OSCAR SHORTS FILM REVIEW – Sandstorm – A schoolgirl going through juvenescence, exploring her feminism in a patriarchal society

Director and writer Seemab Gul has opened a small window in a male controlled society, showing how girls and women manage their day to day life in it. The introduction of pubescence as a catalyst is a master stroke by Seemab because it is this period when a fragile body ravaged by frenzied hormones causes the greenness of youth to explore the limits of themselves and the society, they live in.

The introduction of pubescence as a catalyst is a master stroke by Seemab

Zara, played by Parizae Fatima, puts in a stellar performance of juvenility with its long trail of pitfalls. Young girls in the privacy of their bedroom are exploring and becoming aware of their bodies; a friend records Zara’s sensual dance and in a whimsical tone quip’s “Girls from good families don’t dance like that,”

Zara, played by Parizae Fatima, puts in a stellar performance of juvenility with its long trail of pitfalls

Zara has stretched the envelope further and is having an online affair with a man she has never met; late in the night and in a dimly lit room the intimate conversations take place, the man, like a spider slowly weaves a web around the young innocent girl and slowly lures her into meeting him and for her to share her sensual dance recording. 

One particular scene that quite literally cracks open the very essence of patriarchy and only lasts a split second; Zara’s mother asks her to collect the dried clothes from the clothesline, Zara in the process of gathering the washing looks across the street and sees a darkened figure of a man, gushing out large plumes of cigarette smoke staring at her with lust and menace, Zara’s reaction captures beautifully her fragility, awareness of her femininity and the stab of fear.

Zara’s reaction captures beautifully her fragility, awareness of her femininity and the stab of fear.

The online boyfriend’s weave has captured Zara in a blackmail stranglehold. That fateful day when the two are set to meet is the melting point where Zara’s decision will either make her a victim and life destroyed or walk away and face the wrath of her family, be stigmatised as a ‘bad,’ girl, but come out of the experience stronger and wiser.

The cinematography created by Alberto Balazs based in Lisbon, Portugal is truly world class; the shots are kept very tight and the space small, this accentuates the intimacy; the illuminating of Zara’s face by light from her phone lifts the film and heightens the fear and sensual excitement of Zara. A full face is sparingly shown and this I feel strengthens the core message of how women live in a male controlled society.

Seemab Gul has opened the chapter of patriarchy and I strongly feel that she continues with this theme in its variations and make follow-up features or shorts that will go a long way to educate, awaken and to start the wheel to changing attitudes.  

Seemab Gul has opened the chapter of patriarchy

A review by Sonia McCloud

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