Sara is a dramatic short film about a woman who finds the strength to confront her greatest fear by relying on the comfort of strangers.

Written and directed by me, and not so loosely inspired by a moment in my life and personal health journey, Sara is a glimpse into a moment where I struggled to cope in a public place — the airport. My flight was delayed repeatedly. My Mom had just had a second stroke; I had had three surgeries; I would have my fourth within a few months. My life was in limbo in every way.

When my flight was delayed again, my inner world came crashing down. I couldn’t handle one more thing. I was burnt out. I thought I had more time, and now I felt the race against time and possibly my life. Then a stranger’s unexpected kindness changed my perspective from hopeless to hopeful. 

You know when you wake up on a gorgeous balmy autumn morning, you snuggle with your dog and feel thankful that your career is taking flight but also for that long-awaited break? You’re excited to have not just a slow-moving morning but the day. You slow-sip that delicious coffee, feel the sun beaming in and decide it’s time to put your ass in the shower. The warm water feels terrific; you think perhaps it’s time to make that trip to Bali (Yass Queen, you deserve a vacay moment!), just as your hand glides over what is clearly a lump in your left breast. 

Shock. You feel again. It’s still there. The panic and total fear set in. You’re not a 1 in 8; you can’t be? Breast cancer doesn’t run in your family. The denial settles in, and you wait eight months to make that appointment with your doctor.  Once you do, a week later, you find yourself at a Cancer hospital being fast-tracked over the next three weeks to a diagnosis. This is my story; more importantly, it’s the story of many alike. 

Although I was lucky with my breast cancer diagnosis, the crushing reality is that women’s health and wellness no longer lives within a specific age paradigm. The importance and urgency of telling this story ignites from wanting to curate a sense of empathy around the perception of emotional and mental wellness and the process of shame, grief, and trauma. This is where and how we experience a moment of Sara’s life—trying to keep it all together because that is what Sara has had to do. But her inner world comes crashing down in this very human, relatable moment. In an airport. Full of people from all walks of life. As Brad Leithauser (The New Yorker) once said: “Airports have become, for me, as churches used to be, places to contemplate the shortcomings of one’s life and soul.”

As the world broke open with grief during the pandemic, I and many realized we are at capacity. Yet, so many do not have the resources to fully understand the impacted feeling of loss of self.

This story’s universality is wanting to shift the lens from focusing solely on “the happening, the event” to investigating how trauma imprints itself on one’s soul and the undeniable truth of the profound correlation between unresolved trauma and illness. To quote Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., “the body keeps score”. 

Sara is the player of a much bigger picture; my first feature, Concrete Marshmallow, which I began working on last summer. Writing my first draft, I could not cope; I was in crisis. Having had five surgeries, including a hysterectomy, I had a profound awakening. For years, I drifted in and out of states known in the psychological world as “freeze, flight, or fawn”. I tried hard to push everything down into the depths of my fascia.  Upon reading Stephanie Foo’s What My Bones Know, things that had always been a disconnect for me all started to make sense, so I began to do the hard work, self-examination, and understand, for the first time, with self-care.

At 45 years old, recently diagnosed with Complex PTSD, I feel I have autonomy, a sense of collected calm and empowerment. I am learning that grief and joy can co-exist alongside one another, as can trauma and the possibility of living a wonderfully full life.

My intention and advocacy with my filmmaking is to provide hope and a realization to others that they are worthy and deserving of that too.

Sara is written and directed by Jessica Hinkson, starring Samora Smallwood with Naomi Snieckus and Prince Amponsah. The short will premiere at the HollyShorts Film Festival, running August 10-20. 

Watch a first look at Sara: