“I believe we can heal from anything if we can find a way to be truly seen and see ourselves.” That’s what director Kymberly Harris wants you to take away from her new film, I Heard Sarah.
I Heard Sarah is a deeply personal film where life imitates art. The film’s lead and writer, Dan Adoniev, plays Ian Ford, a troubled rockstar who escapes from court-mandated rehab to visit his hometown and childhood friend in a desperate attempt to confront his deepest demons. Dan wrote the screenplay based partly on his experiences dealing with addiction, painful emotions, heartbreaks, and all the angst of being a young man in the all-so-tempting Hollywood scene. Dan talked about the catharsis of writing this story, recalling how he felt in his early 20s and now, years later, having found his way to recovery, much like his character Ian has. Dan approached Kymberly with his story after he took her acting class at Strasberg Institute, and they embarked on what Dan describes as “a long, long journey to where we are today.”
Ian’s story is that of a lost kid who skyrockets to fame as quickly as he falls down the rabbit hole of drugs, addiction, and stardom. He is forced to fight himself through no fault of his own. Coming from a troubled family and without a moral compass pointing due north, it was easy for Ian to get lost in all the noise. In a situation when your parents aren’t there to guide you, you’re left to your own devices. When Ian arrives home to see his former best friend and bandmate Josh, played by Cameron Jones, he brings chaos. Ian turns Josh’s new life upside down, all because Ian needs to reveal a deadly secret that forces both men to face the truth that their mutual love of a girl named Sarah was the driving force that broke them apart all those years ago.
Kymberly likes to examine the ties that connect human relationships by studying each character’s psychology, stating that “film allows me to be more specific and personal in that exploration.” As she moves along in the film’s development, she intends to answer a question that brings about a sort of release or healing, especially when that question is personal.
She developed I Heard Sarah with what she calls “a real indie spirit.” Allowing the actors to put the script into their own words, write a song together that became part of the film, and act on impulses that ultimately brought the movie to life. Kymberly says, “In film, these energetic moments can have a language of their own through image, through the way the image is shot, through the choice of lens, in many metaphoric ways. I’m interested in character layers and perspectives.”
The film was shot in a total of seven days. A remarkably short filming period that packs in so much ambition and spirit. It is admirable that the cast and crew could produce such an engaging and meaningful film, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Being a film made during the height of COVID-19, they ran into delays and unexpected challenges. However, they managed to persevere through and run I Heard Sarah through festivals internationally.
I Heard Sarah has resonated with audiences, showing many a story that relates to their own recovery journeys, one that is never-ending. Dan hopes that people can see that everything can and will get better, there is a better road for all of us, and we don’t have to be ruled by the traumas of our past. He states, “Art and addiction can exist separately from each other. It’s a myth that the artist also needs to be addicted or in pain to be able to touch people or create meaningful art… you should always know joy and happiness are just as important as pain and suffering. While pain and addiction are valuable tools for an artist, it is a terrible master. Should you lose the balance, there is always a way back.”
Kymberly shares that her hope for the future is that more women filmmakers get the chance to see themselves in art and media. Society needs to normalize women filmmakers and stories with representation for all. I Heard Sarah is available on Tubi, Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, and Apple TV. Don’t miss out on an incredible opportunity to watch an independent film that turned a low budget into an astonishing work of art.