Two people occupy a stark hospital room split in two by a blue plaid curtain.
The Curtain begins with a glance through a hospital room door where a single white lamp sitting on one side of a shared brown laminate dresser, and a long fluorescent light occupying the back wall, illuminates a young lady. She has long dark hair and is dressed in a yellow hospital gown. The fluorescent light has turned the white walls of the room an eerie green. The woman lies in a bed with her right leg slightly elevated. She gazes at the ceiling with a worried expression across her brow. She is either deep in thought or mentally attempting to block the pain she is clearly feeling from the injury that has brought her to this place.
On the other side of the blue curtain lies a young man wearing a matching hospital gown. His side of the room is dark except for a dim spotlight illuminating his upper body as he lies sleeping peacefully in his bed.
Both patients are shielded from one another by the single piece of fabric hanging in the middle of the room.
This is the opening scene of an international award winning short that includes a director and lead actress both from Maple Ridge.
The peacefulness of the room, though, is soon disrupted in a following scene when it is the man who wakes the woman up as he sings a lively version of You Are My Sunshine while happily eating some yogurt. The pair strike up a conversation and quickly form a friendship through the safety and anonymity of the room’s single curtain.
“It’s about two strangers that meet in the hospital,” explained Maple Ridge director Crystal Lowe about the 15 minute film.
“What happens throughout the short is you find out why they are in the hospital and a little bit about each of their lives,” she said.
Jordan is a recovering addict from the Downtown East Side whose sister has gone missing. Lucas is ex-military from a strict Catholic family and is gay. But, the people closest to them and the people they love the most are not accepting of who they are.
“What’s beautiful about this is that these two strangers meet and then they encourage each other to be true to who they are. And they inspire each other without ever seeing each other which is really neat,” said Lowe, who knew she wanted to direct this film as soon as she read the script.
The short was inspired by true events.
“It was actually inspired by a friend of mine that was in the hospital. He was having a hip replacement and he ended up having to share a room with a woman because of the bed shortage in Vancouver,” explained Brenda Whitehall who wrote the screenplay herself and the short along along with Lynda Finch.
“He never told me anything about what they talked about. But, he said, what was so interesting for him was feeling vulnerable, being in the hospital and sharing things with this stranger that he had never shared with other people,” she said.
Sarah Dawn Pledge, who also hails from Maple Ridge, plays the part of Jordan.
“What I love about (the film) is it’s not romantic at all but it’s so, so intimate because when you are in those places, like a hospital and you are going though healing, you do connect with people around you even if you don’t see them,” said Pledge.
And, she said, it deals with so many relevant themes.
“Like being Catholic and also being gay. Being disowned by your family and being a recovering addict. (Jordan) is also a native character. So it’s just a story that needed to be told at this time, I think, just to show all of those lines. How it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can connect to any other human,” Pledge explained.
Both Pledge and Lowe are Maple Ridge secondary alumni.
Pledge had the opportunity to go back in 2016 to teach a drama class.
“It was a full circle experience for me because I came from there and I loved that I was able to go in and say, you know, they lie to you, I make believe for a living. You’re capable of this,” said Pledge.
Pledge got her first major acting role when she was 19-years-old with Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding, a dinner theatre show in Vancouver. She played the groom’s much younger ex-stripper girlfriend at an Italian wedding. Then she was referred to Lyric School of Acting in Gastown where she was accepted and studied for five years.
What Pledge loves doing most is improv. And it was outside a comedy club that Pledge first met Whitehall.
“She saw me on stage and she asked me if I ever thought about doing a Fringe show,” said Pledge.
One year later they mounted an all female production of Saturn Returns, a collection of eight women’s moving and personal stories from their lives, that was performed at the 2015 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
Whitehall also wrote an animated feature that Pledge did voices for.
When it came to The Curtain, Whitehall asked Pledge immediately to play Jordan saying she couldn’t imagine any other actress playing the role.
“It was a little bit daunting because it is such real subject matter,” said Pledge who researched the role by talking with women from the Downtown East Side.
“I learned that everybody has a story, everybody is human and nobody is exempt,” said Pledge.
“Everybody has a bag of hammers they carry and every bag clangs a different tune,” she noted.
The Curtain was shot in Abbotsford over a course of two 12-hour days in March of last year. It is now doing the film festival circuit.
It is a semi-finalist for best drama short in the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards, it is the official selection for a narrative short in the SHORT to the Point festival in Romania, it won silver for best short film in the NYC Indie Film Awards, it won the platinum award for best short film in the L.A. Short Awards, the award of excellence for film short in the IndieFEST Film Awards in California and it is the official selection for Canadian shorts in the Hamilton Film Festival where it also made its Canadian premiere.
On Dec. 22 Pledge was nominated for best actress at the Back in the Box Competition in Los Angeles and Giles Panton won best actor in a supporting role for his performance as Jack, Jordan’s fiance.
In December the film was also screened in Italy and India.
The movie is next going to be screened at the Oregon Short Film Festival in Portland on Feb. 3, the Dam Short film Festival in Boulder City, Nevada on Feb. 8, the Worldwide Women’s Film Festival in Scottsdale, Arizona Feb. 9 and 10 and the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival March 7 to 11.
Whitehall is very proud of their, “little film that can” and the fact that it is an entirely B.C. based cast and crew.
“What I really hope people take from it is learning how people can come together and build relationships with people no matter how different we are or what different backgrounds we come from,” said the writer.
“Really we all want the same things. We want to be accepted and we want to be loved.”