London Shorts: Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?

Day 3 – In Competition: Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?

With the weekend coming to a close, the festival is only just getting started as it jumps into full swing across the city. While the “In Competition” collections are wholly inspiring and profound, LSFF also hosted many other events including Industry Workshops, Professional Panels and discussions surrounding ground-breaking events such as the #MeToo Movement, female representation on screens and the discourse of the digital age.

Do You Really Want To Hurt Me is the 3rd selection screening of the In Competition series, confronting familial pasts, finding a place to belong the developing landscape across the world and systematic oppression from both grassroots movements and corporate power. To summarise: a hotbed of cruel situations and heinous tragedies, ladled with a coating of remorse and devastation submerged in the world around us.

KOFI AND LARTEY
Sasha Rainbow (2018)

Plunged into the heart of Agbogbloshie, more commonly known in the West and within Ghana itself as Sodom and Gomorrah, lies a wasteland of literal waste, debris, rubble and fire. After the country entered the digital revolution, many of those who lived within more rural parts headed to Accra in search of work. The district became a dumping ground of e-rubbish, old hardware and electronics, and the children who grew up there use this as a means of making money.

Rainbow follows Kofi and Lartey closely. The two youngsters sieve through the rubbish by hand, collecting precious metals and functioning pieces of salvageable hard drive in return for money for their family. The sprightly kids have an unwavering optimism, despite not being able to afford books for school, but also know nothing other than Agbogbloshie. But this hope stems from Sasha himself, who moved and worked in the district as a boy, so that he could save up and get himself an education. He returned to build a children’s centre, so that the kids could attend some sort of schooling and give themselves a better future than the toxic death trap of the dump that has been linked to a rise in cancer in the area.

The political turmoil of Ghana taints their attempted optimism, as corporate greed appears to supersede social justice and protection of its citizens, and their homes are demolished. But Rainbow keeps the kids close, and does his best despite being in high demand across the district due to his ability to speak English. He brings them cameras to practise and develop their own style of cinematography, and show them parts of the country that are not as horrific as the one they grew up in.

But one significant element of the film is that they are not to be pitied: this is not about charity and a 15-minute spotlight within Western media. It’s about political reform within Ghana, the education of not just the children in Accra but also the adult population that gives them the ability to develop their own infrastructure, understanding district governance and sharing their cultural and history without it being torn down. In terms of cinematography, the hazy shots from Kofi and Lartey show how much they are developing their own styles and the promise they hold to reform their home and their country, breaking into new traditions as the next generation. But also the drone panning of the shanty towns lost in the dust, the way the fire lights up the night and relentlessly burns, the hardened faces of those physically worn by life contrasted in the dark. There is so much joy and life, the women’s community, up and coming talented musicians, the children who crave to learn and of course the budding filmmakers. A truly inspiring style of documentary filmmaking.

BALLS
Lily Cole (2018)

Based on real life events in the 1800’s, this short is a contemporary retelling of the Foundling Hospital, and two women’s anxious wait to see if they’ll take their babies. In 2018, Director Lily Cole was appointed the Creative Partner to the Bronte Society, and BALLS is her ode to that in a reimagining of Heathcliff’s early days. The split screen juxtaposes the mother’s interviews with the panel of judges, the black girl and the white girl. We hear the soft cries of the babies as their young mothers stoically face their interviews. They are cruelly asked about the terms of conception, patronisingly asked if they thought the father would marry them; a mirror of the accusations thrown all those years ago. It is revealed, after picking a ball out of the bag, that a white ball allows the child to stay, the black means they’re rejected, and the red is a second chance.

The macro detailing of the scenes are exceptional: the direct symbolic details and chilling weight of the situation, each transition gracefully carrying the bittersweet piece along. They only wish for a better life for their babies. Each mother is desperate for her child to live and thrive, but at what cost? The heart-breaking promises to return, a devastating energy running between the mothers as they wait to hear their fates; a united selflessness in a troubled situation. This is Cole’s first fictional directorial piece, and speaks about her personal attachment to Wuthering Heights when Bronte’s work crossed her path in high school, and the severe situations teenage mothers found themselves in back then. Those in a similar position still face tumultuous decisions and contempt directed towards their life choices. Lily Cole is a foundling fellow herself, and the film marks the 200th anniversary of Emily Bronte’s birth.

CIRCLE
Jayisha Patel (2018)

Jayish Patel’s CIRCLE explores cultural taboos including child marriages and gang-rape, and shows how frank discussions can help to expose and addres them. The central story comes from Khushoo, who discusses her ordeal with her mother. Khushoo’s racist captors were sent by her own Grandmother, to save her own skin: Khushoo’s voice is clear and direct, fuelled with resentment. Her mother says barely a word, but her eyes project the sorrow and guilt she must feel towards her daughter. She is also working through the own personal damage enacted upon her by the rest of the family.

