The Ultimatums

Created by Joel Wilson, The Pitch 2020

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Katherine is a 50-something seasoned museum senior curator and co-owner. She receives a series of emails from a mystery organization claiming to represent the Sami people demanding the return of ancient statues. Katherine responds, asserting that the statues cannot be returned. She then receives a call from this same organization claiming that if their demands are not met, she will be cursed with severe long-term memory loss. Katherine is shaken but doesn’t believe this ultimatum is real. However when she awakes the following day she struggles you recognize anyone in old family photos and doesn’t recognize an old school friend who’s come to visit. Katherine is simply unwillingly to attribute this unnerving, and what she assumes is temporary, loss of memory to the curse. She discovers the organization appears to be legitimately negotiating on behalf of a newly funded museum in Finland. The same day she receives a second threat. Again she gives reasons why she can’t release the statues. Every vessel in her home fills up with blood, including every bottle in her priceless wine collection. The following day she receives a third ultimatum: return the artefacts or her first born child will die. How will she respond now?

Biblical Connection

The biblical source is the story of the Ten Plagues in Exodus 7-12. There’s a fascinating dynamic between the players in the story. God tells Moses early on: ’I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh’. It made me ask how did Moses feel as the messenger of potential devastation, especially since Pharaoh would attribute the power of the plagues to Moses? Deep down did Moses want to see Pharaoh and the Egyptians suffer or did he just want freedom for the Israelites? Over the last number of years various museums have returned disputed artefacts to their regions of origin – they’ve been freed from capacity. The British Museum though has a strict policy not to return items and sees itself as ‘a true library of the world’. I thought what if an individual who actually has the authority to return an object from a privately-owned museum was pressured in the same way the Pharaoh was? How far would they need to be pushed? How many horrible plagues or curses could they endure? This sounded like a rich source of horror.