‘Gentle Breeze’: A student film breaking the taboo around consent

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Stephanie Botelho, on the set of her senior thesis film "Gentle Breeze." Photo credit: Christopher Felix

Madison Parsley

CSUN CTVA student Stephanie Botelho moved to the United States from Brazil six years ago to pursue filmmaking and is now sparking a conversation around the taboo of consent in her senior thesis film, “Gentle Breeze,” which she both wrote and directed.

The film follows the story of a young couple: Emma, who happens to be deaf, and Mark, in their new relationship. Emma is a virgin and Mark is trying to get more intimate with her so he prepares a surprise, expecting that it will lead them to have sex for the first time. When it’s about to happen she changes her mind and while he’s lost in the moment he ends up raping her without him realizing it.

“I wanted him to be this good guy who truly loves his girlfriend but does this and he doesn’t know he’s making a mistake until later,” said Botelho. “I think it’s a very important topic because we usually see rape coming from someone from outside and someone that is a danger to us when really it’s right there.”

The inspiration behind the film came from the many stories that she heard from the women around her and even her own experience, which took her almost 10 years to realize had violated her consent.

“I went through something similar, though it wasn’t exactly how it was in the film and it took me almost 10 years to look at it and be like, ‘Oh shit that violated my consent, I didn’t want to have to do that, but he’s my boyfriend and I did,’ which is not a reason,” said Botelho. “I talked to a lot of girls who told me stories that they went through something like this, somebody even told me, ‘Oh yeah he was my husband,’ but society doesn’t see it as their consent being broken so society just says that doesn’t happen, let’s pretend nothing happened.”

While pitching the film, Botelho said it’s a difficult topic for a lot of people to understand, especially men, who questioned how the character was dressed and her sobriety as if those were things that made the situation consensual.

“I had a lot of people, especially older men, telling me, ‘Well she was drinking? Why did she go to his house? Why is she wearing that little dress?’” she said. “It’s funny because in the very beginning of this process I considered maybe not having her drinking or wearing a little dress, but then I was like no, fuck that! She’s going to do everything they tell me she cannot do! It’s okay for a woman to be drinking and wearing this and to be there not wanting to have sex.”

“Gentle Breeze” is also bringing together the deaf community by using deaf actors and framing the film in a way that deaf viewers can watch the film without relying on subtitles.

Botelho was inspired to make Emma’s character deaf after watching a group of people communicating through sign language back home in Brazil a few years ago.

“I was walking down the street and I saw this group in a circle and everybody was silent but they were looking at each other,” she said. “I looked into the circle and they were fighting and arguing (using sign language). It clicked to me how interesting it was that they were communicating, even though they don’t have the voice that … we do, they’re just normal people that have their own language.”

So she decided to create Emma and make her deaf. “And even though she has lost one sense she loves everything else about it and it’s not a problem to her nor does it define her,” said Botelho.

“When I started researching I learned that the deaf community feels very proud of themselves and they focus on what they are able to do instead of focusing on what they are not,” she said. “That was amazing to me.”

Botelho said the goal was to bring the deaf community together and to make the film something for everyone so that all viewers can watch and understand the story.

“It’s interesting because I’m making a point, make this film being something for everybody,” she said. “So we do have subtitles through the entire film but we are framing in a way that the deaf community can understand so that they don’t have to rely on the subtitles, they can actually just watch the film.”

“Gentle Breeze” is Botelho’s directorial debut and says this is such a huge opportunity since only four scripts are chosen to be made into films for the senior thesis projects.

“I was so excited and it was so amazing because I’m not from here, maybe to someone else, it’s just like, ‘Oh okay cool, I got to make this movie,’ but for me, it was like, ‘Holy shit!’” she said. “Since I’m not from here it’s not my first language and I wrote a script in a language that’s not my main tongue. I’ve been through a lot to get here so to me this really means a lot to me.”

The experience of filming was both stressful and amazing, but more amazing than stressful, she laughs. She put a lot of herself into this film and says it has already received a lot of feedback even though it’s not out yet.

“I’ve had women come up to me telling me that they had been raped and that this story really touched them,” said Botelho. “It’s a very important story at this moment because it’s breaking a certain taboo.”

Botelho, along with the cast and crew, are hoping to have “Gentle Breeze” chosen to be screened at the 2019 Annual CSUN Senior Film Showcase.

Editor’s note Jan. 18: The photo credit was published with the wrong name. Christopher Felix is the photographer.