Set within a religious commune, on the brink of the ocean, one woman is held responsible for the rising waters and diminishing food sources. As she stands trial, accused of meddling with the devil’s darkness the community close in upon her. Three women must stand up and speak their truth before it’s too late. What they reveal is far more terrifying than any black magic.
Deluge is a film about female endurance and bravery and the power harnessed in rising up and speaking out against abusers. Deluge’s powerful feminist sentiment of redemption and resilience is intrinsic to the female experience, an aspect I am always trying to uncover in my work. Deluge tells an inclusive empowering story that gives rise to female strength alongside a diverse cast of female characters. Set on the coastline of New South Wales, Australia, traditional Dharawal land the film visually and thematically explores the ocean in all its power and beauty. The word Deluge, meaning flood or large body of water, is used symbolically, considering a new wave of consciousness arising from female empowerment, a new paradigm arising at the fall of the patriarchy. As a surfer, as a filmmaker and as a woman, my connection to the ocean- the womb of the earth - I believe is inescapable. Setting the film on the coast describes this connection between women and nature- this particular location also a known indigenous birthing ground. Looking at female trauma and suffering I wanted to expand this idea to encompass the earth’s suffering as its ecology falls apart under climate change which results like so much of female suffering from the patriarchy’s demand for unlimited growth and servitude from the planet and its daughters. As a gender queer gay woman, diverse representation on screen is important to me. Stories belonging to minorities and marginalised people liberate and empower those groups by validating their experiences. This motivates me to make films. Being involved in inclusive filmmaking is both challenging and rewarding and is ultimately what drew me to Deluge. Disability is often underrepresented on screen. Women with Down Syndrome have a unique experience of womanhood that deserves representation, alongside victims of domestic and sexual abuse. Studies indicate that 90% of women with intellectual disabilities have been sexually abused and 68% of women with an intellectual disability will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Globally women with an intellectual disability are being violated at a rate at least two times greater than non-disabled women. Deluge is a story of abused women in an abused world defending themselves and each other but ultimately it’s about women rising into their power, finding their voice and asserting their feminine sexuality without risk and fear. I sought to tell Deluge through a highly cinematic, visually charged approach to find the beauty in both pleasure and pain. The film is defined by a raw natural beauty and an esoteric sense of fear and wonder. The film’s palette consists of rich hues of blue, earth and skin tones - all lit by the sun and the moon. An experiential, dreamlike quality defines my cinematic approach, drawing on the style of Terrence Malik to depict the harsh environment and the characters psyche. The camera’s gaze holds on the three women throughout Deluge as the film is first and foremost about the female experience. Extreme close-ups create an intimacy between the female characters and their shared experiences of trauma and ultimately triumph as well as a sense of claustrophobia and fear. Female sexuality and empowerment is symbolically represented in the entity that is shown in glimpses throughout the film. This abstracted female figure represents the patriarchy’s fear of female sexuality and is often what is referred to as “the darkness”. In the final scenes, the abstracted female form rises into all its power and beauty. I wanted to create an undercurrent of horror elements in this film. Drawing on Darren Aronofsky’s method of creating fearfulness within his characters in ‘Mother’, I used abstraction throughout the film to morph reality and the psychological and interior world of the characters. Abstract descriptive close-ups sit alongside extreme wide shots to build a dynamic which expresses both the isolation and disconnect within the emotional performances. The ambiguity of time through the isolated setting is brought to life through set and costume design. Drawing from fashion and contemporary installation art the design creates an dystopian reality with a distinct aesthetic beauty. Looking to artists such as Rita Minissi (self and other) and The Virtual Embalming of Michelle Lamy also fashion designers Rick Owens and Raf Simon’s archives. The use of Shibari rope tying - of woman and landscape - was an aesthetic and symbolic directorial choice which speaks to sexuality, domination, submission and power. Making Deluge was a liberating and confronting journey and I hope that it reaches and connects with women.
Cloudy Rhodes is a queer non-binary filmmaker. She has directed music videos, short films and television commercials, worked with Louis Vuitton, Map of the Heart, Billabong and Adidas, and shot editorials for iD, Vogue, Contributor Paris, Monster Children, Oyster, Yen, Elle and Russh. Rhodes’ debut short film Lo Loves You premiered on i-D, and was picked up by This is Arcadia Films to accompany their national theatrical release of Sundance AudienceAward winner First Girl I Loved, and her most recent film SINK, has had international festival success. Rhodes currently exhibits with Milk Gallery, New York. She has a strong visual language to share this story and an innate affiliation with the ocean having been a professional surfer for a large part of her life. Her mentors include Samantha Lang and Justin Kurzel.
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