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REVIEW

SBIFF 2023 Opens with Powerful, Star-Studded Film, Miranda’s Victim

10 February 2023
  • Written by
    Maryanne Knight
  • Photographed by
    A. Arthur Fisher
Sebastian Quinn, Abagail Breslin, Enrique Muricano, Andy Garcia on stage at SBIFF 2023
Sebastian Quinn, Abagail Breslin, Enrique Muricano, Andy Garcia
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The Santa Barbara International Film Festival kicked off Wednesday night with a powerful movie, Miranda’s Victim, which tells the story behind one of the most famous civil rights cases of the past century. The night began with a veritable party on the red carpet, a reunion for the film’s cast and crew, who clearly enjoyed working together to bring this piece of history to life.

Roger Durling, SBIFF’s long-time director, opened the night with a tribute to the tribe of cinephiles, who “eat movies for breakfast” and consider the movie theater their temple. He pointed out that true cinephiles “don’t ask if you liked the movie, they ask, how did the movie make you feel?”

Miranda’s Victim has all the makings of a riveting story: a reprehensible criminal whose case establishes a civil right so critical to our justice system that his name is now a verb, forcing his victim to go through a second trial in her pursuit of justice.

Abigail Breslin plays Trish, an innocent and gentle young woman whose knowledge of sex is so limited she needs the help of her married sister to understand exactly what was done to her. Trish demands justice in a time when a woman’s claim of sexual assault was presumed to be a face-saving lie. The film handles the pervasive misogyny of the day as an underlying layer to Trish’s ordeal, whether it’s her own mother trying to stop her from reporting the rape, the skepticism and coldness of the doctor performing her exam, or the casual disrespect she endures from her eventual husband, whose only concern when he learns about the assault is what effect it will have on his reputation if people learn he’s married to a “whore.” Yet this brave young woman never gives up.

The story is told in a way that is sensitive yet forthright. There is no police brutality or incompetence, just a wholesale changing of the rules that invalidates the work they’ve done.

To return to Roger’s question, how did the film make the viewers feel? It probably left most feeling grateful for how far we’ve come as a society in our treatment of sexual assault. The sense of justice deferred but ultimately realized was palpable, and there was definitely a deep appreciation for the woman with the courage to pursue it.

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Santa Barbara International Film Festival photo from State Street