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Why nun-goth comedy Little Sister can be enjoyed by nuns and goths

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In the 2008-set comedy-drama Little Sister, a young nun named Colleen (Addison Timlin) returns home to see her Iraq war veteran brother (Keith Poulson) — and, as it turns out, to revisit her past as a goth. Given that description, you might well assume the film makes mock of both religious folk and Marilyn Manson fans. In fact it does neither. 

“The movie appeals to a lot of people, I think, but in my heart I made it for goths,” says director Zach Clark. “I never really did the lipstick and the black outfits, but I’ve listened to some Marilyn Manson albums, I’ve listened to some Nine Inch Nails albums. In my youth. I dyed my hair black for a while and had several traditionally goth friends in high school. Then, in the past five, six, seven years, [I] have gotten much more into early goth music, your Bauhauses and your Christian Deaths, that sort of stuff. Goth kids in films are a really sort of maligned group. They’re almost always either the butt of a joke — they just mope and sit in a chair — or they are witches, or vampires, or some other thing that causes evil in the story of the film. It was important to me to depict them as compassionate, thoughtful, productive members of society. When I was in high school, Columbine happened. I remember the following the morning, a friend of mine getting on the intercom, requesting to be part of the morning announcements, and saying, ‘Please do not think goth kids think this way, please don’t think that we are this way, we don’t approve of this, this is terrible, please do not think that we feel this way about you.’ That always stuck with me, and that story is never told in film. Those kids are never taken seriously.”

Clark’s sympathetic attitude towards the film’s religious characters — which include another nun played by Re-Animator and You’re Next actress Barabara Crampton — is also rooted in the director’s own life. “My mother is an Episcopal priest,” says Clark. “I’m coming off of a movie (2013’s White Reindeer), where it opens with a murder and an hour in there’s an orgy scene. People would be like, ‘Well, what are you making next?’ I’d go, ‘I’m making a movie about a nun.’ They’d be like, ‘Oh, she goes to an orgy or something crazy?’ ‘No, no, none of that.’ My Mom has seen it. She’s organizing a little screening of it at the church!”

Little Sister is distributed by Forager Films, whose founders include director Joe Swanberg. The movie is currently screening in select cities and is also available to watch via Amazon and iTunes.

You can see the film’s trailer below.