Riz and his family are in the middle of a typical family day in their house, whilst a far right march plays out on the telly in the background, which eventually arrives at their front door, leading to a devastating outcome.
Stunning. This is one of the few times in short film that that word can be used in its truest sense, because that is how this film leaves you – stunned. Not simply by the directing, cinematography, acting and the slow and unsettling build up to a heart-thumping finale (although any one of those things could earn that moniker). No, this film stuns you just by virtue of its raw honesty; it’s sledgehammer delivery that not only makes powerful statements but asks powerful questions – questions that we as British people struggle to answer and sadly all too often as a result avoid trying to do.
Director and co-writer Aneil Karia (Lovesick, Top Boy) along with co-writer and star Riz Ahmed craft a terrifying dystopia – terrifying because it is very similar to reality. Grounding the roots of the story in the familiar, the film opens to a Muslim family preparing for a Dholki (a traditional pre-wedding event). Even for those unfamiliar with the cultural tradition, the family dynamics are as recognisable as they come; parents fussing over where the furniture should go, giving contradictory instructions to the older kids who have to do the chores, the girls gossiping while getting ready, the younger adults arguing over what should go where. All the while, just under the surface an uneasy tension is simmering.
From the film’s opening moments, the family TV shows news images of protests and upheaval. Rarely the focus of any given shot, we only need hear the familiar shouts and out of focus glimpses of the St. George’s flag to know what is being shown. The most striking thing about the way this developing threat is presented is the fact that few if any of the characters are watching but all of them are aware.
The staging is particularly striking as Aneil Karia chooses to almost smash together the goings on of each group of characters in different parts of the house. The dialogue overlaps in the same way that it would in a busy and chaotic house, however we never lose focus of what Karia wants to show us. This is due in no small part to his talented eye and the well-honed abilities of Riz Ahmed to anchor a scene. Applying his ability to wield a laid back, playful and cocky persona and then dial up his intensity levels, taking the film’s intensity with it, Ahmed is the perfect focus point for a story that requires the frantic tonal shift that occurs at the halfway point.
Once that shift occurs, Karia’s ability to shepherd the chaotic is demonstrated to new heights. The style established at the start of the film comes into its own once all hell breaks loose. The insanity that ensues once the simmering threat finally boils over is at once a whirlwind of action and distressingly crystal clear images that sear themselves into your mind.
The technical prowess required to weave together the disparate sound and almost anarchic imagery boggles the mind, displaying the ability of Karia and his crew to wield a hurricane of action with scalpel-like precision. By the time we enter the final and most direct segment of the story, in which Ahmed blends his twin artistic trades of acting and rap, we are left trying to catch our breath, struggling to comprehend what we have just seen and reconciling it with the deepest darkest fears in the recesses of our national identity.
Karia and Ahmed may have (very deservedly) walked away with an Oscar for their work, but the real achievement is the fearlessness in its truth and the bravery of its questions, questions that Britain as a country, for the sake of its soul, must step up and answer.
Studio: WeTransfer | Year: 2020 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 12 Mins | Suitability: Mature (scenes of distressing violence)
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