Created by Maddie Dai, The Pitch 2024

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In the Bible, Jael drives a nail through a man’s head by herself. In my short film, she embarks on such an act only after gathering her closest friends, an animated and highly opinionated trio, who do not let their friend undertake such a task without planning and pep talks. We open on an unfolding mystery. Are they going to seduce him? Punish him? It becomes clear: they plan to kill him. The woman argue over the best method and tools, with the swaggering confidence of seasoned warriors. Things within their grasp, physically and mentally. Thumbs through the eyes? Rolling pins? Suffocation? They flash through the strategies and resulting outcomes, grotesque and comical. Should they make him suffer? Surely it’s suffering enough to be killed by a woman, they laugh. Jael wants it clean. Why should she create more work for herself? We watch Jael kill Sisera (maybe cut to black as the hammer comes down), after watching the trio of women humorously work through the roles judge, jury and executioner, battling morals and logistics. It\'s Augustine\'s Just War theory through ordinary women against history\'s big figures. Is this killing revenge? Godly? Brave? Can Jael get there, morally, mentally, physically?

Biblical Connection

I’m working primarily from The Book of Judges in terms of source, combined with fantastical invention, and historical research. I’m fascinated by the idea of hidden moments behind grand stories, particularly for the powerless or unobserved; women, queer people, people of colour. Stories that must have occurred, but were never written down. Queer love, in-jokes, mindless chatter, petty gossip, friendships, bad ideas, recklessness, and stories to pass the time between good kings and bad armies. I am not religious, but I was raised Catholic and then majored in Religion at Uni (a resolute rejection humbly replaced by constant fascination). I’m fascinated with how religion uses rules, stories and rituals to comprehend the world. I’ve written a separate feature about the biblical Judith, with producer Carthew Neal (JOJO RABBIT) onboard. With both JAEL and JUDITH, I aspire to tell stories that are raw and visceral, trading away the feminine tales of my religious upbringing - quiet devotion, chastity, gentle shawl touching, bowed heads and inhuman acts of faith - for my adult experiences of being a woman; angry, funny, communal, searching, (very rarely violent, for the record). JAEL is a delicious intersection of both, and the ideal starting point.