The Columbia Gorge International Film Festival (Formerly known as The Washougal International Film Festival)

Surviving Family

Surviving Family won the Narrative Feature at the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival. A heartbreaking, captivating story of a girl drowning in the trauma of her mother’s suicide so many years ago enthralls audiences. Terry tries to navigate life with her family, with her fiancé, and with the nightmares that haven’t left her since she turned 13.

After her mother committed suicide on her 13th birthday, Terry Malone is tormented with nightmares from that night. Terry never forgave her father, Hank, who raised her and her brother and sister by himself after his wife’s death. Instead, she casts the blame for her mother’s suicide at the feet of her father’s drinking problem and womanizing ways, claimed that he practically hung the rope himself. Her vocal opinions do nothing to improve her relationship with her sister.

But now Terry is 24. And Alex and she are getting married and the time has come to introduce him to the family which remains broken after the loss of their mother. With Alex and Terry’s relationship met with skepticism from Terry’s older sister Jean, who herself was married for a total of 6 weeks, and Terry never having forgiven her father for her mother’s death, the family interaction is stressful to say the least. But birthday celebrations and wedding preparations keep the family coming back to the table.

But the nightmares that pervade Terry’s mind are beginning to devastate her. And when Terry’s beloved Aunt Mary tries to explain that her mother’s death was caused by her mental illness and not by her father, Terry becomes overwhelmed with the idea that her nightmares are the beginning of the same mental illness in herself. Terrified at the idea of putting her beloved fiancé through the same pain that her family had to endure, Terry calls off the wedding.

Director Laura Thies joins forces with Producer and Writer Mara Lesemann to create this touching movie about family dysfunction. Shot in 20 days, the film is impressively done on a remarkably tight budget, with the gemstone scene being in the wedding dress shop, where, despite tight spaces and mirrors everywhere, beauty blossomed. These filmmakers have the superb cast and crew they assembled to thank for making this movie the award winning film that it is.

Sarah Wilson stars as Terry Malone. She has also played in Fringe, a sci-fi TV series which just completed its final season, and Gossip Girl. Terry’s fiancé Alex is played by Billy Magnussen, who has also performed in CSI, NCIS: Los Angeles, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Tara Westwood, who plays Jean Malone Fulton, also acted in Ugly Betty, CSI: Miami, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. And beloved Aunt Mary was played by Phyllis Somerville, who can also be found in Fringe and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

This film has won 10 awards; it was twice a runner up; and 14 other times it was nominated at various film festivals. Awards such as the Festival Director’s Award, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Local Movie, and Viewer’s Choice were given to this fantastic production. 

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