Dennis Story Script

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“EXT. RIVER – MORNING – 1979


DENNIS (20s) stands knee deep in the river, fully clothed. Serious. Morning rays beam through thick air, send shards of light reflecting off the water, and touching Dennis like a blessing from heaven. We PUSH IN on him.


OKOTH (V.O.)
My son. Do as I say, and it will go
well for you.


MATCH CUT TO:


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – DAY – FLASHBACK


A young DENNIS (10) stands just where Dennis was. Attentive. Formal. His father OKOTH stands beside him.


OKOTH (V.O.)
Honor me, and you will receive honor.


Young Dennis looks up at Okoth and mirrors him in performing a Luo ritual. ????


EXT. RIVER – CONTINUOUS


PHILLIP (20s) and Dennis stand in the river. Phillip has a hand on Dennis’ back.


PHILLIP
Dennis. You have asked to be baptized, in accordance with your faith.


Dennis nods.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – DAY – FLASHBACK


Young Dennis performs duties as the first son. ????


OKOTH (V.O.)
Someday, you will take my place, in headship of our clan. Preserving our rites, our rituals.


EXT. RIVER – CONTINUOUS


Phillip & Dennis in the river.

PHILLIP
To accept Christ. Turning away from your old life. From all that has come before.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – DAY – FLASHBACK


Young Dennis tends to his father’s cattle. Gently herding them through a sun-drenched field.


OKOTH (V.O.)
I will give you new lands, to grow cattle. To become wealthy.


EXT. RIVER – CONTINUOUS
Phillip & Dennis in the river.


PHILLIP
Forsaking all earthly possessions. Counting all as loss.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – NIGHT – FLASHBACK
Young Dennis receives a beating from Okoth. Okoth berates him.

OKOTH (V.O.)
If you heed my discipline, and submit to my instruction…


EXT. RIVER – CONTINUOUS
Phillip & Dennis in the river.


PHILLIP
Appointing Christ alone as Lord.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – DAY – FLASHBACK
Young Dennis eats at a large meal with friends and family. We see them laughing and enjoying each other.


OKOTH (V.O.)
…then you will have the strength
to protect our clan.


EXT. RIVER – CONTINUOUS
Phillip and Dennis in the river.


PHILLIP
To serve only Christ.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – DAY – FLASHBACK
Young Dennis at a Luo ceremony. His father offers something to him – holds out something for him to take…????


EXT. RIVER – CONTINUOUS
Phillip and Dennis in the water.


PHILLIP
To enter, with Him, into a new life. In this calling I baptize you, my brother, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.


These VARIOUS FLASHBACKS of Dennis’ life build into a cacophony of visual noise. Memories of him playing in the field with the cattle. Of his father beating him. Of his duties as a son. Of meals shared with laughing family and loved ones. All the promises of his life flash through his mind at a FEVER PITCH as Phillip lowers him backwards into the water…

PHILLIP (V.O.)
Buried with Christ in baptism…


And then WHOOM.
The whole world goes QUIET once he goes under. The flashbacks STOP. We are in a sensory deprivation tank with him now…


OVERHEAD CU on Dennis under the river water. His hand holding his nose closed.
He STAYS underwater for a long beat… strangely long… PEACE, after a deluge of internal conflict.


EXT. POND – DAY
A BUCKET surges into the bank and GURGLES as it sucks in water.


MARY (20s) is gathering water at the pond. We see her from a distance. She picks the water up to carry back, just as someone runs up and tells her something we DON’T HEAR.


She stops. Listens. She DROPS the water and starts RUNNING. She runs by shepherds tending their goats.
She runs by children playing. The green, hilly Kenyan landscape stretches behind her in the distance.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – CONTINUOUS
Mary RUNS through the gate, down the path and into the OKOTH COMPOUND. The compound is alive with women working over grindstones. Men sitting and talking. Smoke from burning fires. Animals braying, their handlers watching Mary run by curiously.


She runs toward the mud hut of DENNIS’ HOUSE…


INT. DENNIS’ HOUSE – CONTINUOUS
A large, leather-bound BIBLE sits open on the bed. Dennis is hunched over it, reading.

Mary RUNS into the door frame and crouches there. The two see each other. Serious. A pregnant moment.


MARY
You’re back.


DENNIS

MARY
…Is it true?


A smile, wide as the day is long, breaks across Dennis’ face. Mary’s concentration shifts to relief and joy.
Both stand in the center of the house and slowly embrace.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – AFTERNOON – LATER
The Okoth family is gathered for a meal. Food is set out in front of the elders. At the center of this ring sits OKOTH (50s). He presides over the distribution like a judicious king. Once it’s all set out, everyone waits.

