I had the chance to interview Alicia Harris in the hotel she was raped in to discuss what it took for her to go public about her story.
“Maybe if it were a nice room with bedding that was pristine, you would have wanted it to stay that way.” Alicia Harris recites the poem she wrote for Maybe If It Were a Nice Room, a short film based on her personal account of rape.
Harris takes her viewers through one minute and 30 seconds of beautiful spaces to illustrate her poem — a tea room, a clock room, a room of old photographs — placed cleverly in juxtaposition with the ugliness of rape.
She transitions from scene to scene slowly, enabling her viewers to absorb her story. There is symbolism in every feature of the film, such as the single white flower in a room full of plants, which marks the loss of her virginity to a man 10 years her senior. The 23-year-old film director is armed with brilliant production skills fit for a compelling interpretation of rape.
Harris’ lifeless and indifferent tone is in stark contrast to the disturbing impact of rape and is a different take on sexual violence. Through her visual portrayal, she brings the viewer back to the night of her rape.
Harris was raped by her date after a New Year’s Eve party when she was 19. Five years later, she wrote about it. But with her story now public, Harris is conflicted about being the face behind the story. It can be heard in her compelling narration. Her silent pauses linger throughout the film and move the audience from scene to scene, all while discussing the darkness of sexual assault. Her film proves that Harris has never been more sure about recalling her vivid personal story, even though it’s difficult.
‘Maybe If It Were a Nice Room’ changes the definition of a rapist. Harris’ point is clear, behind the beautifully adorned spaces is the powerful message that rape does not just happen in a dark alley. She was raped by someone she was dating and she wants others to understand that experience.
The film ends in a dimly lit hotel room, with the faint silhouette of ruffled sheets and clothes splayed out on the floor. It is not obvious something so horrifying had taken place, without incorporating the previous spaces. And that is Harris’ way of showing that rape can happen anywhere, anytime, with anyone. It didn’t look as ugly as the traditional idea of rape, but Harris wants you to know despite the silk sheets in the hotel room from New Year’s Eve, it was.
You can watch the entire short film right here: