Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program

Film and Electronic Arts


Marie Regan

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Declaration of War

Sometimes when everything goes wrong, it feels like the world itself is sad and misshaped. Every day the war continues, although the struggle of war has long been a part of America’s collective memory. After our parents witnessed the massacres in Vietnam and suffered through the daily fears of the Cold War, they couldn’t help but support war again after the Twin Towers were bombed on September 11th. I was in Seventh grade when it happened, still impressionable, young, and figuring out what my country was. Coming from a military family, my perspective was tilted in two directions at once: I felt a necessary need to express patriotism, and a burning desire to stand up against the politics of the day, especially as the war began to tear my family apart.

The Birthday Party is a film about a family’s struggle to maintain its roots while existing in the midst of chaos, loss, and disjunction. The family consists of a mother and her three children; the oldest daughter lives far away, the younger daughter is about to leave home for the first time, and the youngest son is away at war. Acting to bring the family together one last time, the mother requests that the girls come home to throw her very absent son a birthday party. But when it comes time to celebrate, no one shows up. They fail to rally any of Bob’s friends, instead their distant voices hope for the best on the answering machine as every one quietly begins to doubt any reason for celebration. The desperate family, surrounded by too much food, too many news broadcasts, and so much unspoken grief seeks catharsis through a declaration of war on the party itself.

I made this film because in the years after 9/11 I gained a confusing perspective on America. Originally I had hoped to film the screenplay twice, with two different families, because I believe that this story of struggle can be told from the perspective of many Americans, all of whom in their own private chaos. Every day people fight to make it to the next day, holding on to themselves while the world seems to be spiraling out of control. As much as there must be something to look forward to, there is an undercurrent of strife that no one wants to talk about and that no one truly learns to deal with. For the family in The Birthday Party, so much has gone wrong inside of the familial nexus that when the outside fails to act as an ally the only option is to declare all out war just to make it to the next birthday party.

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