Everyone looks to OKOTH… hanging on his reaction.


He looks around at the family. All avert their eyes as he inspects them. All waiting. All afraid.


OKOTH
…Where is my son?


EXT. TREE – AFTERNOON
A small group of people gathered under the shade of a branching tree.


DENNIS is in the middle, talking excitedly. He’s slapping backs, poking ribs, palling around. The spiritual and jovial life of the party.


DENNIS
You? What about you? What do you want?


Dennis points to a man sitting down. FRIEND (20-30s) The others smile and laugh, anticipating what’s coming.


FRIEND
I want to be wealthy.


DENNIS
Wealthy! Why?


FRIEND
So I can have more wives!


Some laughs.


DENNIS
Ah! Wives? What do you want with more wives? You have a wife! You can’t even keep one women in your head, but you want three in your house?


Laughs from the group. Dennis pats Friend on the back kindly.


DENNIS (CONT’D)
This, this, this, they say! The world gives us burdens, not blessings! See? They told me get married. They said go to work. ‘I don’t want to go to work, I want to go to school!’ I go to work anyway!
(MORE)


DENNIS (CONT’D)
Before we know it the burdens of life are heavy on us. I’m telling you my own experience.


Dennis’ passion has calmed the laughing crowd. All look at him with burning eyes. He looks at the captivated group and finds MARY, watching him.


DENNIS (CONT’D)
Jesus? Jesus did not give me more wives. He gave me deeper love with the wife I have.


Mary smiles at him.


Dennis raises the Bible up, and looks back at the crowd.


DENNIS (CONT’D)
…Jesus… is the only one that has ever given me true relief.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – LATE AFTERNOON
Dennis walks back toward his hut with the black leather Bible under his arm.


Okoth leans on the stone wall of the cattle pin and oversees as they’re driven back in for the night. Some men remove a YOKE from one of the cows and throw the OXE CHAIN onto the wall of the pin.


Okoth watches Dennis walk past with a critical eye.


OKOTH
You look like a little boy with sugar cane… carrying that book everywhere you go.


Dennis stops. He looks down at the book.


DENNIS
It’s sweeter than sugar cane.
…But harder to chew.


A dry joke. His father does not appreciate it. He keeps looking at the cows.

OKOTH
They told me you’re shaming me in the village.


Dennis comes up next to his father.


DENNIS
Who told you that?


Inside the pin, some men work together to INJECT one of the cows with medicine using a syringe. The cow bleats a small complaint.


OKOTH
It’s not enough that you insult our traditions. Ignore our rituals. Now you despise your own family? You chastise me openly for my wives?


Now Dennis understands.


DENNIS
Father. No. …I didn’t mean-


OKOTH”
“-Quiet!


Dennis stops, respectfully.


OKOTH (CONT’D)
I’ve had enough of your Jesus! I don’t want you talking in the village. I don’t want you reading that book anymore. It’s rotting your head!


Okoth looks at Dennis with cold, focused eyes. Locked in.


OKOTH (CONT’D)
Strength. That is what you need to lead this clan. Not Jesus.


Okoth spits, like the name is poison in his mouth. Dennis respectfully turns and walks away.


Okoth watches him go, angry.


INT. DENNIS’ HOUSE – CONTINUOUS
Dennis gets back to his hut to find Mary crying on the floor.


The hut has been completely GUTTED except for a few items laying on the ground. The walls have been stripped. The bedding taken. The plates and dishes all gone.


He crouches, grabs her by the shoulders.


DENNIS
What happened? Where is everything?

MARY
…They took it.


DENNIS
…What?


MARY
Your mother… She took all the wedding gifts back. She said I can’t cook in her kitchen. I didn’t know what to do… I told them to stop, but…


Mary’s emotions get the better of her.


DENNIS
…Are you okay?


MARY
…How are we going to eat?


Dennis doesn’t know. He just hugs her.


Nothing much in the apartment now but the two tattered believers and the Bible on the floor.


EXT. RIVER – MORNING
OVERHEAD CU: DENNIS, still mid-baptism… still under water. His hand still holding his nose. The stream runs over his face, distorting it. We stay here for a moment.


A bubble leaks out from his mouth. …He’s not coming up. Still buried with Christ.


MATCH CUT TO:


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – NIGHT
BUBBLES in a pot of water. Ugali flour is poured in and mixed.


A FEAST


Full of people laughing, dancing, playing. Children rough- housing. Food sizzles in a pot. A woman now works a paddle stirring the Ugali.


