Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Tessa Thompson.
Points of Origin (2014)
Written and Directed by Anya Leta
After trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, RJ (Ankur Vikal) and Rosemary (Thompson) travel to India to pay for a surrogate, Anjali (Auroshikha Dey), to carry their child. RJ is a radio talk show host and the debate over international surrogacy is the focus of his latest series. A call-in viewer adds RJ’s personal life to the discussion but, as we see in his scenes at the hospital with his wife, the debate is no stranger there. The difference is RJ and Rosemary don’t talk. Communication is central to any debate—and this short film—but while RJ keeps the lines of communication open on his show, with his wife he’s been shutting her out ever since they arrived in India, using the language barrier unfairly to keep her at arm’s length.
Points of Origin takes a neutral stance on international surrogacy. It points out the cruelty of people throwing fault at Rosemary, implying that she’s vain and doesn’t want to be pregnant when that couldn’t be less true. It also doesn’t look past the fact that surrogacy is cheaper in India and that this isn’t something Anjali is entirely comfortable with. She’s happy for the couple but money to support her children, and possibly pressure from her husband, who never shows, is behind her decision to agree to the procedure.
What Points of Origin is less neutral about is relationships. In the scene where the couple meet Anjali for the first time you can’t take your eyes off of Thompson. RJ grew up in India and when Anjali realizes he can speak the language her face brightens up at their common background. RJ brightens too. In America he’s Indian but in India he’s American and this conflict in identity, along with guilt over the operation, has been nagging at him. To have Anjali refer to him as ‘brother’ means the world.
For his wife, who can’t understand what is being said, this conversation is very different. RJ ignores her occasional requests to translate, so that all she can do is smile too big and it’s the most uncomfortable position to be reduced to. Because RJ feels somewhat out of place in the country where he grew up, he seems to take it out on Rosemary, by making her feel like the bigger outsider. The frustration she tries to hide, because Anjali is offering to have their child and she doesn’t want to make a bad impression, or play into images of American privilege, is affecting because Rosemary’s trying. Maybe she doesn’t understand completely what’s going on but she comes across as willing to listen. She asks questions but everyone keeps brushing her off and judging her, without offering aid or correction.
The situation is awkward. When Rosemary passes Anjali in the hall at one point, with a brief nod and smile, that’s awkward. It’s the universal feeling by everyone involved. When the camera cuts between matching shots of Rosemary and Anjali in their blue gowns for the operation, it reminds us that while their experiences are different they’re also connected.
Is what they’re doing to have a child ‘wrong’ or is how people treat what they’re doing getting into their heads? Or is it like RJ says, on his talk show, that it’s wrong on some level?
Verdict: Buried Treasure
RJ gets both last lines in this short, but seems oblivious to the fact that he may have said the last thing either Rosemary or Anjali wanted to hear in their respective conversations. Points of Origin makes you think, while Tessa Thompson makes you sink into her character’s perspective. Having a child is supposed to one of the happiest times in your life. Instead, everything’s become a question.
Points of Origin is available to watch for free on the web-site, Short of the Week.
Check back tomorrow, and be ready to dance, for Tessa Thompson’s next performance.