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Voice in Exile

Los Angeles International Film Exposition, 1985

By Barin Kumar

“Stuttering is why I became a filmmaker,” says Mark Allan Kaplan, the writer-director of “VOICE IN EXILE)” a short film soon to be screened at the upcoming FILMEX - Los Angeles International Film Exposition in the category of Best U.S. Short Fiction. Kaplan explains, “Because of my speech impediment, I had to find some other way to express myself.” The filmmaker admits that though the events and the characters are fictitious, the emotions in the film are autobiographical. “VOICE IN EXILE" is a rich tapestry of images depicting the real and imagined experiences of the main protagonist, Alan Woodward, a seventeen year old stutterer portrayed by Ben Bottoms.

Beginning with Alan awakening from a nightmare, we follow him through a typical day: Sharing breakfast with his family) being called on in class, ordering food in the school cafeteria, visiting his therapist and spending the evening at home. This seemingly normal day is twisted into a nightmarish world by Alan’s constant fear and inner torment. As an example, the simple act of saying a fluent “hello” becomes insurmountable. A story of heart-warming courage about a boy who will not let his stuttering stop him from living, the final test comes during a graduation ceremony where he must make a public speech. Interestingly enough, “VOICE IN EXILE” reaches out to both non-¬stutterers and those who stutter (over 2 million in America alone) because it deals with the common fears we all have.

Apart from the normal battle involved in the making of any motion picture, Kaplan talks about how he found himself faced with an added internal conflict. The conflict between the part of himself that wanted to reveal his fears and the part that wanted to desperately keep them hidden. Despite the warning of fellow filmmakers that he would be an ‘open wound’ in making such a personal film, Kaplan felt that like the character in my film, running away from my fears would only have made them real.” What is impressive about talking to him is not that he is a stutterer, but how much he does not stutter today.

Made under the auspices of the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies, “VOICE IN EXILE” is not exactly a start for this writer-director. Starting at the age of sixteen and through USC’s School of Cinema, Kaplan has been making films and winning awards for many years.

“VOICE IN EXILE” is a gentle film but not always easy to watch. Unlike some films in the ‘handicap’ genre, it is refreshing in that it moves us without sermonizing…touches without overwhelming. The film works because it gives us a good feeling and a sense of courage without suggesting false or easy cures. It is difficult to ignore the emotions that appear on the screen. More than just a film on stuttering by a stutterer, “VOICE IN EXILE” is a film about simple acts of human courage.

FILMEX, Los Angeles International Film Exposition, Press Release, April, 1985, by Barin Kumar


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VOICE IN EXILE is a motion picture production of

The American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film Studies

Distributed by Original Gravity

© American Film Institute

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