A Rape Survivor Story, Minus the Sensationalism
Stephanie Beatriz comes home to Texas with potent drama The Light of the Moon
Stephanie Beatriz is best known for her role on Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a likably goofy sitcom wherein most problems are introduced and resolved in the space of a half-hour episode. Fans of her TV work may be surprised to encounter her in a film world where the challenges are more ambiguous and not every mess can be cleaned up, but that's what they're in for with The Light of the Moon, the new film by Jessica Thompson. Beatriz stars as Bonnie, a professional woman who is brutally raped and must navigate the aftermath at work, in her relationship with her live-in boyfriend (Michael Stahl-David), with her family, and with herself.
The film is uncompromising in the best sense: It resists all temptations of genre thrills or cheap catharsis and allows itself to unfold as a story of a trauma both deep and sadly ordinary, reflecting an all-too-common experience. "Survivor stories, victim stories, however you want to define it, we've seen them before," Beatriz says. "A lot of times we see them through the lens of the judicial system. Oftentimes, unfortunately, we see rape scenes that are really highly sexualized. I am not myself a survivor of sexual assault, but I have friends who are. I wanted to make sure that any story I was involved in was respectful of their lives and their actual truth."
When Beatriz received the script, she sent it to a friend who had been repeatedly sexually assaulted as a child. "She immediately wrote me back saying, 'You have to do this film, please do this film,'" Beatriz says. "That was it. I was like, okay, if she wants me to do it then I'm in."
Beatriz knows firsthand what it's like not to feel accurately represented in TV and film. She grew up in Webster, outside Houston, the daughter of immigrants. Her father, who had been a chemical engineer in South America, drove buses and 18-wheeler trucks, and her mother worked in hospitality. Though she acted in high school, the thought of making a career in Hollywood seemed inconceivable to Beatriz back then. "I didn't know that it was really even an option," she says. "I think Eva Longoria was one of the first Latinas that I really saw on prime-time television."
Times have changed (somewhat), and Beatriz, now a minor television celebrity, is in a position to help create stories that reflect other underrepresented experiences. She got to see the fruits of that firsthand on the set of The Light of the Moon. "We had a lot of crew members on this movie who were women – PAs and people that would be there for just a few days," she says. "Over the course of shooting the film, we'd have these young women come up to either Jess or I and say to us, in privacy: 'Thank you for doing this film. This happened to me. Either I've never talked about it with anyone, or being on set has made me want to tell my parents, or my family, or my boyfriend.'"
The film merits a strong trigger warning, but it's likely to be a powerful viewing experience, both for those already intimately familiar with such stories and for those not habitually conscious of the prevalence of rape in the lives of the people around them. "Some of this stuff, you just don't have the opportunity to talk about with people," Beatriz says. "Then something like this film comes along, and you can start having the conversation. I think that's what art is supposed to do, to make us sort of step back and say something about it to the other humans in the room, sharing the world with us."
The Light of the Moon
NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITIONSunday, March 12, 10:45am, Stateside
Monday, March 13, 1:30pm, Alamo South Lamar
Thursday, March 16, 3:30pm, Alamo South Lamar