Children today are growing up in a polarizing environment. On one hand, our society has started to embrace those who do not adhere to “gender norms” or preordained sexual orientations. Thus, children have been granted newfound freedom to explore, to identify as they will. On the other hand, there are many people who are fighting against this—fearing what is different or untraditional. Today, children who dare to be different are often met with discrimination and bullying. Society tells them there is one way to look, one way to act, one way to be.
“Christine” tells the story of a young girl’s effort to define herself in one such unaccepting environment. The ignorance and prejudice she outwardly faces results in an inward struggle to define herself, and ultimately, to accept herself. There is a learning curve woven into this piece—it was important for us to paint an image of children trying different ways to conform to what they believes is the “right way” of being, only to stumble, get up and try again—until they find what works best for themselves as individuals.
It was not our intention for “Christine" to represent any one “type" of person, but rather to tell an individual’s story—in the hope that it might touch each person differently. Christine is all of us, in one way or another, and Christine is entirely herself.
Triggered by the words written in a children's self-help book, a series of memories are exposed to reveal a young girl's intimate experience with divorce. highlighting common misconceptions and acknowledging harsh reality, dinosaur children offers a raw glimpse into the confused, aware, and innocent mind of a child suffering from her parents' divorce.
A film by Phanie Serra
We lived in a castle in Hawthorne, New York.
The chateau was a condominium divided into nine families. Mine lived in the arch. You know, the rounded pointy part that divides an actual castle from a nice building.
We had a pool and tennis courts, only the paint on the insides of the swimming pool wall was chipping off. That's what those things floating in the water were. Paint. Old paint suffocated by too much chlorine.
The seats in the gazebo on the deep end side of the pool gave you splinters. But that's okay because we weren't allowed there anyway. Too many beehives.
The turf in the tennis court was cracked in important places. The left side of the net wouldn’t cranked up to meet even the right. And there was a mouse hole in the corner of the black fence that surrounded the court. It was the magnetic force field attracted to the color neon that sucked in all our tennis balls. That's where people go when they die.
The courtyard was my view from my bedroom. The most beautiful part of the place. We had my Spice Girls birthday party back there the year after my parents got divorce and I knew it that Amber, my piano teacher, was sporty spice. But everyone told me otherwise, and I believe them.
They made me read a little book with Robert called "Dinosaurs Divorce." It was instructional manual. Instructing kids disguise as dinosaurs how they should feel after their parents got divorced.
It was a nice book. Thank you, Marc Brown.
I recently found my copy, a bit dilapidated with bent corners. It was in between my art projects from that year, right on top of the watercolor painted parrot bird with rainbows and hovering grapes in background. And underneath a pencil sketch of the most elaborate flower a first grader could draw. It really was an effective book for dinosaur children.
I just try to imagine the day my dad went to the bookstore to buy it. He probably asked the store clerk where the kids with divorced parents section was. Then, she probably directed him to the self-help section or something in between, oh, I don't know, probably non-fiction and politics. Then he probably stood there. Looking at the binds of the books for hours. He probably paid for Dinosaurs Divorce in cash. It was $7.99 in the US and $9.99 in Canada. I remember tracing the prices with one of my new lead pencils he also bought me, wondering why it was more expensive to tell your kids you were getting divorce in Canada.
Mondays were daddys days to take us to dinner. The judge in the court told him that. We normally go to Silvio's because they have the second best pizza in town. The first best pizza in town was only down the street. But we weren't allowed to go there because the Italian Ice Man was mommy's new boyfriend. And daddy keeps slashing his tires open.
Two plain cheese slices. Sometimes I got pepperoni and sometimes I didn't. Daddy always asked the pizza man to cut Robert's slice down the middle and across the tips. I knew it, that Robert always saved his pizza tips for last but Daddy didn't know. He would eat them. That bothered Robert but he never said anything about it to anyone.
Being quiet can mean you’re embarrassed to say something, but it can also mean that you understand that Daddy is just very hungry and that pizza slices simply cost more than they used to.
He just started pre-school and Miss DiLappi recommended that Robert takes speech lessons. He had a tantrum every time. They had to bribe him with Mighty Morphin Power Ranger action figures, which made it all better. But then he started chewing on their feet of each action figure. Chewed them right off. Even when he played with them sometimes.
Eventually they had no feet, none of them. I never played with them. But one night, when we were sleeping over our grandmas house, I remember we were lying in bed and I asked him why he ate their feet. He told me that they were stuck, like us. I went to bed that night with a stomach ache. A few days later when Robert came home from school and couldn't find them, he cried himself to exhaustion during one of his tantrums. Mommy cried downstairs. She had to take them away because eating plastic can make you very sick. And she just loved him too much.
I never had two beds with two doll houses, two bath tubs, or two chimneys. I had one desk, with one chair, and one book collection I liked to arrange in alphabetical order. Late at night, after Robert and I had fallen asleep, our dad would get home from work and wake us up to go tinkle in the upstairs bathroom. I like to be able to smell my parents' dinner cooking downstairs.
Sometimes, when I woke up in the mornings dad didn't live with us anymore, I’d check to make sure I still had my two eyes, and my two ears, with my two hands, mostly because my dreams didn't have any bright lights or smells from cooking downstairs.
Robert wet the bed once and I helped to make his bed with clean sheets. I remember having to look up the word "coincidence" in my dictionary because that was the same night my I Love Lucy nightlight burnt out.
I needed to hug Robert most nights. Marc Brown forgot to insert tangible affection. Things didn't seem okay but regardless of if they were or not, I needed to be there and tell him they were.
Two brothers traverse life in the bleak backwoods of America, forced to sacrifice their childhood to a stark landscape and their reviling father. When this life proves to be too much for one, he must choose between staying with his brother or saving himself.
Starring: Joshua Kaufman & Andrew Chamberlain
Written and Directed by Jessica Adler
Produced by Stephanie Serra
Recipient of the 20th Annual Director's Guild of America Student Film Awards, Jury Award, eastern region.