DFW SAFF 2018 Short Film Review “Sisak”



First, the Recap:

Forbidden love. Taboo. All around the world, there are conventions within society, religious or otherwise, that so often dictate what is good and what is not, placing especially harsh restriction on what they do not believe in, regardless of consequence to those they persecute. Yet, in the middle of the chaos which many times ensues when those who choose to live a unaccepted lifestyle stand firm to their own convictions, is it possible deep love can be found? It is the local train, nighttime in Mumbai, as A (Dhruv Singhal) sits in lonely silence on his way to an undisclosed destination. His evening, however, takes a turn when catching a new passenger, Z (Jitin Gulati), boarding.

A’s interest in Z is more than evident, though he immediately averts his gaze when Z’s eyes happen to meet his. The tentative glances initially continue, effectively noticed, but not truly acknowledged, even as eventually, Z exits the train. The next evening arrives on the same local train, and yet again, A and Z find themselves in general proximity, still not directly interacting, although this time, A’s pent up emotional frustration about the very nature of what’s happening between them is overtly overwhelming, much to Z’s likewise evident and quietly fervent empathy. As further evenings roll on, though, the verbally unexpressed connection brings both recognition and heartbreak.

Next, my Mind:

As this reviewer has indicated before, there are certain themes found with films that aren’t truly comfortable or in my wheelhouse, as so often, the raw, graphic nature of them is simply not engaging.  Yet, are there sometimes not exceptions to the rule? Witness a film like writer/director/co-producer Faraz Arif Ansari’s 16-minute short as it took DFW SAFF 2018 by storm via its Texas debut while coming off a staggering world run that included 109 Festivals and 34 International Awards, and it can be understood that a much more discerning but no less impactful narrative is more than possible. Executed as a silent film with only the highly emotive music score and beautiful imagery to invoke the intended tone, the narrative’s compelling LGBTQ message evolves with deeper resolve, artistic astuteness, undeniable emotional strength, and a loving heart than only the few other films of this premise I’ve chosen to view have accomplished for me. There’s such an overtly riveting dramatic prowess that gets generated as the film builds and builds, leading to a finale that not only puts a stirring exclamation point on the proceedings, but emphasizes the socially volatile, vindictive atmosphere this story resides within.

Singhal is fantastic in his role as A, a shy man whose confidence in who he is has decidedly been shaken up by how his own country’s laws affect him and the lifestyle he represents. That timid-ness and hesitation causes him to be keenly aware of others around him, and so when he first spots Z, it’s like a clap of thunder within him, reverberating, yet necessary to contain. That intensity of emotion is there in his eyes, but again, his apprehensions about making his intentions known remains bound up and tumultuous, very acutely enacted by Singhal. Similarly, Gulati’s Z is just as engrossed in what is happening once he first notices A and ascertains the notions being offered, but his own longing to just take the first step is initially stifled by his own realization that as much as he sees what he wants, that same wary indecisiveness and uncertainty holds him back. Seeing A’s blatant pain over how he’s feeling, knowing its forbidden yet desperate to just allow it to happen, is a concept not lost on Z, whose actions to advance the situation is likewise affecting, well performed by Gulati.

In becoming a first in Indian cinema via its message being presented via a short/silent film format, it’s a hotbed topic no matter where you are the in the world currently, with both supporters and detractors abounding with their rivaling opinions, though so often filled with hate and malice, rather than candid but calm discussion. In this case, while the theme overall is not for me in general, there is simply no getting around the fact that “Sisak” is one thing first and foremost–an excellent piece of independent film art. Bold in its subject, yet creative and deeply moving in its delivery, it’s sure to be a film that continues to garner attention everywhere it goes, as it did mine for a second time.

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

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