Violation: Seamless blend of genres

Photo by courtesy of Pacific Northwest Pictures

Violation is a suspenseful revenge film that never strays too far from its emotional core and centers around how difficult it can be to talk with those who you are supposed to be the most intimate, be it siblings or life partners.

Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli’s debut feature film has been available to watch since Mar 19 on the exclusive Digital Cinema Release via TIFF Bell Lightbox. The Digital-Cinema Release via VIFF Connect Virtual Theatre begins Mar 26.

“When we met and became friends, one of the things that we bonded over was our own personal experiences of trauma in our pasts,” says Sims-Fewer.

The film touches on some very topical subjects covered in the media in recent years. However, it is also a deeply personal project for the two filmmakers who served as writers, producers, and directors on this feature film.

Filming betrayal

The film starts as Miriam, played by Sims-Fewer and her partner Caleb played by Obi Abili go and visit her sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and her husband Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe). Everyone is friendly and appears to be having a good time, but it soon becomes clear Miriam is having trouble in her relationship with Caleb, and the bond with her sister is not as strong as it may appear. When she tries to confide in her brother-in-law Dylan, something happens to change everything forever.

Violation is a chilling revenge film, flipping the genre on its head. | Photo by courtesy of Pacific Northwest Pictures

The current social and political mood of the world is also part of what makes this film so topical.

“At the same time, the ‘Me Too’ movement was beginning and it was really allowing for more space to talk about things like this openly,” says Sims-Fewer.

Creating a character study-revenge film can be a daunting task, and there were some challenges making sure the film effortlessly conveyed all its themes.

“We really tried to structure the film in a way that made you feel her (Miriam) constant betrayal. She is betrayed first by her brother-in-law, then she is betrayed by her husband and then she is betrayed by her sister, so it really feels that all these doors are closing all around her,” says Mancinelli.

Sims-Fewer says they wanted the film to feel like a drama that went off the rails, and not a drama that turns into a horror.


The filming took place over the course of two months in the mountains of Quebec. The production also used only natural light during filming.

“We did tons of lighting tests. We would go into the woods at five in the morning and film just to see what the quality of light would look like,” says Mancinelli.

This meant the shooting schedule heavily depended on what they could shoot at a certain time during the day.

Although the film largely takes place in a few settings, the production used over 20 locations to create the world of the film. This was due to budget. If Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli saw a location they thought worked perfectly, they used that one spot for one scene.

“We shot exteriors in two different places and we shot interiors in a bunch of different places,” says Sims-Fewer.

Mancinelli adds the budget did not allow for much set building, so finding the perfect place was key.

“The bathroom [for a scene], we wanted with blue tiles,” says Mancinelli. “But we had no money for production design, so finding a location with blue tiles. Or we drove eight hours deep into the mountains to find waterfalls.”

Violation started its film festival run last year at TIFF where it was named one of the festival’s four Rising Stars. It was also screened at Sundance Film Festival and will soon be screened at SXSW. It has also garnered some nominations from the Vancouver Film Critics Circle namely, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor-Female.

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