Rae was my second short film as a writer-director and is based on my mom’s upbringing on the rez in the 1970s. It’s a premature coming-of-age story that follows young Rae on her 8th birthday, as she’s forced to become the parental figure in her complicated relationship with her mother.
This short film written and directed by Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, captures a day in the life of Rae, whose seventh birthday is derailed by her mom’s shortcomings.
We are introduced to Rae (Lake Delisle) as she’s setting up lawn chairs and securing her hand-drawn “welcome” sign onto an outdoor oven, on a sunny day with so much promise. As she runs into her house to wake up her Ista (the Mohawk word for mom), the little girl cleans up brown beer bottles along the way to her Ista (Jacobs), still in bed. With a mug for her mom, Rae climbs into bed with her to excitedly announce what day it is.
But her mom is complicated, and while we see glimpses of a loving relationship between the two, there are also moments where Ista gets angry too quick, or turns on the radio too loudly. Before long we see Ista discover the birthday invitations on top of the fridge that she forgot to deliver. She attempts to salvage the birthday several times, by placing phone calls with last minute invites and putting make-up on Rae, but it’s all for naught. It’s preparation for a party that nobody will be coming to.
In the darkened kitchen with her party dress on, Rae sits at the table by herself, eating her cake. A gift and a dance later, Rae lets out the saddest noise, and Ista pulls away. It’s a devastating short film, acted beautifully by Delisle and Jacobs.