By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
The thought-provoking short film and coming of age, Queer and Southern God, is written and directed by MelisseTokic, who wanted to offer a platform to start a discussion with her film. Peach caught up with Melisse to talk about her observation of the Southern rural way of life, community, trauma, and Jesus.
How did you get started making films?
I wrote a feature first, I really wanted it to be a musical with the catchiest of showtunes. I realized that I had no way to finance or knowledge on how to get the film made. I am also not musically inclined, so I would need someone to help me write and choreograph the dance numbers. I condensed the script and turned it on to a quirky dramedy.
In short: What is the film about?
Hank finds himself pregnant and hasn’t had a God to turn to in a minute. He’s got his Mama, but she’s too busy drinking her Budweiser and smoking the Kools. He’s got a boyfriend, but he just can’t take being his boyfriend’s trophy queer for much longer. It just may take the spiritual guidance of his aggressor’s mother to show Hank another way of looking at the world and “God.”
The film deals with some traumatic issues – how do you deal with them as a filmmaker?
This film being a collaborative effort has assisted in healing my own wounds. Creating this film has helped me feel like I am advocating for my communities by offering a platform to increase awareness between cultures and allowing us all to address our own prejudices and privileges. This film also has some humor which lessens the heaviness of the trauma going on.
Queer and Southern God also deals with how religion and faith are ingrained in the south– what do you hope to achieve to change with the film?
I only want to change people’s awareness. There are individuals who don’t even notice that their church doctrine is so ingrained in them. This is a really interesting facet of the south that people from other areas haven’t been exposed to honestly in the media.
The film touches upon ‘universal truths’ – what are those to you?
The big one for me is feeling like an outsider in a community that you have carefully chosen. There is plenty of stories in the media about being the outsider in your own family or hometown. I think many of us have carefully chosen to be part of a specific community, be it the woke LGBTQ community, a church, a bunch of druggies in a trap house, trauma survivors, etc.… and then realized that we still don’t fit in.
Another universal truth is that there are varied experiences of sexual assault survivors. Not everyone follows the prescribed path the media portrays of filing a police report, and the perpetrator is brought to some sort of civic justice. Spirituality is often not found within the rules of a church. It often comes to us in some strange, unexpected way.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
We are taking applications for a non-profit I founded that assists disenfranchised and minority filmmakers in getting their own projects made. Anyone can apply or support the cause at www.dialoguefilms.org. Right now I am in the editing process of a film I co-wrote and directed called “Percy and Bud.” It’s about an African-American heroin addict who gets left with a white 1-year-old. The film shows the first 30 days of him in recovery while having to care for this toddler. It was inspired by the cult classic, “Shogun’s Assassin.” The enemy here is drugs, societal views, and the court system. I’m in pre-production for a film I wrote called “Suicide is a Wonderful Consolation” about multiple suicide attempts. It’s a fun ride with a twist at the end, so that’s all I can give away.
Queer and Southern God is showing on August 4th from 6:00PM-7:15PM at the Southern Shorts Awards. More info and tickets at southernshortsawards.com.