The Tale on M-Net The Tale is a powerful movie about memory and survival, written and directed by the award-winning Jennifer Fox and screened on M-Net. The film chronicles one woman’s investigation into her own childhood memories, as she is forced to reexamine her first sexual experience – and the stories women tell themselves in order to survive. The Tale will debut at the Durban International Film Festival, followed by a release on M-Net during Woman’s Month in August 2018.

The Tale stars Laura Dern (Wild, Rambling Rose, Big Little Lies), Isabelle Nélisse (Mama), Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager), Jason Ritter, Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under), John Heard (The Sopranos), With Common (Selma) and Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore).

The Tale is based on the true experiences of Jennifer Fox

An accomplished documentarian working in New York, Jennifer (Laura Dern) is completing her latest project about the lives of women around the world. She receives a series of phone calls from her mother, Nettie (Ellen Burstyn), who has found a short story Jennifer wrote at age 13, in which she describes various encounters with her riding instructor, Mrs. G (Elizabeth Debicki), and her running coach, Bill (Jason Ritter), while at summer camp. Nettie is unnerved by the implications of her daughter’s writing, but Jennifer is nonplussed. She has always looked back with fondness on the time she spent with these two charismatic adults.

Egged on by Nettie and encouraged by her supportive fiancé (Common), Jennifer yearns to know more and sets out on a journey, 30 years later, to find those people from her past – the children, now adults, who also attended the camp back then – and eventually the coaches themselves. But the more she learns, the more her memories shift and the more questions she unearths. As Jennifer’s frustration mounts, she finds herself turning inward to get to the truth, imagining conversations with her 13-year-old self (Isabelle Nélisse) and even Mrs. G and Bill in an effort to understand how and why events occurred so long ago.

Meditation on memory

An unforgettable meditation on the elusive nature of memory, The Tale is the first narrative feature from Jennifer Fox, whose documentary films have earned international acclaim for their groundbreaking artistry and unflinching honesty. Based on Fox’s own life story, The Tale sees the filmmaker bravely pushing forward the boundaries of conventional storytelling, creating a dialogue between past and present to illustrate the interplay between memory and trauma.

The Tale on M-Net

“My goal was not to ask, ‘Did this happen?,’ because I always remembered it,” explains writer and director Fox. “It was, ‘How and why did it happen, and how and why did I spin it as a positive story?’ There was a lightbulb moment when I was making another film about women all around the world, and it seemed that every other woman – regardless of class, culture or color – had an abuse story to tell. Their stories just floored me, because they had a system or a paradigm,” she says.

Fox has spent considerable time in South Africa, first as a trainer/advisor on the series Steps for the Future, reflecting the real life stories of people affected by the HIV pandemic in Southern Africa, and afterwards running the training and development initiative for the thirteen-film SABC series, Project 10: Real Stories from a Free South Africa.

What: The Tale

Where and when: Durban International Film Festival in July, M-Net Movies Premiere, DStv channel 104 from 6 August at 10pm