of seemingly insignificant moments weave together with devastating consequences. The film delves deep into the notion that in every moment a choice exists. It also challenges the narrative that says only wild, hard-partying jocks rape. “The frightening truth is that we all can turn from ‘us’ into ‘them. We all can lose our moral compass’ Hanekom says.
‘Cut-Out Girls’ stars Joel Rosenblatt, Cody Mountain, Keziah Gabriel, Chloe Papademetriou, Meghan Oberholzer, Ashleigh van der Hoven and Atlanta Johnson. The story is loosely based on a successful stage play by Hanekom that featured the same cast.
‘Cut-Out Girls’ was shot in and around Cape Town in 2017. A portion of the proceeds of the film will go to the non-profit organisation Rape Crisis.
The film is produced by Act Cape Town Productions, in association with Haas & Kaas.
‘Cut-Out Girls’ is distributed in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution. It releases nationwide on 22 November 2019.