It was raining the day Sadie Martin and her sister Lauren kissed their mom goodbye one last time. The girls clutched each other, confused , devastated, angry and questioning why their mom—their happy, fun-loving mom—had taken her own life, and in the process, torn theirs apart.
But that rain wasn’t actually rain. And their mother wasn’t actually dead. And Sadie Martin’s wasn’t really Sadie Martin. Rather, she is Caroline Bercaw, an 11-year-old Edina resident who is featured in a new independent film produced in Minnesota. To Say Goodbye follows a family after the mother commits suicide.
“The film is a journey about living beyond a tragedy,” says Hamid Torabpour, the film’s writer and producer. “Suicides can happen for a variety of reasons but the outcome is always the same: pain, grief and un-answered questions.”
Torabpour and his wife Camille founded the Color Dash in 2012, an organization that sponsors 5K races that blast bright, non-toxic colors on runners’ T-shirts. The money raised from the races benefits local charities, as well as the independent film company Winter State Entertainment, which Torabpour started and works on with his brother Tim.
With that money, the Torabpour brothers hope to produce two films a year, one that’s serious and one that’s light-hearted. By focusing on suicide, Hamid Torabpour hopes to shed light on an issue often shrouded in secrecy.
“You get one life,” says Hamid Torabpour, a father of four. “As long as you’re breathing, you can make things better. There’s a chance to change things. I’m 30 years old. I [like to think I] have 70 years left to make money. I want people to watch this and say ‘Wow.’ This really changed my life.”
Bercaw, who competed with more than 30 other girls for this role, plays an older sister who pushes away support from friends and family members, including her aunt who eventually becomes one of her caregivers.
“Even though you’re acting, it’s still hard,” says the Valley View Middle School student. “I’d have to go into a room and listen to sad music and just be by myself to get into character before a difficult scene. But if this movie can save even one life, it’s so worth it.”
Kim Bercaw, Caroline’s mom off-screen, admits she was a little apprehensive when they learned about the topic. “Suicide is sometimes romanticized in the media, but this film does not paint that picture,” she says. “Beth [the mom in the film] goes into the garage and turns on the ignition … and that’s it. This story focuses on the idea that if you are contemplating suicide, maybe there’s another option.”
Last May and June, Caroline and her mom all but moved for days at a time to Owatonna, where the movie was filmed, and settled into a local hotel. The schedule was rigorous and required early mornings and late nights.
“We’d start at 8 a.m. and not get done until 11 at night,” Kim Bercaw says. “I’d get in the car and I’d expect Caroline to be exhausted. Instead, she’d be so energized. You could tell she was in her element.” The Torabpour brothers hope to distribute To Say Goodbye in schools across the country. They also plan to offer a downloadable version on the film’s website. They are already working on their next two projects: one about social media in the political realm and the other about zombies.
Meanwhile, Caroline has already moved on to a new role—one of director, writer and actor. She is producing her own movie, this one about mermaids.
To learn more about To Say Goodbye, visit their website.