A Word Away short documentary film review


Directed by: #MollieMoore

Film Review by: Darren Tilby

Thankfully, most of us will never know how it feels to live in fear of being thrown out of our homes; murdered; forced into slavery, or dying of starvation. But for young Cosmo and his family, these were the fears that prompted them to flee for the US during the Sudanese civil war.

But adapting to a new way of life isn’t easy, especially not when your new home is so vastly different, both culturally and socio-politically. So, asks documentarian Mollie Moore, what does it mean to relocate to another country after being forced from your home? Well, for Cosmo’s dad, John, It means a fresh start in the land of opportunity; somewhere safe for his family to start again. But while the American dream may seem like an ideal solution to anyone wanting a fresh start, the reality is often very different.

In A Word Away, we primarily follow Cosmo, a Sudanese refugee, living with his family in America as they try to adjust to life away from home. But we also hear from Cosmo’s dad and friend/poet, Moon. But, no matter who is speaking at the time, filmmaker Mollie Moore ensures their voice is heard loud and clear. Which is appropriate really. Because while this is a movie about finding a home, it’s also about finding one’s voice and what it means for it to be heard.

Now, if I have one complaint, it’s that at times the film can feel a little messy. Most notably is the editing. The narrative structure tends to dart about between Cosmo talking about one thing, his dad talking about another, and then back to Cosmo, who’s now maybe talking to Moon. There are simply too many subjects here to cover adequately, given the short runtime.

However, this unusual style of filming is also its strong suit. There are no “sit in front of camera” interviews here, this is a story-driven, on-the-spot kind of documentary. One which does not interfere or attempt to confer its own views, and instead, stays wholly respectful to its subjects. And, with its crystal clear audio and superb visual design (#LuciaFlorez), this is a movie that’s incredibly easy to engage with.

While Moore’s attempt at asking some pretty big questions about what it means to belong, or to be heard isn’t entirely successful, this is a superb effort nonetheless. This narrative-driven style of documentary filmmaking is wonderfully unique and criminally underused. And it can elevate a documentary film to a whole other level of being. It’s great to see it put to such good use in A Word Away.