I do not even know all their names.
Black women’s deaths are not noteworthy,
not threatening or glamorous enough
to decorate the evening news…
-Audre Lorde in Need: A Chorale for Black Woman Voices.
This apt observation mirrors filmmaker Stephanie Jeter’s own catalytic moment which gave rise to her short film “Searching for Isabelle.” Several years ago she started to write these thoughts out in the form of a novel, using the uncanny as an approach to the subject. What if there was a black woman who refused to be ignored during her most vulnerable and traumatic moments? What if she had the power to make herself seen and felt by a populous that would otherwise be uncaring either willfully, or because their attentions were constantly being drawn elsewhere by a national media that over-saturates their coverage with people who look decidedly unlike her?
After several years of working behind the scenes in film and television while developing her stories in between shows, this is director Stephanie Jeter’s entrée into producing her own work. Searching for Isabelle is the right project at the right time. It satisfies the need to tell a compelling story in a way that’s socially and artistically fulfilling.
Though the idea for “Searching for Isabelle” has been several years in the making, in some form or another, it hasn’t ceased to be timely and relevant to the present day. Organizations like Black and Missing Foundation and Black and Missing |But Not Forgotten| work tirelessly to bring stories of missing people of color to the foreground even as mainstream media outlets consistently bury these stories.
In Stephanie’s film, Isabelle is a young college student living in Chicago. She has a pretty normal and happy life — working and studying, making friends, and she even has a burgeoning romance with a classmate. Unbeknownst to her, she’s being stalked by a serial killer, who eventually captures her and holds her captive in the basement of his home. Brought on by this traumatic experience, Isabelle develops a mysterious yet instinctive power to project herself to the outside world. Isabelle’s desperate pleas for help reach her friends who piece together the clues to try and find her.
Searching for Isabelle directly juxtaposes the experiences of Isabelle – a young black woman, with that of Lucy – a young white woman, as they are kidnapped and held captive by the same man. Even as they are trapped in a room together, the world outside provides around the clock coverage of Lucy’s case, but Isabelle fails to garner the same coverage. And she takes matters into her own hands.
Visit the Indiegogo page for more information on the film and how you can get involved in the making of a movie that’s entertaining yet message-driven at its core.
Stephanie is the founder of Searching Productions and a filmmaker residing in Chicago, Illinois. She has spent the past nine years working behind the scenes on various film and TV projects (“Shameless,” “Insurgent,” “SIRENS,” and more). She graduated with the help of a writing scholarship from DePaul University where she studied digital cinema. In addition to “Searching for Isabelle,” Stephanie is finalizing several feature scripts, including a suburban Chicago set coming-of-age fantasy about a group of friends and a magic book. She hopes to bring this project to the screen after her debut short.