Short Film Review “Penalty”



First, the Recap:

A violation. An infringement or transgression. Assessed in any myriad of ways dependent on circumstance, no one desires to experience the consequence of actions which warrant retribution. More so equated with the world of sports, the very nature of competition and the drive to win would usually dictate the avoidance of anything that would provide the opposing team a chance to have the advantage. However, what if more is at stake than a simple game, a sought after victory? Out in a isolated, weed-ravaged field in an undisclosed location, such a contest is being waged between a group of men only wanting in itself to play a fervent game of football (soccer) between friends and countrymen.

Yet, even as the event is preparing to get underway, the initial agenda to choose the game’s referee takes place, with he who draws the short stick considered the lucky one. This decided, the game ensues, bodies running, straining, fighting, pushing, all to gain access to the ball and score on their rival. The goals start to be scored, each one a blow to the unfortunate goalie who let the ball pass him. As the game intensifies, tempers flare and the stalwart referee attempts to keep the order. Still, worked up and becoming even more urgent in their play, agitation finally leads to a highly painful and serious foul.  However, as the referee calls “Penalty!”, it opens up a harsher reality for these men, one that offers deep ill-will and which doesn’t promise tomorrow.

Next, my Mind:

Offering an uncomplicated, straightforward first act that establishes the basic character and disposition of competition as told via a group of men gathered to play what appears to be a pick-up game of football (soccer), director Aldo Iuliano’s 15-minute short film takes a decidedly jarring and gut-wrenching turn in its second act, painting the portrait of an ordinary game turning into a vying against the ramifications of what it means to lose in this match, totally absconding from recreational enjoyment, instead becoming a narrative of possible futures for some and potential fates for others. Clever cinematography follows the game’s action with an intentional obscurity but no less impactful focus as the rough and hard-fought event unfolds, only revealing what is needed at the most appropriate moment to have the greatest significance for the viewer. Additional imagery during the film’s finale puts a seriously weighty emphasis on the message and purpose of the story, once again maximizing its sway on proceedings witnessed.

The film also has, what this reviewer feels, was a likewise intentionality in keeping away from specific character names being presented, rather offering an ensemble cast who execute the film’s nuances, resolve, and ultimate aims effectively without the need to know each individual beyond who we simply see they are within the context of the story.  However, may I give full credit to excellent enactments of these individuals whose story is told via actors Nyaringel Yawo, Danish Bhutto, Edris Mahmoudzadeh, Seidu Haruna, Ibrahim Baba, Nurudeen Asuma, Kindness Ibrahim, Wahab Masawudo, Boubacar Samake, Solomon Aregawi, Yaya Fofana, Yahaya Bance, Issah Aness, Mohamed Keita, Mahmudun Nobi, and Sheikh Shahinur, all of whom embodied their roles with potent, affecting, sobering, soul-stirring, and highly emotional performances that were at times blatantly evident and other times understatedly powerful. For me, it’s a testament to the art of acting when almost no dialogue doesn’t hinder an effort one little bit. Bravo, guys.

In total, “Penalty” is a fantastically accomplished indie short film effort that soars on the wings of its well-presented, deeply moving, profoundly haunting narrative and forceful, evocative message that is guaranteed to gain attention and stir up conversation anywhere it is played.

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

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