Near and distant members of the Okoth family are here. Dennis and Mary are among the participants. Over these scenes of merrymaking, we hear:


ADVISOR (O.S.)
The Christians have come to splinter Africa.


Now we see: Okoth sits beside a camp fire, watching the flames lick at charred wood.


The party goes on at a distance.


Beside him sits his ADVISOR (50s), leaning toward him… whispering in his ear. The serpent in the garden.


ADVISOR (CONT’D)
They baptize the man and make him choose only one of his wives to keep. His others are abandoned.
Thrown to the wilderness and the wolves. Christianity is a plague, destroying families, and clans. Now it has a foothold in your house.


Okoth looks out at the gathering of his whole family. Observing what’s at stake.


OKOTH
I’ve told the boy. He refuses to listen. …His brother will take up his duties. I’ve already decided.


Okoth says it as if that’s the end of the matter. The Advisor scoots in a little closer. Silhouetted in the campfire, his mouth turned to Okoth’s open ear.


ADVISOR
It’s not enough. Christianity is the weakness that will destroy you.


Okoth looks at his Advisor. Afraid. Serious.


ADVISOR (CONT’D)
There is a man. A man that can deal with this sort of thing.


BACK AT THE FESTIVITIES: The FRIEND that Dennis spoke to when he was preaching stands up.


FRIEND
Dennis! Dennis come give us a speech! Give us one of your talks!


The crowd cheers. Okoth watches, a twitch in his eye.
Dennis, filled with mirth and overflowing with love, stands up in front of everyone.”

DENNIS
What do you want to hear?


FRIEND
Tell them what you told us! Tell them what you did!


DENNIS
Ah… what I did? No, no. Not what I did. That’s the whole point. See? You all know I went away to work in Mombasa. I met a man there that told me something I had listened to many times before, but had never heard. He told me about this man Jesus. All I can do now is tell you what he did…


From the back of the crowd, Mary listens. Her smile at watching Dennis in his element slowly fades, and concern furrows her brow.


She turns and looks across the party, to where Okoth is seated with his advisor.


The Advisor is still leaned over, whispering into Okoth’s ear. Okoth is quietly fuming as he watches Dennis preach.
Mary grows more concerned.


INT. DENNIS’ HOUSE – MORNING
Mary sits against the wall of the hut and runs her thumb over ROSARY BEADS, nervous. Dennis SITS UP from his bed. Morning light just barely filtering in to edge him out.


DENNIS
You couldn’t sleep?


MARY
…All our marriage I worried that you would know God. Now that you do… I’m more worried than ever.
Dennis climbs out of bed and sits next to her.


DENNIS
I’m worried too.
She looks at him, surprised at the admission.


DENNIS (CONT’D)
But I was worried before I knew God. For the first time in my life, there’s also joy. Courage.
He gives her a reassuring smile. She tries to smile back as she rubs the beads.


EXT. ROAD – SIMULTANEOUS
The Kenyan landscape stretches behind Mary. She walks back toward the compound with sacks of groceries in hand.


A CAR comes down the road, dragging a cloud of dust behind it. A WHITE VOLKSWAGON.


It ZOOMS past her. She stops and watches it move toward the COMPOUND.


Concern on Mary’s face… she starts RUNNING.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – SIMULTANEOUS


The Volkswagon pulls through the gate and down the road of the compound. It STOPS in front of Okoth’s hut.


The door opens… and BARE, PAINTED FEET step out. The WITCHDOCTOR.


EXT. ROAD – SIMULTANEOUS


Mary’s still running home.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – SIMULTANEOUS


Dennis comes out of his house and sees a group of men standing in front of his Father’s hut. The white Volkswagon.


He begins walking toward them. Waving.


DENNIS
Hello Uncle! How are you?


Once the men see him, they walk toward him. Serious. Dennis sees the OXE CHAIN in one of their hands.


DENNIS (CONT’D)
…What’s going on?

Without a word the men GRAB DENNIS by the arms and DRAG him back into the house.”


DENNIS (CONT’D)
What are you doing?


INT. DENNIS’ HOUSE – CONTINUOUS
The men DRAG DENNIS inside and hold him down. Dennis shouts but does not resist.


DENNIS
Why are you doing this? What are
you doing?


ATTACKER
Quiet! Tie him up!


DENNIS
Why are you doing this! You know me! Stop it!


INT. OKOTH’S HOUSE – SIMULTANEOUS


Okoth hands money over to the WITCHDOCTOR. We do not yet see the Witchdoctor’s face. He’s a shadow on the wall. A silhouette in the door. A phantom, out of focus.


