Debutante, a short film about religious control and coming-of-age in a hostile environment, will have its online premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh on 24th July. Atheist Ireland are official partners of the film by Kamila Dydyna, a Polish filmmaker based in Dublin.
In Debutante, Meg’s simple life revolves around her duties as a Jehovah’s Witness and a platonic relationship with her boyfriend Sam. It all goes well until she is summoned to a judicial committee hearing, where three congregation elders shatter Meg’s carefully-constructed world.
Debutante stars Úna O’Brien, Arthur Riordan, Richard Neville, Sam McGovern, Gary Mullan, Noelle Brown, and Anthony O’Boyle. You can buy tickets to watch it on the Galway Film Fleadh website.
In Debutante, Meg faces the ultimate threat of being ‘disfellowshipped’ or shunned by the community which she has grown up to believe to be the only route to salvation. Shunned people effectively become ghosts, with no interaction from their friends or even family members.
Filmmaker Kamila is a former Jehovah’s Witness. Her script is based on the collective experience of herself and many young Jehovah’s Witnesses that she knew. The Jehovah’s Witnesses religion controls its members by restricting their sexuality and shunning them if they don’t keep to the rules.
Each year up to 70,000 former Jehovah’s Witnesses have to start new lives and address mental health issues after being shunned or leaving the religion. But a dramatic short film like Debutante, by focusing on just one person, can be more powerful than any amount of statistics.
Debutante is more than a film about one religion. It is a coming-of-age drama about the disintegration of a teenager’s identity. Kamila hopes that it will bring comfort to anyone who has experienced shunning, for religious or other reasons.
This is Kamila’s third short film. The award-nominated Testimony is about a child testifying in a domestic abuse court hearing. The Betrayal is an LGBT drama about a wife who grapples with feelings for her best friend. Both films were screened in festivals globally and broadcast on RTÉ.