Shape of Clay
Catherine Andre, Iris Gorbik, FAMU INTL, Champagne Supernova
Awarded for the following Category(s):
Shape of Clay is a Fassbinder-inspired relationship drama that uses the melodrama between two theater artist to critique socialized, gender-power dynamics. The film follows the disintegration of a romantic-creative relationship between a man and a woman – both artists – who are more comfortable playing in their roles and illusions than acknowledging the reality of the other person – or themselves.
The movie was written with a 20-year age difference between the pair. Andrew had all the power: he was 50, white, male, American while Sara was his aging starlet, moving towards thirty with a one-way ticket out of Romania (dependent upon Andrew). Originally, the film was meant to follow Sara waking up to the compromise required to maintain a partnership where the other person holds all the power. When sudden production challenges required recasting Andrew at the last moment, Jared Doreck brought new youthful, comedic energy to the character, rewriting the relationship dynamic. Andrew became a self-important, bumbling buffoon, as oblivious in his work as he is to his partner’s needs; the character had always been an emblem of the patriarchy, and now patriarchy was played in full absurdity. Yet Sara chooses to love this man and respect his authority; they are both made ridiculous through their adherence to this status quo – to their own corner of make-believe.
Ultimately, this is still a movie about Sara’s disillusionment as she finally stares down the man and role she has chosen for herself. Yet in the critical moment when the kettle boils over, the camera distances itself – and the audience – to ask: what are these two really fighting about? Perhaps the most revealing thing about Shape of Clay is the way that it has divided audiences. Some are disgusted by Andrew’s familiar misogyny or disgusted at me for “ramming feminism” down their throats. Some think that Sara is overreacting – that “it’s all fun and games with these young girls until they start to scream.” There is a third group, who sees these characters as two ridiculous people who, in some strange, disturbing way, deserve each other.
It’s my hope that this film is a mirror for our own perceptions of gender-power dynamics and what happens, even in the most intimate of relationships, when we see more truth in social roles than the human beings before us.
Catherine Andre is a theater and film director. She is dedicated to telling female stories through powerful performances, using interpersonal drama to expose society's systems of power, abuse, and oppression. She is currently a Directing Fellow at the American Film Institute.
After studying film directing at Interlochen Arts Academy, Catherine started directing plays at Princeton University. Throughout, she received research grants to study theatrical auteurship in Europe. Catherine brought this visceral, visual style to her work as a freelance director in New York City, where she assisted Off-Broadway and directed new and classical plays. Catherine won a Fulbright grant to move to Europe and explore Shakespeare as a vehicle for cultural exchange. Catherine assisted legendary directors Andrei Șerban, Silviu Purcărete, and Robert Woodruff, learning how to create visceral live performances and stage poetry.
After winning additional Fulbright funding, Catherine put these methods into practice in her own radical, feminist Shakespeare productions while partnering with playwrights to develop new work. Directing performances in languages she did not speak pushed Catherine to use gesture and emotion to tell stories beyond words.
During the pandemic, Catherine pivoted to making “virtual plays” before attending FAMU International’s one-year intensive course in narrative directing. She is currently in post-production for a featurette - Breaking and Entering - the screenplay for which was listed as a BlueCat Semifinalist in 2023.
Catherine has received additional support from the Puffin Foundation, the Drama League, and Scholastic. www.catherine-andre.com.