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'Tainted' Topaz

Desi Anwar

The Jakarta Post

Zermatt, Switzerland  /  Fri, January 18, 2019  /  02:30 pm
'Tainted' Topaz

'Tainted' by director Topaz Peretz raises the issue of pedophilia, a difficult topic to deal with in any form. (Courtesy of Topaz Peretz film/-)

The short film Tainted opens with a young boy lying in bed clutching an action figure in one hand. Beneath the blanket, the boy is naked. On his bare thigh, fresh blood trickles. The soundtrack over this opening tableau is one of deep breathing that grows faster as it becomes more urgent.

The scene cuts to the back of a man’s head watching a video on a computer. With one hand he seems to be masturbating. With the other, he clutches the same action figure previously held by the little boy.

It is a disturbing scene. Even more disturbing however, are the scenes that follow. The man vainly trying to communicate to his mother the event of that night that left him violated in his bed as a young boy. An event that had left him anguished and broken, and had inevitably tainted his life and perverted his own sexual desires. 

In all this, the mother, cocooned in her own world of denial, clings to her image of the perfect mother raising the perfect son.

As the son tells her of the rape by his uncle, she beats the image out of her head as she beats the dough of the pie that she is baking. She thinks her son is telling her his horrific story in order to punish her. She doesn’t understand why. Because she has done nothing.

And this is the crucial message of this twelve-and-a-half-minute film. The son suffers precisely because the mother has turned a blind eye to the reality of his rape and does nothing. He will continue to inflict the same pain on another child. And so the cycle of abuse continues.

Pedophilia is a difficult topic to deal with in any form. For many, it is still a topic to be pushed under the bed, together with the bogeymen and scary monsters of childhood. It is better that they remain unreal, lest bringing them up results in being devoured by these horrors. 

To bring the topic to the big screen, in all its pain and complexities, however, is even more challenging. It requires courage, insight and the sensitivity of a mature film director who does not pander to the audience’s taste or expectations, but who instead is very clear of the film’s purpose.

“Everything I create,” says film director Peretz, “has a meaning and or message. And that is my branding. Nothing made for dulling the senses.”

It is probably because of this awakening of the senses, (the way we prick up our ears whenever the topic of sex is concerned, not to mention when discussing sexual perversion), that Tainted was chosen and screened at Cannes Film Festival 2018, and is being picked up for the full narrative feature version.

“As a film director, producer and writer,” says Peretz, “my main purpose is to create content that always has substance and a societal message. I truly love to bring out taboo matter into the open and really direct any and all issues with it, as an attempt to resolve the issue, but done so in a poetic manner, whether it’s grotesquely poetic, or beautifully so.”

My own interest however, goes beyond this short film with its difficult and discomfiting topic and it’s both poetically beautiful and grotesque treatment on celluloid. It is with the director herself. Topaz Peretz. A young woman barely in her early twenties, and yet with an old, wise head above her confident shoulders, pushing tirelessly and fearlessly to penetrate the merciless male industry of fortress Hollywood.

“Film directing is my sole goal,” says Peretz. “And what I wish to do for the rest of my life.” 

A dream that she has nurtured since the tender age of 12. From then on, the precocious pre-teen planned the next 10 years of her life like most people plan out their week. 

“I chose the university I wanted to go to at that age and honed my skills. I graduated from New York Film Academy in January 2018, and got my thesis into Cannes Film Festival 2018, which immediately brought me many more job opportunities.” 

Thus, when many young people at this age are still pondering about what career they want to embark on, or even what they want to do with their lives, Peretz has already a laundry list of qualifications and experience under her three resumés of film director, producer and writer. 

It is not only her focus and determination that make her unique as a millennial, but her background itself is nothing short of unusual.

Peretz is the daughter of an Israeli father and an Indonesian mother, was born in London and went to a Catholic school. “The irony of a Jewish father and Muslim mother, whilst put into a Catholic school seems to always get an interesting response,’ she says. 

Indeed, in a world of increasing polarization, narrow-mindedness and identity politics, it is refreshing to meet someone who is the embodiment of tolerance. “I am part of the LGBT community,” she says, “and work toward female empowerment. The film Dollhouse [her next project] will be a completely female crew.”

So what lies ahead for this adrenaline junkie who loves height (her exercise is swinging from drapes in the air while doing complicated maneuvers as if she’s a member of the flying trapeze in a circus) and who had been an extreme skier since the age of 5? What does she see as her ultimate target and achievement?

"You know those kinds that sit in their room and fantasize about their weddings?" says Peretz. “This has always been my fantasy:

Me: Hey, Warner Bothers, Paramount, I have an idea…

WB and P:  Don’t say another word.  Here’s a butt ton of cash.  Here are your shoot dates.  Come back when it’s done!

Me:  Okay, thank you WB and P. Tata!"

Topaz Peretz, we’ll certainly look out for your name on the big Hollywood screen.

-- The article was written specially for The Jakarta Post.




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