is a critically acclaimed, award-winning movie
released in 2004
, and distributed on DVD in 2007. It was directed by Cindy Baer, and written by 14-year-old Celeste Davis, who were paired in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
program when Davis was 11 years old. The film deals with the topics of teen suicide
and drug addiction
entirely from a teen's perspective. The film was shot in Los Angeles in the summer of 2001, when Davis was 15 years old.
Beginning where most stories end, Purgatory House
chronicles the after-life journey of Silver Strand (played by Davis), a lonely teen who abandons her life of turmoil and drug addiction, only to find herself caught somewhere between heaven and hell. There, she must choose whether she will accept her drab existence or finally discover within herself the power to change. Told in non-linear fashion, the feature dances between childhood and adulthood, between worlds both real and dreamed.
Purgatory House also stars Jim Hanks (Baby Geniuses), and Johnny Pacar (Now You See It, Flight 29 Down) and includes songs by Natalie Merchant, Violent Femmes, Blue Öyster Cult, and Eric Bazilian. The film won 12 Film Festival Awards, 2 PRISM Awards Nominations, and appeared on 7 "Best Films of the Year" lists by critics before securing distribution with Image Entertainment. Film Threat calls the directorial debut of Cindy Baer "a charming, touching, clever and all-around brilliantly crafted film".
The tag line is: "Can you see me?"
- Celeste Davis as Silver Strand
- Jim Hanks as Saint James
- Devin Witt as Atticis
- Johnny Pacar as Sam
- Rhiannon Main as Celeste
- Howard Lockie as Silver's Dad
- Kathryn Skatula as Sam's Mom
- Cindy Baer as Marsha
- Brian Dietzen as Ghost
- Scott Clark as Johnny
Themes Teen Spirituality
What is the spiritual state of today's American teen? Purgatory House is a spiritual film that does not advocate a particular organized religion
. The main character's arc is based on a spiritual journey, beginning with anger at God, and ending with healing. It demonstrates the human need to connect with community and a Higher Power
While many films dramatize the symptoms
, Purgatory House focuses on the root causes
. This film asks us to look at how today's teenagers are relating to their spirit, and the reasons why they are acting out in self destructive ways.Media
as the Role Model
Purgatory House depicts a world focused on the Media: God
is first depicted as the TV game-show host of "Who Wants to Go To Heaven". The main character is made to watch the life she left behind continue on without her on "Earth TV" daily. Even in her dream, she sees "Dream TV". The film reminds us not to lose touch with each other and with our children. As more and more parents are absent (literally or figuratively), the media has become the babysitter, role model and higher power. Kids are left to television, movies, video games, and the Internet for companionship and character development. The Democratization
With the recent advancement of digital technologies, filmmaking has finally become an accessible medium of expression for anyone with a vision. Written by a high school freshman, and created with digital cameras and home-based computers, Purgatory House marks the true beginning of the digital revolution. From what it reveals about the pressures and struggles that plague our troubled youth, to the cutting-edge technologies that helped create it, Purgatory House is uniquely a sign of our times. Self ResponsibilityAdolescent Social IsolationCooperationWriting
as a Positive Creative Outlet
- Plymouth Independent Film Festival Best Film (Cindy Baer)
- Los Angeles Silverlake Film Festival Best First Feature (Cindy Baer)
- Los Angeles Silverlake Film Festival Best Actress (Cindy Baer)
- San Diego Film Festival Best Screenplay (Celeste Davis)
- Blue November Best Production (Cindy Baer)
- Houston International Film Festival Platinum Award for Feature Film (Cindy Baer)
- North Texas Film Festival Spirit of Independent Filmmaking (Cindy Baer)
- North Texas Film Festival Best Director (Cindy Baer)
- North Texas Film Festival Best Actress (Celeste Davis)
- Dances With Films Audience Award (Cindy Baer)
- Agen Independent Film Festival (France) Audience Award (Cindy Baer)
- Genre Teen, Drama, Outcast, Spiritual, Reality-fiction, Recovery, Art Film, Postmodernist film
- Postmodernist film The film is a self-reflective social commentary, with various postmodern overtones including the overall theme of how television influences our lives. A grassroots, mini-DV approach is used as a reminder to the audience of the young writer’s voice while watching the movie.
- Art Film The film itself is used to create the prison-like purgatory of the main character and young writer.
- Color Effects and Sound There are four time-lines which occur in the film; each with its own look and sound. 1. Purgatory is desaturated and quiet. 2. Earth is overly saturated and noisy. 3. Flashbacks are black and white and noisy. 4. Dreams are colorful and quiet.
- Camera Style At the beginning of the movie, the camera is hand held and shaky. As the main character grows and changes, the camera movement goes from hand-held to a steady cam. Finally by the end, when the main character has completed her journey, the camera is locked down and centered.
- Visual Effects Purgatory House features over 200 visual effects including extensive blue and green screen shots which were composited into virtual and real sets. Because it is generally assumed that miniDV does not have the high resolution needed to support such compositing, Purgatory House broke new ground in this area.
Movie Soundtrack includes the songs: