Jan. 22, 2021
Biola’s award winning Cinema and Media Arts department produces a student led and created film each year deemed “the Biola film.” This year, the Biola film told a life-changing story reflecting on the affects of a stillbirth on a marriage.
Biola University’s student newspaper, The Chimes, reports the full story:
Bringing to light a subject that has been hushed for too long, “Still” will inevitably uncover wounds that were never healed.
This semester’s Biola film, “Still,” focuses on the darkness and difficultly in our lives and is a reminder of our own lack of understanding in how to cope with the curveballs of life that can seem so unbearable.
The film shows the destruction and despair pressed upon those who have experienced the stillbirth of a child and the heaviness that is laid upon their shoulders like a cloak they cannot rid themselves of.
But in the midst of the pressing sorrow, “Still” is a story of hope. It is a story of healing between a couple that has been dragged through a valley of grief and torment, but also the power of love in their marriage.
“The emotions that come from ‘Still’ is like kneading your emotional dough, making you feel something you never thought you could feel,” said co-producer Brandon Marx. “It gives you the emotions of going through a stillbirth without actually having to go through it.”
Illustrating the reality of mourning in its lack of dialog, the 14-minute film opens with a scene of the husband, Jamie, holding his breath underwater in a tub. Both writer, alumnus Kyle Gilbertson (’09), and director, senior Felicia Heykoop, felt strongly, for separate reasons, that this is the most memorable and powerful part of the story.
“What we talked about before, preparing for that scene and doing it together; I think it really really hit me right there,” Heykoop said. “And that was probably the hardest day on the set.”
“He just sits there for a long time and when I wrote it, that was the strongest scene in my head,” Gilbertson said. “That, I think, speaks to the whole idea of the film.”
That idea is, universally, the theme of grief and suffering. Though most people have not gone specifically through the torment of a stillbirth of their child, all can understand Jamie and his wife Dessie’s desperate lack of hope, pain and seclusion.
“I connected with Jamie's inability to change or fix what's happening around him and his isolation and, most of all, his loneliness,” said main actor Ben Lepley. “That's what's at his core. It was a life-changing experience. Contributing to something like this is hard to explain. You have to be so raw and vulnerable with all these people, you can’t help but let it change you. I took myself through the anger and sadness of my character, but there is also a lot of joy and happiness with the crew. So it becomes this whirlwind of emotions in such a brief period of time that you can’t help but be a different person by the time it’s over.”
Taking place almost entirely in a single bathroom, Jamie and Dessie enter into a seemingly endless roller coaster ride of grief and take their first steps onto their road of recovery.
“There’s a certain sense of safety in a bathroom,” Gilbertson said. “It’s closed in so that no one can invade, kind of taking on this idea of the womb; a safe place where no one can touch you; where you don’t have to worry about anything.”
Although “Still” has been chosen as the Biola film for interterm 2010, Heykoop’s decision to direct this film was sparked by a much deeper passion.
“It wasn’t about me getting the credits so much as I felt really deeply convicted that this movie needed to be made.”
Not only is the film about the devastation of a couple, but it’s also about the difficulties and trials that are faced in every marriage.
“It was hard to see this kind of manifestation you are trying to achieve of something that is very real and very scary and has torn apart a lot of families,” she said.
Heykoop’s desire to communicate to the public about the unspeakable and hidden things in life became apparent in the work she put into directing “Still.”
“I wanted to do a film that delivered a dose of reality,” she said. “Marriage is really hard, and no one talks about that.”
Beyond the death of their baby, “Still” is ultimately a story of real life.
“Still” premiered at Cinema Fusion in the Anaheim Garden Walk on Thursday, May 6 at 7 p.m.
Written by Caitlin Ryan, Chimes Reporter for Biola University’s student newspaper,The Chimes.
For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. Jenna can be reached at (562) 777-4061 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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