A LOST MERMAID TALE
“There was a girl named Daisy, who lived in a small fishing village in the Caribbean. When she was thirteen years old, she was assaulted by the local priest, John Patrick, who was later found murdered. Daisy’s mother, Iris, sent Daisy and her sisters Orchid and Violet away to protect them. Iris was imprisoned for the crime.”
A folktale of three sisters from a small fishing village in the Caribbean who seek refuge in Berkeley California, after an act of violence is committed against the youngest, a mermaid.
Ten-Cent Daisy has evolved over the last fifteen years. It started when I visited Grenada with my wife in 2001. I learned of a local girl ostracized by her family and community for her “peculiarities.” No one would say what these peculiarities were, except she was different enough to warrant a collective shun from the village. Her story reminded me of a similar situation in my own village in eastern Nigeria. A young girl with Down syndrome was teased and humiliated as a child out of sheer ignorance regarding her condition. The tendency to treat people we don’t know or understand differently is all too common, and deserves to be exposed again and again in all artistic expressions. However, my medium of choice, cinema, calls for much more than passion to bring any subject to life. And so my story has evolved over time to encompass my immigrant experience and my greatest passion of all, fatherhood.
The script developed with the collaboration of my wife and daughter. In retelling the original story to my then nine-year old daughter, she saw in it fantastical elements that were implied but were never intended to play out in the film. Her wide-eyed interest in the fairytale aspect encouraged me to embrace magical realism as my preferred genre for the picture. I decided to target the story to preteens without diluting the more adult themes or shying away from a sophisticated narrative style. In effect, the story had evolved into a cross-cultural folktale about a mermaid, an allegory of social discrimination, and perhaps post-colonialism.
The story unfolds as a tale of three sisters, Orchid, Violet and Daisy, the mermaid. They flee their small fishing village in the Caribbean after Daisy, is assaulted by the local pastor. Their mother, Iris confesses to murdering the pastor to give her girls cover to start a new life in America. Twelve years later in Berkeley California, the sister's relationship has splintered. The oldest, Orchid, receives word that Iris is to be released from prison, and is in poor health. She knows they must return home to save their mother using Daisy’s healing gifts, but there are several obstacles to overcome, most of all the lust of a close family friend, Mira, to gain control over Daisy.
The women’s story is ultimately about confronting pain. Plumbing the depths of repressed emotions and telling the stories that have formed us. Acknowledging that we each respond differently to tragedy, and that we can’t truly move forward until we embrace the past and reach out to an unknown future, together. It also explores the cliché that, you can’t go home again, and asks the questions, where is home? Is it the place where you were born or the place you now live? Said another way: Who is your real mother? The woman that raised you or the one that gave birth to you?
– Lisbon Okafor