ORPHAN CHILD (UNADANIYADV DINIYOLI)
by Heidi-Marie Ferren
Set in the late 1980’s fresh off the establishment of the Indigenous Children’s Act, this live-action dramedy in the tone of I MAY DESTROY YOU and HAPPY unpacks foster care and abuse from the eyes of a 4-year-old half-Cherokee little girl, Nina (N-eye-nuh) Hensley, as she fights her way through a broken system accompanied by a fuzzy bad ass imaginary friend/ id embodied/ spirit guide, Ruthie (SNL’s Leslie Jones meets a Teddy Ruxbin-Red Fraggle-esque bear doll). Nina’s rattled yet resilient mother, Aiyana Hensley, 20s, differently-abled, Cherokee, and her disarmingly handsome and manipuluative Caucasian father, Rick Baldwin, form two halves of Nina’s puzzle constantly at odds with each other in the fight for her forever home. What ensues, is a complex web of a child welfare and justice system ill equipped to determine the safety or security of those it is meant to protect.
The first episode sees the adults battle their own demons as hard as each other to win Nina’s custody as Nina struggles to figure out why she has been taken from her mother – the only safe place she has ever known or had- and placed into foster care. Nina sinks further into depression as she sees her fellow foster youth slowly adopted or placed with other families while she is only allowed to visit her mother sporadically. Finally, after the painful realization that she may never go home again, Nina, begins to speak her truth in an appointment with her annoyingly sedate court ordered child psychologist. As she speaks, the raw and painful truth behind the darkly comic puppet bloodbath ending the pilot’s cold open, is revealed: the first of many abuses at the hands of her father. Unfortunately for Nina it is only the beginning of a fight Ruthie can never fully protect her from, no matter how many surprisingly ornate weapons she wields.
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