Updated: Oct 15, 2018
★★★★★ Directed by: Nadira Amrani Starring: Flohio BFI London Film Festival Review by: Chris Olson
Part of the “Journey” thread at the LFF 2018, Nadira Amrani’s short film Fly is a fluid piece of cinema with an incredible central performance. Charting the rise of a female rapper in Bermondsey, the movie explores a smorgasbord of cultural and social issues whilst providing a quasi coming-of-age parable in which the main protagonist literally gets their wings.
The film stars real-life rapper Flohio, a talented vocalist who wants to spread her art to the masses without the downside of fame: the media. Being a minority in her chosen musical genre and isolated from her family, Flohio attempts to carve her own route through life whilst staying true to who she thinks and feels she is. Her path is guided by the “feathers” she finds along the way in life - signposts that music is an important part of her destiny even if the formation of her identity takes a little longer to work out.
Amrani described her short film Fly as “a surreal hybrid drama-doc” on Twitter, which is an important categorisation. This unconforming genre pick very much complements the nature of Flohio’s dilemma in the world: when you don’t seem to fit inside the box, is there really a place for you? This is the challenge to the viewer, who is asked to identify with this character who is obviously sympathetic but most likely existing in a social climate worlds away from their own. The reality is Amrani does a phenomenal job of rising to the task, creating an absorbing and fluid atmosphere for the journey to take place in. The use of visual effects and artistic cinematography allowed the story of a rapper to transcend any cliched or formulaic biopic narratives (which audiences are more than used to) in favour of something altogether more impressive and intriguing.
Flohio offers a powerhouse performance in the lead role, commanding the screen like it's another tool in her utility belt of talent. From the energy shown in her performances to the more low-key sequences such as getting a tattoo or a call from a family member, Flohio offers a versatile and compelling portrayal of herself that is mesmerising.
Part of an urban filmmaking scene that is somehow hugely artistic, Fly is able to grapple with numerous themes, such as the aforementioned sense of identity, gender disparity, and even class and social status. What was universal about the short film was the use of a music promo style narrative that went into deep and meaningful discussions, like a memoir from an experienced artist but from the perspective of someone relatively green behind the ears who is potentially at the start of their career. The blend of hip-hop and rap with classical music at one point again cements this clash in the way in which identity should be a more fluctuating notion than it is. The rigid structures that are in place, determined to find sense of everything are collapsed by Amrani’s filmmaking, which is a potent piece of arthouse, mainstream, and artistic short filmmaking.