Review: 1 out of 30

Premise:

On the first day of Ramadan, a young architect attempts to fast for the first time while also trying to win a major contract for his firm.

Review:

Much of the focus on what many would term the “black experience” tends to hinge on racism and fighting injustice. While this is undoubtedly a massively important topic, a huge part of what makes these struggles important is recognition of the humanity of the people involved. This humanity lives in the day-to-day routines, struggles and challenges and 1 out of 30 is a film that puts those hidden everyday challenges front and centre.


Exquisite craft and style are applied to this day-in-the-life story, focusing on Rashad (Jeremie Harris) on his first day of fasting for Ramadan with his girlfriend Fatimah (May Calamawy aka Layla from Marvel’s Moon Knight). There is a lot going on in this short film and the runtime reflects this, coming in at just under 20 minutes. That time is spent wisely, establishing Rashad and Fatimah’s relationship, the underlying conflict between Rashad and Fatimah’s middle eastern family, the fact that Rashad seems to have recently converted to Islam (presumably for Fatimah) as well as the character dynamics of Rashad’s workplace and the core mission of the movie.


Rashad is very much the underdog in this story. He is trying to be a good Muslim and do right by Fatimah, whose mother openly has issues with him. He is ambitious and smart but has to answer to an otherwise well-meaning white boss, who seemingly cannot help but overplay his role as “ally”, flirting dangerously with full-on condescension. This particular dynamic is underscored by Rashad’s boss throwing in a last-minute curveball to Rashad’s upcoming pitch by opening it up to competing pitches. Offering supportive platitudes with one hand while endangering Rashad’s opportunities with the other. This last development is the primary catalyst to Rashad’s mission and the nail in the coffin of what Rashad believed was going to be a successful day. Between beginning Ramadan, being disapproved of by his prospective mother-in-law, the office heating exacerbating his discomfort and finally finding out he has to compete internally for a project he previously thought he had in the bag, Rashad is forced into the beginning of a long day carrying a lot of emotional and professional baggage.


Writer Malik Aziz does a great job of establishing a singular mission for his protagonist, while weaving in a host of conflicts both minor and major that Rashad clearly has to deal with on a daily basis. In this manner, he brings a little seen aspect of not just being black but being a black Muslim. The need for Rashad to overperform is made clear and as a result, he seems to exist in a perpetual state of pressure. Picking up on this character and narrative theme, director Vishnu Vallabhaneni weaves surreal flair into an already well shot visual story. As the day begins and Rashad is called to his first prayer of the day, we are shown a visual representation of the sinking feeling Rashad is carrying as he physically sinks into the bed, contemplating how tough the day will be. As the pressures of the day mount further and further, Vallabhaneni leans into the surrealist aspects of his vision while not undermining the grounded aesthetic established at the start of the movie.


Vallabhaneni also does a great job directing his cast to striking performances. Momentarily setting aside Jeremie Harris’ movie-carrying performance, the supporting characters all feel like people we know. They have an interplay that brings the kind of relatable authenticity we need to make Rashad’s environment feel real and lived in. We have a fascinating mix of the fake ally, the real ally, the competitor who struggles with political correctness and a further mix of genuine and honest people. Anchoring it all, however, is Harris’ by turns enthusiastic and vulnerable portrayal as Rashad. He brings a level of veiled intensity that telegraphs to us his inner turmoil even as his focused demeanour convinces his colleagues of his capability. Watching that demeanour begin to crack over the course of Rashad’s long day is a masterclass in character acting, elevated further still by his interplay with an equally engaging May Calamawy. Between the two of them, they completely sell not just Rashad and Fatimah’s devotion to each other but the way in which they both silently bear the difficulties of their interracial relationship.


The film’s title 1 out of 30, referring to the holy month of Ramadan serves as a thematic cherry on top of a well-considered and thoughtful story. The creative team brilliantly merge character exploration with inventive and engaging visual storytelling, resulting in a short film experience that is societally insightful while also managing to be deeply personal.


This is a great example of top tier filmmaking, and we highly recommend it.


Studio: AT&T Hello Lab | Year: 2019 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 19 Mins | Suitability: Mature


Cast: Jeremie Harris, May Calamawy, Fareeha Khan, Tom Lipinski,


Crew:

Director: Vishnu Vallabhaneni | Producers: Ruth Du, Erica Rose | Writer: Malik Aziz


Find out more about the filmmakers using the links below:

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER


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