One powerful scene is shot from the wheatfields, the camera buried among the crops and almost spying on the women in the field as they discuss the abuse and horrors they have endured in their life. Their frankness, as they agree that these horrific atrocities against women will continue in the community, is shocking. The resignation and acceptance from both perpetrators and victims, throughout the documentary, is truly disturbing. The history of marital abuse is perpetuated in an unrelenting cycle: Patel explores how rooted this has become into the culture, even down to Khushoo’s marriage to a man she does not know. The most haunting of images is left to the end: a girl is draped in diamonds, surrounded by colour, music and life; but her face silently screams to escape, paralysed by sadness and acceptance of her fate.

SEED
Josh Feder (2018)

Adel is a young lad from the East End who is returning home after a brutal ordeal with the police. He feels that his encounter has tainted his reputation on the estate, and is acutely aware of his family’s disappointment, and the negative judgement on social media. The opening shot is blurred and shaken, a re-occurring trait of camera phones being used to capture fights and brutality on our streets. Head bowed, brow furrowed, he walks between his parents without making eye contact with the group. But the community on the estate remain close, and come together to discuss the issues. The short studies the profiles of the group closely as they listen to their leader, an Islamic preacher reformed from his own life of crime on the estate. The camera pans across clasped hands and wide eyes, and the audio distorts as Adel’s troubled mind comes to terms with his situation.

Racial profiling is a prevalent issue that is hard to crack down on due to systematic judicial oppression. The short illustrates how radical violence can spring from the cracks in forgotten, disregarded and misunderstood communities who are judged by their heritage, with little consideration of the emotional toll this may take. SEEDS seizes the atmosphere of how impressionable, angry adolescents can form together in unity, with the initial intention of only seeking hope and justice, when more often than not this commitment develops into something darker and more intense. An intriguing piece, with thoughtful concepts which examine the consequences of systematic chain reactions.

THE THIRD SORROW
Myriam Raja (2018)

THE THIRD SORROW opens with single mum Yejide sitting in her kitchen, discussing some personal affairs with a friend. The two women exchange money, and the tense atmosphere and sense of imminent danger suggest something sinister or underhand. The camera pans across the flat, which is decorated lavishly in colourful drapes. Yejide’s daughter emits the sweetest light, innocent and curious. She’s in awe of her mother, and fascinated by the clothes sent to her, unaware of their symbolism. We slowly become aware of the impending horror, as we are permitted a flashback of Yejide herself heading ceremonially towards an enclosed tent. The sound of scalpels rattling on the side confirms our worst fears. Known by some as “the cutting”, Female Genital Mutilation is a backdoor procedure still performed on young girls as a nod towards womanhood. Although it’s accepted within many cultures as a tradition, one can’t help but shudder as we look into the girls’ eyes, knowing that pain is being inflicted intentionally. This is a highly relevant, yet harrowing piece about an unnecessary loss of innocence in the name of tradition and culture.

PICKING UP THE PIECES
Sebastian Feehan and Josh Bamford (2018)

Hurricane Irma was a devastating natural disaster that destroyed thousands of homes including many from across the islands in the Atlantic. PICKING UP THE PIECES follows two people affected by the storm, John and Quiandre, as they discuss the rebuilding of home, of community and of their lives after the devastation. The slow panning shots across the bright paradise are thrown into stark contrast as they’re torn to shreds and collapsed into rubble. Trying to find financial and societal infrastructure to rebuild is always complex, and by no means easy, but the sheer determination of human resilience, hope and prosperity shines through. Watching the two speak about how families dealt with the aftermath is incredibly moving: that deep-rooted optimism for regrowth, without shying away from the pain of the situation. Viewers get to see first-hand how the devastation affected the area, and witness the optimistic hope and patience needed to re-cultivate one’s life.

COUNTY LINES
Henry Blake (2017)

Leaving the cold streets of London, 14 year old Tyler heads to a distant costal town rife with Class A drug dealing. COUNTY LINES tells the story of the spiralling deprivation caused by narcotics, the chain reactions that topple within a community and what goes on behind closed doors. A boy of few words, his body language mirroring that of a hunted deer, he is brought into a run-down house deserted out on the fringes of the coast. His hunched figure observes the room, the walls peeling and scabbed from years of neglect, the fumes of smoke penetrating a murky yellow shade into the furniture. A tiny woman, reclined in a chair, brittle and bruised from her own neglect and addiction, speaks with the dealer, who’s only a few years older than Tyler.

Although not as strictly linear as gang warfare, it is another case of extreme poverty in marginalised isolated towns causing the younger generation to find a way to make ends meet. Tyler becomes caught up in a brawl as another dealing group corner him and remind him of territorial boundaries, but in this world actions speak louder than words. The following violence is borderline grotesque and horrifying. Tyler is abandoned int he marshes, mutilated and bloodied. Lit up only by distant street lights, the silhouettes of the attackers are a bold reminder of how enclosed these incidents are. The destruction of such young lives for our need to find escapism and money. For then we question which lines we must cross in life, nay, dare to – and what is at stake: family, money, reputation or life?

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