S. Epatha Merkerson has been cast in the gothic family drama Desmond’s Not Here Anymore, which from director Mmabatho Montsho – Shadow and Act has learned. The Law & Order alumna and Chicago Med star joins previously announced star Yolanda Ross (The Chi). The film was written by Lindiwe Suttle Müller-Westernhagen.

Desmond’s Not Here Anymore is the 2019 Oscar-Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival Screenplay Contest winning script. The competition is sponsored by the Seattle Film Summit, which is financing the short. The film explores “the relational interplay between a resilient daughter and her mother who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.” HollyShorts’ production company, 88th Street Productions, is behind the project.

“Reading the Desmond’s Not Here Anymore script was an experience in its own right,” said Montsho. “Lindiwe’s writing is breathtaking, and her way with characters and world-building is reminiscent of Toni Morrison; it invites you to walk hand in hand with each character as they work through their personal horrors in search of true healing. I am looking forward to bringing this experience to the screen.” 

“I’m a survivor of abuse and sat with this ‘secret’ for so long that I felt I had to tell my story,” said Müller-Westernhagen, talking on the film’s themes, which include sexual abuse, dementia and self-care. “ I started writing it, but fear stopped me. It took me a year to write 12 pages. Finally, watching a documentary on sexual abuse served as a trigger. The stories in this documentary helped me finish telling mine,” she says. “I had hoped to heal my own wounds and maybe inspire other sexual abuse survivors to tell their own stories.”

Desmond’s Not Here Anymore is set to film in July 2021 in Seattle, Washington.  Other recent short films financed through the HollyShorts competition have been Jameson by John Humber, Lunchbox Brigade by Kyle Thiele, and The Son The Father by Lukas Hassel.

S. Epatha Merkerson is repped by ICM and McGowan Rodriguez. Lindiwe Suttle Müller-Westernhagen is repped by Alta Global Media.