Directed by LA-based filmmaker Marfisia Bel and supported by Film Independent, That’s The Password in Town is a coming-of-age story portraying a young woman’s bittersweet transition into adulthood. The short film, which will release during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, explores the themes of revenge and healing, as we follow lead character Sara as she makes one of the most difficult decisions in her life.

That’s The Password in Town is a subversion of the rape-revenge film genre. Inspired by Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, the short film embraces the point of view, emotions and state of mind of the survivor. Rather than focusing on violence against the perpetrator – just a glimpse in the film – we dive into Sara’s psyche. Grappling with a tremendous amount of pain and anger, she has to choose how to channel these emotions to allow herself to heal from within, find closure and be hopeful for her future.

Shot in California between the towns of Chino and Monrovia, That’s The Password in Town feels as if it could be taking place anywhere in Midwest America. The location was specifically picked to highlight the turmoil hidden beneath a veneer of a perfect, safe, little community. As is often the case with many teenagers in small town America, Sara wishes to escape from the area but her unresolved past still binds her to it. That’s The Password in Town represents the journey she is making in owning her strength and realising that she holds the key to take charge of her life.

Everything from the cinematography to the sound design places us firmly in Sara’s mind. We see and hear only through her eyes and ears. Inspired by the works of Kelly Reichardt, That’s The Password in Town is quiet and intimate, with music only used in key emotional moments to bolster the increasing anxiety and tension in Sara’s mind.

That’s The Password in Town is a film about catharsis. There is no learning or teaching moment, rather a desire to connect on an emotional level and share one’s powerful journey in accepting that what we have suffered in the past doesn’t have to define us.

Director’s Vision for ‘That’s The Password in Town’

The idea for the film is a very personal one. I was inspired to write the script after I discovered the man who took advantage of me in my youth had a daughter. This made me wonder if this person now had a different outlook on his actions. To me, the film is a subversion of the rape-revenge genre that, instead of focusing on violence against the perpetrator, explores the psychology of the person who experienced that act. This is why it was central to barely show the man in the film — because it is not about him. It was important for me to shoot this project because I have rarely seen films that depict justice in a nuanced way, focusing on healing for the victim opposed to punishment for the offender.