Though the stage play upon which it’s based was written in the early 1990s, “Reparation” speaks to men and women currently serving in the armed forces. It’s especially relevant for those with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“For us, it was interesting. We didn’t set out to make a film about PTSD by any means. That was always such the critical thing about Bob’s character,” director Kyle Ham said when reached by phone for an interview. “Interestingly, only after the film was done and everything came together and we took full stock of it, we realized that this was something that really does speak to that issue.”
Marc Menchacha plays Bob Stevens, a farmer who has a three-year gap in his memory. In spite of his condition, he builds a good life with his family, When a stranger comes to town with both questions and answers about Bob’s background, however, his world is rocked to its core.
“From a psychiatric standpoint, he has a dissociative disorder, but also what’s called psychogenic amnesia. It’s really the same form of amnesia that can happen when you have a traumatic car accident. And it may take you weeks or months to recall that accident,” the director explained.
Ham’s partner, Steve Timm, wrote the original play, which was based in part on Timm’s experiences on an Air Force base. “He never served overseas, never experience the battlefield. But [it’s based] on what he saw his fellow airmen and especially cops go through in terms of confronting these issues. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty-year-old kids basically where they have to be responsible for these things,” Ham said.
Ham said he saw the play as an undergraduate. Timm was his theater professor and directed the original stage play.
“I wanted to adapt it as a film because I saw how many layers that story had that I thought could be great on film. That was just over 20 years ago,” Ham said, “The thing that took us the longest time was to let go of the play. For the first few years working together, we tried to hold on to the play. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that we threw the play out the window.”
As Bob’s daughter Charlotte, young actress Dale Dye Thomas narrates the story. Charlotte also is haunted by dreams and memories of what her father experienced during his military service. She draws hauntingly beautiful sketches of what she sees in her head.
“For us, that’s not science fiction. We’ve had some people kind of wonder if that’s just a nice device. We really based it on genetic research. There’s a lot of studies and more and more coming out that [say] particularly the male species passes along its traumatic memories to its offspring via the RNA in its sperm,” Ham said.
“Reparation” makes its world debut at the Newport Beach Film Festival on Saturday, April 25.