Written & Directed by Fidan Jafarova & Tofiq Rzayev
Starring Basti Jafarova, Sabir Memmedov, Konul Iskender, Adil Damirov
Short Film Review by Taryll Baker
There's rarely a time when a short feels as if it could benefit greatly from being a feature. Fidan Jafarova & Tofiq Rzayev's Araf is one of these films. With its 8-minute running length, Araf lacks in exposition. We never feel greatly connected to its characters or the surrounding environment, even though it's being threatened by the great evils of war. It seems like a clever concept, however we're never shown exactly why.
But, take away the restricted duration, expand upon the characters and you have a splendid feature. The audio is recorded very well, the editing is acceptable and the music fits beautifully. Composer Gergö Elekes writes an undying piano melody that evolves throughout and grasps the unforgiving war and eeriness present.
The costume design also aids the setting brilliantly. Simuzar Aliyeva is clearly very talented in this art and will one day grace the set of a much greater production when the time comes. The location has been chosen well, Abri Aliyev takes a pragmatic approach with scouting, and provides a mysterious and almost sinister background for the cast, which also reflects in their performances; which by all are realistic and feel important, but the storytelling never gets a chance to take off.
In the scenes with Father (Sabir Memmedov) we're almost told how to feel, rather than letting the performance connect with the audience on a deeper level. That said, the scene with Farida (Konul Iskender) & Ali (Adil Damirov) is an exceptional examination of the human mind. It's a great character study. In fact, I had to question myself about the sanity of Farida once the film had finished. Is it a dream? A vision of her future? Maybe it's a flash to the past and she's no longer alive? These are questions that go unanswered, for better or worse, but I believe can be answered in a feature-length film.
While I criticise a pillar of the film the crew may not have been able to work around, I can't help but feel that we're left with an indelible emptiness when the picture eventually fades to black. To conclude, with a bigger budget and more time to connect with characters, I truly believe this could be a dark and compelling drama. However, as a short, Araf unfortunately falls flat.