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Twenty years after being abused by his priest, a fateful reunion reverses roles and reveals love can be just as twisted and destructive as abuse.
The lingering effects of abuse and trauma are scattered throughout all my projects and are explored using different themes and stories. For me, art became a way to express my feelings on the subject, it provided an outlet for my fears and mistakes, and each short film became time capsules of what my psyche was trying to come to terms with at that time in my life.
Now, after eleven short films and decades of psychological excavation, I am embarking on my most personal film yet: Into Temptation.
I was raised Roman Catholic by two loving parents on the opposite sides of the religious spectrum: A father who came from a highly devout family who was taught to accept the holy word, and a mother who ran away from hers and learned to question everything. They agreed–for the sake of peace in the family–to raise us Catholic but, when we turned sixteen and got Confirmed (and were seen as adults in the church), then we were free to decide for ourselves if we wanted to continue.
I chose not to.
But, at sixteen, the choice was based more on laziness. My moral frustration and outrage took time. And it all proved that I had made the right decision for myself.
Into Temptation is the culmination of some of those experiences. Although the abuse in this short is specific, the effects and trauma of it are universal, and we need to be able to discuss it and experience the worlds and words that survivors share with us.
Healing comes from expressing. Understanding comes from sharing. And, in the middle lies my intention for this short film.
Being raised Roman Catholic, and continually being inundated with all the horrid news stories of abuse and denial within the Church, I wanted to explore the trauma of celibacy, the concept of forbidden love, and the consequences of that abuse… but in a different way.
And, from that seedling of a desire, grew the story of an abused boy who falls in love with his molester — the story of a young man who kidnaps and confronts the priest who abused him as a child. And, in the end, it’s revealed that he’s in love with the priest.
As I developed the story and researched sexual abuse stories in the Catholic church, it became critical for me to tell this story: a film that starts as a revenge thriller but descends into a twisted and dangerous love story that explores the consequences of sexual abuse on a minor and the effect it has on them psychosexually.
“The line between love and abuse is very thin.” And, “love makes us do crazy things.”
To Michael, it is love. But, it’s a twisted and dangerous love that he can’t really understand because his concept of love was warped at such a young age when he was manipulated and abused by the Priest. The Priest was the first person – outside his family – who told him he loved him, and that had a profound impact on young Michael. Why would someone lie about that? So, he took that word — and emotion — literally.
Is it Stockholm Syndrome? Or, could it be real love? Who is the real victim?
I want the audience to grapple with these questions as roles of abuser and abused are reversed continuously in the story.
Quinn da Matta
Quinn da Matta was seven when his father got his first video camera. That night the movies came home, and he experienced the magical power — and wonder — of a camera. He was seven when he made his first movie. Every week, his parents were subjected to his latest creation: from a heist film staged around a pool to a magic show complete with smoke bombs and disappearing acts.
Living on a remote farm in South Africa, movies were his only exposure to the outside world. For a few hours, he got to experience a new world, a new life. They weren’t movies anymore; they were new connections to the human experience.
He was seven when he realized his destiny: to create, to tell stories, to entertain, to give people little pieces of time they will never forget, just like the filmic moments that had shaped his life.
That led him to film school, where he wrote and directed eleven shorts, five theatre productions, and an animation. He shot in every genre and worked in every department to learn all the different facets and filmmaking styles. After that, he worked for an NGO directing PSA’s for hospitals and hospice centers in areas most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
He then worked as Head Writer/Director at a content marketing agency and was quickly promoted to Creative Director, where he created over 250 promotional spots for international brands like Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Pushing Daisies, The Tudors, Ugly Betty, prison Break, and major film imports. A year later, that work received nine Promax and two PromaxBDA awards, and his dedication and persistence was rewarded with The Young Director Award.
And, in 2010, his dream came true, and that farm boy from the middle of nowhere in South Africa landed in LA.
Since then, he has worked as Producer at The Ashy Agency, and Senior Producer at the Aspire Artists Agency, while also creatively collaborating on various projects with clients like Sony, NatGeo, History Channel, Nickelodeon, Disney, Freeform, OWN, Lifetime, and ABC.
He has relentlessly pursued his passion and dream to direct (on two continents!), and his experiences and struggles have helped forge a unique voice.