Private Project

Michelle Remembers

A true story of false memory, Michelle Remembers is a feature-length documentary horror film exploring the origins and spread of the infamous Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Forty years on, the film traces the mass hysteria as it spread from the publication of the infamous book Michelle Remembers, through the mass media to Europe, Canada, Australia and beyond, and eventually to the tragic McMartin Preschool trial of Manhattan Beach, California, one of the longest and most expensive trials in U.S. history. Blending archive, reconstruction, animation and oral testimony, the film uncovers the forces at play between psychiatry, horror, television talk-shows, and false memory.

  • Pia Borg
  • Pia Borg
  • Helen Olive
  • Dylan Borg
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Completion Date:
    March 3, 2020
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Pia Borg

Pia Borg was recently named as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film in Filmmaker magazine. In 2017 her film SILICA was featured in the Maltese Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. She is the recipient of numerous prizes including the Pardino dor’o for best international short (Locarno Film Festival 2014) for the experimental documentary ABANDONED GOODS. She is currently working on her first feature, an adaptation of the short DEMONIC, presented in the 58th edition of La Semaine de la Critique.

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Director Statement

Since I first discovered the events and characters at the heart of the film, I have been driven to bring this story to a contemporary audience. I believe these personal stories are both compelling in their own right as well as illustrative of a larger truth about the cultural and political forces shaping our society. The central questions driving the film are: How does a mass hysteria manifest in society? Why do humans need to invent a devil? And what does the devil represent about the social and political climate of the era? The answers are both historically fascinating and especially resonant to our present moment.

Looking back, it’s clear that the true devil of this story was not Satan himself but rather this was a moral panic spread by media sensationalism, by religious fanatics and by the very system that was put in place to protect women and children: the mental health and legal systems. Some analysts have suggested that the panic was fueled by a media-driven backlash against second-wave feminism, motivated by concerns about working women and liberalized abortion laws. Indeed, the most common site for accusations was the daycare center, pushing social anxieties about working mothers trusting their children to institutional care.

The film will also question what constitutes memory. The skepticism towards Satanic Abuse cases led to research into False Memory Syndrome, finding that memory is not a reliable ‘recording device’. Rather, memory is malleable and can be altered by playing back and thinking about information we've observed or which we hear or see others recount. It is therefore particularly vulnerable to media tools – images, sounds and voices. My challenge as a filmmaker is to find a way to explore both the notion of false memory on-screen and the complex threads that led to this mass hysteria. I believe the prism of the 1980s Satanic Panic is a perfect tool to delve into these human frailties. While this story began nearly forty years ago, the notion of mass hysterias and fears being perpetrated by the media and its increasing dissemination of false information is more pressing than ever.