A devoted Christian turns her back on the Church to pursue a path of sexual enlightenment and love through Tantra. This is My Break Up With God, the documentary of Caitlyn Cook and the latest short film by Sweetshop’s Zoe McIntosh.
Yes, it’s a film that might shock. It intends to challenge its audiences’ ingrained ideas and biases.
Cook writes in her blog, “It’s a love story. Two, in fact. With breakups and reunions, the film explores how power, freedom and love aren’t found ‘out there’, but in here, through the self and sexuality. God is not a genie in a bottle stuck in someone’s church or Bible, but in everythinggggg and sexuality is a gateway to remembering this.”
She told the New Zealand Herald, “I felt this massive call to explore mindfulness and eventually tantra. It was do or die, really. Through these paths I rediscovered my self-worth, self-love, and authentic desire… I discovered how spirituality can include Ecstasy, sexuality, grit, and joy.”
Here is the film:
McIntosh told the New Zealand Herald, “The film is a story of courage and a reminder to step to the beat of your own drum… There is still a taboo around women’s sexual expression but Caitlyn forces us to question our ideas on female sexuality and our beliefs around sex.”
Here is the rest of her story about the film:
How did you come up with the idea for the film?
I was researching for a fictional film script (honest!). The character at the heart of the script was a washed-up male, tantra guru. Not knowing anything about the world of sexual enlightenment or these types of characters, I wanted to speak to someone from within it. As I trolled through the options of ‘gurus’, Caitlyn Cook was certainly the most approachable and less creepy option. So I arranged to meet with her.
Through Caitlyn, I gained insight into the world, which I needed for the script. But beyond that, I couldn’t help but think there was an interesting documentary about her. She was refreshingly unconventional in her thinking and brave with her life choices. Coming from an extremely conservative Christian family, she was definitely a black sheep. This difference was a constant struggle for her, and still is. Her internal conflict around this fascinated me.
What themes does it explore?
Power, courage, freedom and female sexuality.
What did you want your audience to question?
I wanted the film to challenge an audience to consider and question their own moral code around sex and sexuality. Particularly female sexuality.
You’ve unearthed some very unique characters. What personality traits did you want to bring to life?
All my stories tend to explore characters who are outsiders to some degree. They’ve been brave enough to pull away from convention, in order to pursue a path which is less trodden. Often this comes with a cost. I like telling stories which celebrate individuals’ courage and diversity. Having the guts to step to the beat of your own drum is a quality I admire a lot.
How willing was Caitlyn to tell her story?
Like with all documentaries, your subjects need to trust you fully. It took substantial time to build Caitlyn’s trust. She was very reluctant about including her parents in the story, as she feared for their reputation and the shame the film could potentially cause.
And her parents?
If I’m honest, I don’t think her parents knew entirely what they were getting themselves into. I was surprised how little they knew about what their daughter, Caitlyn, did for a job. When they first saw the film, it came as a slight shock to them. But they came around to it and ultimately supported it in the end.
Who produced the short for you?
Frith Armstrong. She was great.
What were the main challenges of the production and how did you resolve them?
Lack of money is always a challenge. However, I got great support from friends and the industry. The other issue was having a character at the centre of my film who was very nervous about how the film would affect her family. That was a genuine concern and one I resolved through constant communication and transparency throughout the process.
How has the short been received so far?
The film has been received well. It just premiered at DOCNY, Americas largest international documentary film festival.
As a commercial director, it’s important for me to constantly be working outside of advertising. I love the challenges that come with creating longer form work and the playfulness that comes from working in a small team.