Dennis’ mother sits, her back turned to the dealings… on the brink of tears.


Once the Witchdoctor is paid, he picks up his bag and leaves the hut.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – CONTINUOUS


We track with the Witchdoctor FROM BEHIND as he moves toward Dennis’ hut. …The MEDICAL BAG in his hand…


Okoth comes out of his hut just in time to see Mary running through the gate. He goes back inside.


INT. DENNIS’ HOUSE – CONTINUOUS


Dennis is now chained up. One man has him in a headlock. Two others hold his arms. Another chains him. More hold his legs.


The light inside the hut dims. In the entryway crouches the WITCHDOCTOR, with a wicked smile.

He comes up to the struggling Dennis and sets his bag on the ground. He draws out of it a CATTLE SYRINGE, filled with WHITE LIQUID. He holds the liquid up in front of his grinning face.


He leans in to Dennis.


WITCHDOCTOR
You’ve wasted your father’s wealth. Now I will take the rest and fix you.


He INSERTS the needle into Dennis arm and INJECTS the white liquid. Dennis SHOUTS in pain.


Mary RUNS into the opening of the house, DISTRAUGHT.

MARY
What are you doing?! Why are you doing this?! Stop it!


DENNIS POV: Mary’s cries ring as if from a distance. The men holding him become smearing shadows.


DENNIS
Mary…


OKOTH (O.S.)

Get out!


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – CONTINUOUS
Mary turns around from the door of her house to see Okoth with the spear, raising it high to attack.


OKOTH
You get out of here!


Mary comes out from the door frame and backs away from Okoth. He takes JABS at her with the spear.


OKOTH (CONT’D)
Do you want to die with him? Huh? Get out of my house! Get out! Or you’re next!


He chases Mary at the point of a spear, she’s mourning, afraid… torn between staying for her husband or running for her life.


OKOTH (CONT’D)
GO!


Another prod with the spear and Mary takes off running out of the complex.


INT. DENNIS’ HOUSE – CONTINUOUS


The men release Dennis. He drops to the ground… his eyes roll into the back of his head. He begins CONVULSING on the ground, still wrapped in rattling chains…


OVERHEAD ANGLE: Dennis’ eyes white and veiny, rolled up into his head. Foaming at the mouth. Convulsing.


MATCH CUT TO:


EXT. RIVER – MORNING


OVERHEAD CU: DENNIS, still mid-baptism… still under water. His hand still holding his nose.


Suddenly a ream of bubbles blow out of his lips. Breaths flowing up from his nose and mouth steadily now. He’s been underwater for a long time…


He’s DROWNING. …Until he’s not anymore. He goes still…

Still buried with Christ.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – MORNING


The compound is strangely quiet. Though there are people everywhere. They stand outside Dennis’ hut with heads bowed.


Dennis’ mother WEEPS in loud, long bellows. It is the only noise.


INT. DENNIS’ HOUSE – CONTINUOUS


Dennis lays in his bed. SWOLLEN all over his body. FRIEND sits down beside him and places a hand on his chest.


A moment. Then DENNIS CONVULSES slightly.


FRIEND jumps up! Frightened and surprised at first, then grows concerned….

EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – MOMENTS LATER


Friend steps out of Dennis’ hut and looks over all the people, troubled. He looks to OKOTH, who stands rigidly. His wife weeps beside him.


FRIEND
Why have you called a funeral for a man that isn’t dead?


Okoth looks at him, contained shock in his expression.


Everyone looks around at each other, surprised. They begin to go into the hut to see and come out. FRIEND gestures to Okoth.


FRIEND (CONT’D)
This is no illness. This is black medicine. You’re a wicked man. This is a wicked man!


FRIEND leaves with a cold shoulder. Slowly the rest of the crowd begins to do the same.


Okoth watches as the faces of his family and clansmen pass by him… all with disgust in their expression.


Even the men who helped to subdue Dennis walk by, shame and regret in their face. For the first time… OKOTH’s face grows long…


INT. OKOTH’S HOUSE – DAY


Okoth sits, solid as a statue. Light pours in from the door, but does not strike his face. He sits alone in his house, in the shadow of regret. The MOURNING of his wife can still be heard outside.


Slowly… the light dims… until OKOTH is in the… DARK. A moment. Then…


INT. NAIROBI APARTMENT – DAY – 2005


A CUPBOARD opens, revealing MARY. We’re inside the cupboard looking at her. She’s older. Much older. She sees a bag of flour and pulls it from the cupboard.


We watch her prepare a meal. She sets a pot on an electric stove. She opens a can of beans with a can opener.

