Filmmaker Karen Cinorre draws audiences in with stunning cinematics in her latest film Mayday as it explores women finding the courage to step out of the shadows they feel bound to.
Grace Van Patten, Mia Goth, Soko, and Havana Rose Liu bring to life Cinorre’s full feature directorial debut that hints at Greek mythology with mysterious distress calls of soft, beguiling voices luring sailors to their deaths, ensnared by their need to rescue these supposed damsels in distress leading to further surreal segments. If you watch the film closely, which we did a few times consecutively, you’ll begin to identify the less conspicuous themes. “This story comes from subconscious terrain. A constellation of influences helped reveal its form,” Cinorre shares with us. “The mystery of Laurie Anderson’s early recordings, the kinetic dance choreography of Anne Teressa de Keersmaeker, and the imaginative truth of The Wizard of Oz were big inspirations.”
What we assumed would be a heavy feminist screenplay, after contemplating the interactions between every single character, even those that appear more ambiguous, actually transformed into a beautiful coming-of-age story. We asked Cinorre more about these interlaced ideas surfacing throughout. “I’m a proud feminist, but Mayday was never meant to be a manifesto,” she explains. “You’re right that it’s a story of a young woman’s coming of age. Sadly, many girls encounter violence as they come of age, and Mayday is authentic and alert to that reality.” Violent scenes, especially those directed towards women and girls, can elicit intense grief, fear, and anxiety. For those acting out these moments, there’s still an emotional toll as well. In some films and shows, the storyline is driven by violence to no valid end with consequences. However, as the plot plays out, you’ll begin to recognize what exactly Cinorre is unveiling. “I would love for our audience to walk away with a sense of hope,” she expresses. “At its heart, Mayday is a film about not giving up on life. It is meant to inspire anyone, especially women and girls, to find the courage to use their voice.”
There’s a relationship evolving between the central characters in their whispered conversations with each other to the explosive action sequences depicted. Cinorre spoke on working with the cast, “Friendship came easily to us, but the most important element of our chemistry was a deep, unspoken trust. This was not an easy film to make. These actors had to perform stunts in incredibly difficult conditions. They had to hurl themselves into the sea, through dark forests, and off jagged cliffs. But there was never an undercurrent of fear on our set; just our laser focus on the task at hand. And that can only come from trust.” The trust between the girls in the film and seeing how Grace Van Patten’s Ana had to break through several demons to reach the end (we don’t want to give away here) will captivate you.
We finished by asking Cinorre if she had any single moment that felt the story she worked on for so long was conveyed perfectly. “Yes, after we shot the last scene of Grace standing alone at the end of the movie, she came to me and said, ‘I felt like I was holding the hands of all the other girls just now.’ And I said, ‘That means we did something right.’”
For an hour and forty minutes, you’ll leap through various movements that unfold like a whirlwind at times, but each minute builds up to the hope Cinorre speaks of in our interview, making every second of this incredible story worth the watch.
Photos by Photo: Brigitte Lacombe (Headshot), Tjaša Kalkan + Sam Levy