By: Laura Bennett

It’s a sad reality, but many women understand the feeling of being watched when they’re walking alone and not feeling safe when travelling on public transport, having to be constantly aware of their surroundings.

Australian filmmakers Tanya Modini and Luisa Martiri wanted to address the issue of gendered violence, and in their short psychological thriller The Moths Will Eat Them Up they take inspiration from Tanya’s life to tell the story of a woman who finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with an intimidating male passenger on her train ride home.

The film follows Rayne (Ling Copper Tang) as she first feels the threat of danger, then on to how she tries to address it and what the mysterious force is that seems to be protecting her along the way.

Having worked in the prevention of violence against women sector for many years, Tanya said in an interview that the narrative “fitted with the kind of work I was doing and the constant risk assessments that women do everywhere they go”.

“Particularly at night, and particularly when [women are] travelling on trains where there’s no driver, there’s no one to reach out to if you get into trouble,” she said.

Source: The Moths Will Eat Them Up Facebook / Behind the scenes

Since its release, The Moths Will Eat Them Up has premiered in New Zealand and the UK, been nominated for an AACTA Award for Best Short Film 2022, won the Dendy Award for Best Live Action Australian Short Film and the Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director at Sydney Film Festival 2022 – allowing its message, and female-oriented storytelling, to go further.  

Co-director Luisa Martiri said part of the intention of the film was “to promote diversity within the industry”.

“Feeling very passionate about female stories and female experiences – and being female filmmakers ourselves – we really wanted to crew as many females as we could, and we did. [We had] over 65 per cent women,” she said.

“It worked well because everyone was able to feed their own experiences into their part of the job.”

One question the film raises, is how valid women are in feeling afraid: are we really under threat, or do we just perceive men’s actions to be threating?

“I think that we’re very justified,’ Tanya said.

“When one woman a week is murdered in this country by a current or former partner, I think we’re extremely justified in feeling the way we do when we’re out and about.”

Taking the imagery of the moth from Isaiah 51:7-8, “Do not fear the scorn of men for the moth will eat them up”, the moth represents the force that can shield women from such experiences.

“The best protection women have against men’s violence is other women,” Tanya said.

“Because it’s other women who are running the organisations that support women who are experiencing domestic and family violence, sexual assault, any sort of violence.

“The moth was used as a protective symbol that was always watching out for Rayne on the train.”

The Moths Will Eat Them Up is currently touring as part of the Sydney Roaming Film Festival.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence or has been sexually assaulted, help is available through 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

Feature image: Film publicity

About the Author: Laura Bennett is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.