Avant-Guardians creator Alesia Etinoff has written a new short film, 19 Weeks. The short film details a miscarriage that leads a woman to learn how to grieve.
The film stars Etinoff as well as Lamorne Morris, Sherri Shepherd and Marque Richardson and directed by Evita Castine. The film is also produced by Zoe Saldana’s company Cinestar as well as Liz Destro and Kendra Chanae Chapman.
Described by Etinoff as “A Black film about vulnerability, loss and hope,” the film follows Oshun (Etinoff), a woman who has to come to terms with the loss of her baby in a uniquely supernatural way. According to the official description: When Oshun miscarries in the middle of her gender reveal party, she returns home the next morning heartbroken, embarrassed and desperate to move on…that is until her unborn son visits her, in hopes to get her to slow down and process the loss.
As Oshun’s name suggests, the film also involves Yoruba imagery and mythology, which Castine incorporated into the film.
Castine, Destro and Chapman told PopSugar about how the film personally touched them.
“You are mourning the loss of HOPE you had for the future–not just for the baby, but for yourself,” said Destro. “This film is a visual reference to that loss of hope–of everything her son would have been, the mother she was supposed to be, and a life that will never be.
“I have talked to women who have lost children in really tragic circumstances, and it doesn’t matter when it happened, the feeling is extremely visceral,” said Castine. “And when I talked to women who have experienced a miscarriage, it is the same feeling.”
“As women, our bodies go through a lot, and when Alesia and I started working on this project, we were firm in not wanting to glamorize anything,” said Chapman. “There’s a balance beween showing too much or too little, but I think we were really able to find a middle ground that still depicted an honest experience. We want women to watch this and feel seen.”
In a statement received by Shadow And Act, Etinoff wrote in part that she made the film as a way to process her own grief around the death of her mother.
“I lost my mom very young,” she wrote. “Before I even really had a chance to understand life, know her, or even remember much about her. Right before she died, I wrote her a letter. A love letter. And she couldn’t write me back at that stage in her sickness, but she told my aunt that she was devastated. Angry. That she was losing me and my brother before she ever got a chance to really know us. Heartbroken.”
“…Losing my mom was an unspeakable loss. A loss that came after about 22 weeks (the original title). Which was the time my mom was in the hospital/hospice before she passed…I wrote this film as a second love letter to my mom. And a love letter to all of the moms and children both celebrating and grieving.”
Below is her full statement:
I wrote this film to explore the unexplainable and surreal feeling of grief. I lost my mom very young. Before I even really had a chance to understand life, know her, or even remember much about her. Right before she died, I wrote her a letter. A love letter. And she couldn’t write me back at that stage in her sickness, but she told my aunt that she was devastated. Angry. That she was losing me and my brother before she ever got a chance to really know us. Heartbroken.
Even though she loved us deeply, she’d never get to know us as the child with whimsy, the angsty teenager, or the adults we’d blossom into – shown through the boy, teenager, and adult in the film. It was this speech she gave my aunt after my dad took us home one night, that inspired this film.
Losing my mom was an unspeakable loss. A loss that came after about 22 weeks (the original title). Which was the time my mom was in the hospital/hospice before she passed.
Now there’s me — the adult she never got to know. And I’ve been experiencing unspeakable-grief in my adult life. Non-linear-grief. Hard to explain to people because she’s been dead for almost 20 years and they expect you to be over it-grief. I often have the surreal feeling of imagining my mom at the different stages in her life.
And, I had several friends and family who’d experienced miscarriages, devastated by their own losses. Losing days over fantasies of what their children would have been like. And I thought this needed light, needed breath blown into it, this loss that we as women experience as mothers, daughters, souls. I say happy Mother’s Day to not just the visible mothers, but the less visible mommas, and the late moms – it’s all grief. And it’s all beautiful.
This film is an exploration of unspeakable grief – the hemorrhaging of feelings you can’t articulate, how hard it is to let go of the images you dreamed up of a life that won’t ever happen, and fantasies one has. Fantasies my mom had of us getting older, and that I have of her and my own future children. This is a film about loss, and how in the quiet moments of those losses, no one can comfort you — not your partner, not the research you do to intellectualize what’s happening to you, not your pastor or your friends. You know what can comfort you though, even when you’re sitting in a bathtub of your own loss? Fantasies. Dreams. Of a life where you didn’t lose them.
I wrote this film as a second love letter to my mom. And a love letter to all of the moms and children both celebrating and grieving. You are loved.
From the writer/lead actress, with love –
Alesia S. C. Etinoff
Photo credit: Destro Films