Written & Directed by: #DaniSchoffman
Short Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
Inspired by his life and observations while living Myanmar, writer/director Dani Schoffman’s short coming-of-age tale Aye Ko tells the story of the titular 12-year-old girl, who after being entrusted with looking after their blessed goat for mere minutes by her hard-faced and hard-hearted father, inevitably lets it momentarily slip from her grasp, sparking a unique chain of events and taking them on a journey that will affect both of them forever as they try and make their way home in time for a family wedding.
Initially conceived as a full-length feature film, Aye Ko now finds life as a twenty-two-minute short but still manages to do a whole lot in that short space of time, most notably creating an indelible and somewhat uplifting sense of spirit that runs right through the centre of this well-told story of determination and perseverance. It’s hard not to fall for this film’s charms, Schoffman’s deft filmmaking and clear knack for storytelling makes sure of that. Elegantly edited (award-winningly so in fact) and almost always inch-perfectly framed, Schoffman along with cinematographer Mg Mg Tha Myint also really make the vibrant and often chaotic Burmese landscape as much a character of the film as the rest.
And for the most part, Schoffman succeeds in gaining our affection for his characters as well; Aye Ko’s fast-growing attachment to the goat is increasingly endearing, a spot-on portrayal of how young people can grow such quick attachments to things and Aye Ko’s initial innocence of youth beautifully metamorphosing into a realisation and ultimately acceptance of life’s difficult truths is really eloquently done, amplified brilliantly by Nann Khin Min Myat Noe’s performance and both combined means the film succeeds in giving Aye Ko as full and satisfying an arc as you could hope for.
Better the journey than the destination, no?
The supporting players perhaps don’t get quite as much attention and care however. To be fair the characters of the biker and taxi driver are fun and serve their purpose in terms of the film’s bigger picture, and while this may of course be Aye Ko’s story to a certain degree, it does seem that perhaps a couple of the essential building blocks around Maung Maung Khin’s father character in particular (that may well have been present as part of the full-length script) seem to have fallen away slightly and might have tied the film together just that little bit more. There are some disparate pieces of backstory and character moments here and there that definitely pique interest, the exchanges between the father and his inquisitive taxi driver for example seem fertile enough for deeper exploration; we want to know more about him but ultimately it feels like a slightly missed opportunity, and there seems to be no real resolution to the film’s core relationship between the Aye Ko and her father even though it seems that is what the film is trying to build towards.
Nevertheless, Schoffman and co can be incredibly proud of what has been achieved here. Aye Ko is not simply a great coming-of-age tale, but also an accomplished story about staring in the face of adversity that is a joy to be swept away by.
Watch the trailer for Aye Ko here: