After cowriting the 2014 film “Obvious Child” with the intention of challenging the stigma around depictions of abortion in film, Karen Maine tackled another seemingly taboo subject: female sexuality and religion. The script hits particularly close to home for Maine; her film “Yes, God, Yes” is rooted in her childhood experiences. The film’s main character goes on a religious retreat in reaction to discovering her own sexuality via an AOL chatroom.
“I knew I wanted to tell a story about growing up Catholic and going on this retreat that the character goes on,” she says of the film. “A lot of people have come up to me at the screenings and been like, ‘I’ve been on that retreat,’ which I think is fascinating. I think it’s just going to get even bigger once the film goes out wider.”
After completing the script, Maine was encouraged to direct the very personal project herself. She adapted the screenplay into a short, which she shot as a proof of concept for the full-length feature, which stars 22-year-old actor Natalia Dyer of “Stranger Things” fame.
“I’m so happy that Natalia connected with the material, because she took this character that I wrote and only imagined in my head, and made it something so much bigger and better and more beautiful and nuanced and complex,” Maine says.
Maine, who grew up in the Midwest, approximates that around 80 percent of the film is autobiographical, including specific lines culled from her sex-ed classes from high school. In one scene, the character watches scenes from “Titanic.” “The AOL chat she has actually happened to me, almost verbatim, about someone e-mailing me saucy pics and asking if I wanted to see more and I was like, ‘yes please,’ because I was a kid and I was like, ‘This is interesting, I’ve never seen naked bodies like that before.'”
Maine hopes that the film will create a more open space for audiences to discuss and consider female pleasure.
“And not just self pleasure, but expecting it from their partners,” she says. “I think it would be good if women were told at a younger age to expect pleasure, and the same thing that men are told and have been told for a long time about sex.”
Even while filming, a male crew member questioned the character’s knowledge of one term and not another, which referred to a female-centric experience. “Because it’s a male-dominated world and even young women know men’s bodies better their own at that point,” she said, adding that she kept the reference in the script.
Maine’s next project will be a TV series; she recently shot the pilot in London, which got picked up by the BBC. The show stars up-and-coming female comedian Rose Matafeo, who won the main comedy prize last year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
“She’s amazing,” adds Maine. “Everyone’s going to know who she is in a few months.”
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