Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Audre's Revenge Film: Big Screen Adaptation of The Silent Twins Story In The Works

Audre's Revenge, the horror/sci-fi film production collective focused on stories about queer and people of color will be following the completion of Flesh on the largely unknown, eerie, true tale of The Silent Twins. From a statement on Facebook, founder Monika Estrella Bella explains, "Ultimately, their story is one that is not talked about too often, as it contains the taboos of Black mental health, racism, and the results of white supremacy against Black bodies. Our horrors, our darkest areas. It's a story to be explored, and told...and I intend to do it."

I first heard of The Silent Twins from visual artist and horror enthusiast Johnny Green when I talked to him about the stories he'd like to see hit the screen. Upon getting his answer, I did some Google searches and the story that followed was one that has haunted and fascinated me since. It looks like he's getting his wish thanks to Monika's upcoming project.

Born June and Jennifer Gibbons to Barbadian parents in 1963, they grew up in Wales in a predominantly white community. Constantly bullied for their racial difference, they also stood out because they exclusively communicated with each other in their own, unique language. Identical and inseparable, June and Jennifer's seemingly bizarre behavior and aggression only intensified when attempts were made at socializing them in their environments. To no avail, during their teen years, they continued to communicate only with one another, getting lost in literature and sharing their creative talents amongst each other.

But this bond was ripe with disdain, insecurity, and jealousy that lead to dark, poetic musings in journal entries and at worst, physical attacks against one another. Other violent behavior followed like theft and arson which ultimately landed them in Broadmoor Hospital, the facility of choice due to their severe, social disorders. More stranger than fiction accounts followed with their separation in the facility and a pact the two made: one had to die in order for the other to live a "normal life."

Jennifer died in March 1993 due to an inflammation of the heart. No foul play was found. June was released a year later and visited her sister's grave on a weekly basis, more open to talking to press yet difficult to comprehend.

A cinematic, detailed adaptation of their story would be astounding. Fertile with commentary and genre possibilities, the Gibbons story is loaded with an abruptness that takes to task how serious racial discrimination plays a role in one's well-being. June and Jennifer's story is a descent into the ugliness of how society operates to bully and dismiss women of color.

Brilliant, troubled, misunderstood, how much of their environment and experiences with racism in 1960's/1970's Wales exacerbated their mental instability?

Additionally, I can only imagine they were at times met with incredulousness because of their refusal to assimilate. Regardless of their mental state, it is fascinating that these two Black women exhibited an extreme case of resistence that I can speculate was partially a reaction to such a hostile environment. What can we learn from this historic trend of terror on the bodies and minds of women of color?

June and Jennifer were accomplished authors with a "wry" sense of humor, not always on the edge of a violent act. Their emotions ranged and were equally intense. They were human beings first, and fought in their own rebellious way for their voices to be heard.

These sentiments came at the conclusion of my brief research. There is no painting them in broad strokes. While pointing out the exclusivity and isolation that encroached on their lives, it isn't difficult for anyone to understand the reasons why. I don't believe anyone ever knew June and Jennifer like June and Jennifer. A screenplay that explores the possibilities based on documented facts will set a phenomenal precedent for a Black women's genre aesthetic.

A 1986 BBC docudrama titled The Silent Twins (excerpt here) was made on the sisters and a book by the same name are the basis for almost all accounts of the Gibbons' life that includes a stage play, Speechless, that premiered in the Fall of 2011 in London (review). There's plenty to work from, and with Monika's vivid imagination and love for genre, I'm extremely excited to see what she does with the source material.

Find updates on the project

"Silent Twins: The Haunting Case of the Gibbons Siblings" by DeAnna Janes, The Lineup
"We Two Made One" by Hilton Als, The New Yorker
"The Silent Twins" NPR

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