INDY SHORTS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – Alana Hutton-Shaw’s FINDING DAD “Finding Dad, Finding Yourself…”

Finding Dad is Alana Hutton Shaw’s directorial debut that showcases the writer/director’s talent with this pivotal short film inspired by real events in the directors life. This cleverly written, sentimental account documents a young woman’s journey of self discovery and her search for the true meaning of family.

This cleverly written, sentimental account documents a young woman’s journey of self discovery and her search for the true meaning of family.

Anita, is attempting to cope with the recent death of her alcoholic mother with sardonic humour. She enlists her bestfriend Dion in the search for her estranged father, the girls set out on Christmas day with nothing to go on but his name and profession scribbled on a crumpled letter.

Making quite an impact on the film festival circuit; Finding Dad has already been selected for the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Seattle Black Film Festival, the Toronto Black Film Festival, the Poppy Jasper Festival, and more. It was also nominated for Best Short at the Leeds International Film Festival, and nominated for a Jury Award at the British Shorts Berlin.

Set in London’s East End, the beautiful cinematography of this film underscores the harsh reality of Shaw’s world. The films tonality shifts expertly between comedic scenes and heartfelt moments, all whilst featuring sublime acting from the two lead actresses. Finding Dad touches on many themes throughout its thirty minute run. Anita and Dion face many obstacles on their Christmas quest. They’re met with endless roadblocks when the majority of the townsfolk seem mysteriously unwilling to divulge any information about the missing fathers wheraabouts.

Daisy Fairclough (Just Charlie) stars as Anita, whose naturalness behind the camera is so extraordinary that the audience is apt to forget that this is a film and not Anita’s reality. Fairclough’s genuine acting ability is displayed brilliantly throughout the film, from her subtle expressive acting to the explosive monologues she delivers that rally the audience toward her goal.

Fairclough’s genuine acting ability is displayed brilliantly throughout the film, from her subtle expressive acting to the explosive monologues she delivers that rally the audience toward her goal.

Genesis Lynea (Shadow and Bone) also gives a stellar performance as bestfriend Dion. D simultaneously grounds the film in realism and provides some much needed comedic relief when covering weighty topics. More than a token bestfriend character, Dion is the anchor that Anita holds fast to as she navigates the turbulent neighbourhood in search of her long lost father.

More than a token bestfriend character, Dion is the anchor that Anita holds fast to as she navigates the turbulent neighbourhood in search of her long lost father.

Despite Anita’s initial contempt for her mother’s alcoholism the films finale informs that her mother had in fact reached out to the biological father several times in an attempt to facilitate a relationship between the two.

An under current of the film explores is the serious topic of racism. Anita and D are treated with suspicion and contempt from the white neighbours of her mythical father figure. At one point a neighbour calls them “colored girls”, while a young man mocks their appearance sarcastically calling them “fancy birds”. This overt racism is so commonplace that both characters show minimal reaction to the racist behaviour of other characters. The film’s score is punctuated by upbeat pop music that often reflects the character’s emotional outlook. Music is used throughout to reinforce the cultural background of the girls, and set them apart from the white middle class.

Overall this film explores the concept of family, and self discovery. The climax of the film finally finds Anita’s and D sat down with the father, where we are suddenly submerged in a quiet stark scene that stands out against the rest of the film. The sudden silence of this scene submerges the audience into the stark realism of Anita’s situation. The audience is compelled to watch with bated breath as Anita realises her preconceptions of her mother were wrong, and her hope for a relationship with her father is dashed by reality.

The film ends on a hopeful note, with Anita and Dion walking arm and arm to a new mornings day. Finding Dad is ultimately an uplifting story about finding yourself, and choosing to form a family around the ones you love most in this world.

Keya Rivera

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