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In ‘Test Pattern,’ St. Louis Native Sheds Dramatic Light On Systemic Failures Around Sexual Assault

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Shatara Michelle Ford
"Test Pattern" draws on real-life examples intertwining the health care system, the #MeToo movement and race relations in America as a young Black woman navigates the medical system after a sexual assault.

Among the offerings of this year’s St. Louis International Film Festival is “Test Pattern.” It is the first feature film by St. Louis native Shatara Michelle Ford and follows a young Black woman as she navigates the medical and justice systems after an assault.

Described as “part psychological horror movie and part realistic drama,” Ford’s movie draws on real-life examples intertwining the health care system, the #MeToo movement and race relations in America.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Ford joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about their film and its themes. While the movie is set in Austin, Texas, Ford knows the film resonates beyond the state. And St. Louis and Austin have the commonality of being liberal cities in conservative states.

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Shatara Michelle Ford on the set of "Test Pattern," their first feature film.

“The things that I experienced, and I was analyzing, having grown up in St. Louis, I could definitely explore that in Austin as well, especially on the front of policies. I think that Texas has their own culture of some pretty strict and conservative reproductive access and bodily justice policies. And Missouri does too,” Ford said.

Access to rape kits is a focal issue brought to light in the film.

“I read a lot about rape kits not being tested, the backlog that we think we all know about. But the thing that shocked me the most, and just kind of my deep research into this, is the fact that rape kits themselves are really hard to come by in many places,” they said.

For example, the kits are often not in stock, centers might try to illegally charge for them, or victims of sexual assault might not know they’re entitled to a forensic exam.

“I wanted to kind of go through that experience and have a deeper analysis of the kind of systemic problems that exist within navigating sexual assault and consent.”

Related Event

What: “Test Pattern
When: Now through Nov. 22
Where: $10 online

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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