Directed by: Christopher Tenzis
Written by: Christopher Tenzis
Starring: Astra Marie Varnado, Raymond Ejiofor, Carly Stewart, Arabella Frost
Film Review by: Chris Olson
Big Touch Film Review
Symbolic for its powerful racial themes and pertinent for its euphoric depiction of one embrace (when the world cannot), filmmaker Christopher Tenzis’ short film Big Touch is a potent dose of 2020 cinematic surrealism.
The story takes place in an empty underground car park. A white girl (Arabella Frost) and her mother (Carly Stewart) play in front of a lift when out walks the imposing Judy (Astra Marie Varnado), a literal “giant” black woman. The daughter extends her hand, mesmerised by the woman in front of her, only for her mother to grab her hand back and offer only a sympathetic smile to Judy - who looks crestfallen. Another outing sees Judy traverse the empty car park, walking slowly and morosely, and find a small man (Raymond Ejiofor) ranting and raving in a crouched position. The two characters, whilst physically so different, share a similar heartache, one which soon gets extinguished when the experience an engulfing touch.
Beautifully depicted and unburdened with dialogue, Tenzis captures a purer narrative within the Black Lives Matter movement by keeping his piece simple, graceful, and laden with emotion. Varnado’s theatrical expressions to the reactions she receives from the three different characters say more about the world we live in than most feature films can muster up in a two-hour running time.
Big Touch is a film significantly enhanced by music. Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s immersive cello (arranged by Pau Casals) becomes the lifeblood of the movie, encapsulating the plot, tone, and themes expertly and lights an individual fire under every audience member. There was a need to reflect the poignancy of the surrealist story in order to reach the full potential of the short and the filmmakers nail it.
Films that tackle racial divides are often ready to slug it out with the all-too-true nature of reality. Armed to the teeth with powerful imagery, political dialogue, and a penchant for (understandably) frustrated characters, these films are often described as being “heavy” along with more positive adjectives. With Christopher Tenzis’ film Big Touch, we are offered all those things but not in a way which feels familiar, weighty or documentary-like. This is a movie which comes from a place of frustration, yes, but works it into a quite literally tangible experience, whereby human contact and the need to feel is something more than words can contribute to. We need to embrace the emotional connection that occurs between the two central characters right before our eyes as if it is us receiving the ethereal benefits.