She inputs numbers into a microwave. She washes vegetables in the sink. All the modern conveniences of city life.


The doorbell RINGS. She stops.


INT./EXT. NAIROBI APARTMENT – DAY


She opens the door. Her expression DEFLATES when she sees who’s knocked.


OKOTH. An old man now. Sad. Penitent.


Mary glares at him. Fear. Anger. Resentment.


MARY
What are you doing here?


OKOTH
…Can I come in?


INT. NAIROBI APARTMENT – DAY – MOMENTS LATER


Both sit at a kitchen table. Okoth’s head hung on his slouched shoulders.


Awkward silence.


OKOTH
Your plants look good.


MARY


OKOTH
You were always good with plants.


MARY


OKOTH
I came… to… I came to ask your forgiveness.


MARY


OKOTH
Back then. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t… mean to-


MARY
-Six days.


Her voice has a bite that stings. Okoth looks at her. A beaten man against her barely-contained fury and grief.


MARY (CONT’D)
Six days you let him lay there. Without food or water. You killed him. And you didn’t even look at him. …I did.


EXT. OKOTH COMPOUND – DAY


BACK AT THE FUNERAL: Mary watches from the bushes.


INT. DENNIS’ HOUSE – NIGHT


Mary creeps softly into the hut and rests next to Dennis’ swollen body. She places a hand on his chest…


MARY (V.O.)
Every night I came back and prayed for him.


Mary kneels down and prays.


MARY
(praying)
All my longings lie open before you, Lord. My sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me. Even the light has gone from my eyes.


MONTAGE – we see Mary returning to Dennis each night. Putting a cool wash cloth on his head. Holding his swollen body as he jumps and convulses. Praying fervently over him. Sleeping beside his bed. Holding his swollen hands.


The Prayer continues OVER ALL.


MARY (V.O.)
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds. My neighbors stay far away. Those who want to kill me set their traps. Those who would harm me talk of my ruin. All day long they scheme and lie.


Dennis’ convulsions continue – even as we begin to see footage of his EARLY LIFE again. Him running through the field with cattle. Him at his father’s side. We see his BAPTISM.

We see the ruffled pages of scripture that he has read. Footage of him UNDERWATER, DROWNING. Mary’s prayers. The width and breadth of our time with him so far.


It all begins to build, once again, to a fever pitch….


MARY (V.O.)
Lord, do not forsake me. Do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.


Suddenly… Dennis’ swollen eyes BURST OPEN! He SUCKS A THICK BREATH OF AIR in through his swollen lips!


EXT. RIVER – MORNING


Dennis BURSTS up out of the water of his baptism… beads of water catching the morning sun and shining like jewels in the air around him. A huge smile on Phillip’s face as he pulls the soaking Dennis up, wiping his eyes.


Dennis, born anew.


Buried with Christ in baptism. And raised with Christ. A joyous, rapturous moment… until suddenly…


SMASH CUT TO:


INT. NAIROBI APARTMENT – DAY


Okoth and Mary at the table. Deathly quiet. Tears down Mary’s face. Okoth’s too.


A moment.

MARY

…His God was stronger than yours.


DENNIS (O.S.)
Dad?


Okoth and Mary turn to Dennis – older now too. He’s standing in the doorway, in a business suit and has a briefcase slung over his shoulder. Books under his arm.


DENNIS (CONT’D)
What are you doing here? Something
wrong?



Mary wipes her tears and tries to act natural. She hurriedly gets up from the table and leaves the room. Okoth tries to gather himself up a bit as well.


OKOTH
No, no. Nothing wrong. Just… uh…


Dennis sets his bag down and sits. He sets his books down on the table – a BIBLE on top.

DENNIS
…What?


Okoth looks at the Bible.


OKOTH
Still chewing on that book, eh?


Dennis looks up and smiles at the dry joke. Okoth’s smile quickly falls into sadness… his face contorts in pain. He weeps.


Dennis gets down beside him and takes his hand.


DENNIS
Dad? What’s wrong?


OKOTH
You’ve been my only useful son. The only one that’s cared for me.
….I’m so sorry. I didn’t know what I was doing.


Mary comes back in to lean on the doorframe, behind Okoth. She watches. Dennis and her exchange a look as Okoth weeps, his head in his hands.


OKOTH (CONT’D)

Forgive me.


DENNIS
From the first day, I forgave you.


Dennis comforts his father at their kitchen table. Mary leans on the doorframe and watches.


…TEXT FADES UP OVER W Dennis’ Father and Family conversions.”

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Last modified: September 30, 2021