rebel in the soul
....an experimental narrative
writer/director/actor: marie-françoise theodore
Two women, who never meet, become psychically connected. Based on true life events at the turn of the last century, Mary Turner pays the highest price for justice, and Meta Warrick Fuller, pays homage to her sacrifice creating a sculpture in her honor.
A tale of healing, transcendence and the transformative power of art.
While in graduate school in the late nineties, I came across a photograph of Meta Vaux Warrick-Fuller, an internationally renowned sculptor and African American woman, in an art book about the Harlem Renaissance. She created sculptures even after getting married and having three children. One of her seminal works was the sculpture of Mary Turner: A Protest of Lynch Mobs created in response to the brutal lynching of Mary Turner while eight months pregnant by the white members in the town Valdosta Georgia. This true story stayed with me for many years. I was furious that I hadn’t ever heard of Meta Warrick-Fuller, a significant precursor of the Harlem Renaissance nor of Mary Turner, an ordinary black woman literally burned by the fires of racism.
In the film, the story begins at point when Meta is experiencing a crisis of faith in her purpose, faith and work. Crippled by depression after the fire and multiple pregnancies, Meta can no longer sculpt. She feels that she has lost a vital part of herself and doesn’t know how to get it back. Mary is also at a crossroads in her life. She can no longer quietly acquiesce to the racism and terrorism that her community faces on a daily basis and takes a stand. The voice over is from the ancient Egyptian papyrus A Man Considering Suicide in Dispute with his Soul. I adapted the section of the text where a religious initiate, having lost all faith in humanity and religion, yearns to commit suicide. The initiate has entered a phase that in common vernacular is called ‘the dark night of the soul.’ Meta Fuller was very interested Egypt (as reflected in some of her work) so I felt this text was particularly appropriate and relevant. The voice over imaginatively connects Meta and Mary, while reaching through time and space to speak to human struggles and issues of today.
Their little known history and unsung lives mirrored my own invisibility as an artist, African American woman and mother in our society. I made this film to celebrate their memory and honor their contribution to my continued existence and ability to be an artist.
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