In Crystal Skin exists in three different lengths: short, feature, and broadcast. Below are the synopses for both the short and feature film.
In Crystal Skin – Feature
In Crystal Skin provides a glimpse into the lives of four individuals living with the same rare disease in Bogotá, Colombia. Largely avoiding the broader context of disease science, the film instead delves into quiet, intimate moments between characters and the families that help care for them. Maria Alejandra, a charismatic 11-year old, struggles to attend school despite her mother’s determined prodding. When Maria refuses to wake up for school one morning, the ensuing drama shows the difficult conflicts that arise between parents and children with rare diseases. The film moves across the city to three other characters: Miguel, a middle-aged man who, despite the fragility of his skin, has made a living as a foot messenger in the bustling and oftentimes dangerous capital city, and Nury and Nixa, two sisters in their early twenties who attempt to pursue dreams of independence while living in an orphanage. By immersing audiences into daily routines, the film reveals the tremendous fortitude of those who live with a rare disease.
In Crystal Skin – Short
In Bogotá, Colombia, a charismatic eleven year old named Maria Alejandra struggles to maintain a normal childhood despite the limitations imposed by a rare skin disease. Conflict between mother and daughter arises when Maria refuses to attend school early one morning.
Michaela O’Brien is a documentary artist and multimedia producer currently based in Durham, NC. She holds an MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and a BA in Sociology and International Studies from Boston College. She has worked at non-fiction and documentary media outlets as an Associate Producer, Production Manager, Cinematographer, and Archival Researcher. Her work includes documentary broadcast specials for outlets such as the Investigation Discovery Channel and award-winning audiovisual installations and interactive videos for a variety of acclaimed museums. She is currently teaching in the department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies at Duke University. Her moving image and photographic works have been featured in film festivals and galleries worldwide.
Melissa is a nonfiction filmmaker from Washington, DC. She holds an MFA in Documentary Film & Video from Stanford University and a BA in History from Carleton College. She has made media for permanent museum installations around the country and has worked for the Philadelphia Film Society, the People’s Production House, and Creative Time. Her short films include Hauled Out, Treasure Island, and Terms of Intimacy. Her most recent film, My Aleppo, tells the story of a young Syrian family in South Africa as they struggle to retain ties to the ancient city of Aleppo. She is the recipient of a UFVA Carole Fielding Grant and her films have premiered at Telluride Film Festival, Hot Docs, SXSW, and Big Sky.
In Crystal Skin began in 2010 after I traveled to Colombia to work as a photographer with a foundation that served children in Bogotá. While shooting, I met one of the main characters, and her grit and optimism captured my interest. The film was born from that chance encounter.
As a two-woman crew, Melissa and I filled all production roles while living alongside our characters in their homes. This allowed us to intimately experience their day-to-day routines and gave a rawness to our storytelling. We did all of our fundraising from a grassroots level by hosting events in our neighborhood and crowdsourcing through Indiegogo. It took a lot of stamina to keep an independent film afloat over the course of four years. We committed ourselves to raising funds, taking the time to do so between work and graduate school, but our dedication to the strength of the film’s characters kept us focused.
Emotionally engaging and visually stirring, In Crystal Skin offers glimpses of the fortitude and courage embodied by those with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). This documentary highlights a dedicated network of patients, parents and doctors battling just one of the world’s 7,000 rare diseases. Our hope is that the personal experiences captured in this film will spur much needed dialogue about managing life with a rare disease.