DFW SAFF 2018 Short Film Review “Five O’Clock Shadow”



First, the Recap:

Panic. Agitation. Unease. Fear. Emotions that never provide a minute of consolation when, at their peak, the circumstances that have caused them to arise so heavily weight upon the mind. Subsequently, the potential volatility in action and attitudes that follow can bring one to a state of harried conflict, no doubt. But more so, what if the focus of concern is not only yourself, but your child? Upon arriving home one day, an Indo-American woman named Pooja (Sangeeta Agrawal) and her husband Rohit (Sri Mirajkar) are having a heated difference of opinion. Encountering a traffic incident where a verbal exchange ensued involving demeaning language aimed towards her ethnicity, Pooja’s immediate outrage over the individuals comments boil over.

However, her trepidations then shift to an even bigger point of contention–the safety of her son, away at college, and the thoughts that he might also be racially profiled, especially due to a physical attribute he currently wears. In the meantime, Rohit desperately attempts to put Pooja’s mind at ease, both about the traffic clash and in regard to their son, whom Rohit firmly believes will be fine. Unconvinced and proceeding to get even more exasperated, Pooja’s completely assured in her own mind that everything is about to fall apart, also in view of the fact Rohit had intervened with the offender earlier when Pooja believes it will only escalate things and that it should have been left well enough alone. Yet, in a single moment of clarity, can it be that all will be made right?

Next, my Mind:

Said it before, I continue to say it, and will say it yet again–“Impressive!!” The art of independent short film constantly amazes me in its ability to take such little screen time and yet hit you square in the face with evocative emotion, an apposite theme for our current times, and still be entertaining, all in such abbreviated screen time.  This is what was accomplished during the Texas debut of writer/director/producer/actress Agrawal’s 8-minute short film effort at DFW SAFF 2018. The film surges forth with conviction in addressing the, sadly, ever-present specter of racism and other elements associated with it from the perspective of an Indo-American mother wrought with fear over her son’s safety while also ranting against what she saw as her husband’s foolishness for really only doing what most men would if their wife is assaulted in any form–confront the problem.  But, their opposing viewpoints demonstrated here only further showcases the larger overall issue of racism and, really, the lack of knowing how to deal with it, while likewise portraying the fact that bigotry extends and affects more people than we know or, for that matter, want to acknowledge in this country. Additionally, the anxiety shown about how Pooja feels her events will end up affecting her son also illustrates just how much racial tension tears at the basic civility towards each other as humans we need to strive for, but also how unduly paranoid it can make us as well. However, the finale here puts one at ease masterfully, cleverly utilizing the film’s title in dual ways.

Agrawal is filled with an purposeful fire and urgency in her performance here as Pooja, an Indo-American woman who it is obvious simply wants to lead a quiet, active, involved life within the America she knows and has, we believe, accepted her. Yet, upon coming up against such overt hatred and embittered viewpoints, her entire notion of where she is shaken to the core, causing the reactions she displays while then believing it will all bleed over to her son away at school. Frantic and unsure, she even lashes out at her husband Rohit, who we can more than obviously tell is not enjoying being both sounding board and target. Watching as Pooja’s distraught state gets eased, and how it is achieved, is beautifully enacted by Agrawal. Likewise, Mirajkar shines brightly here as Pooja’s husband Rohit, who more than makes us realize he is a man who will stand firm and defend his wife by any means necessary based on the situation, and yet finds himself getting an earful and then some when having had made the move to do just that. His evident, strong-willed belief that he was the one making the correct decision in the situation is more than evident, and he argues his points to almost utter exhaustion, desperate to try and make Pooja see the rationale involved. Also taking on the fact he actually isn’t concerned about anything bad happening to their son, it only invites more resentment from Pooja, but he remains steadfast and is only too relieved when events occur that put the matter to rest. This is all wonderfully played by Mirajkar.

In total, with its potent, completely relatable social statements well in hand that, again, grievously remind us of the current air of hatred in this world, “Five O’Clock Shadow” stands solidly as a worthy short film effort that still manages to ultimately leave us with a sense of hope and happiness in the midst of inward and outward strife, which this reviewer hopes will be the ultimate message taken from it and applied accordingly.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!




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