Directed by: #AuroraFearnley
Written by: Aurora Fearnley
Paparraza Movie Review
“You know when you eat too many sweets and get diabetes? Paparazzi are the diabetes of materialistic culture”. Such a damning witticism from Shirley MacLaine demonstrates, rightly or wrongly, the near unanimous vitriol often aimed at celebrity photojournalists. Nevertheless, Aurora Fearnley fearlessly provides a compassionate perspective of the people behind the lens with her intellectually rich short Paparazza.
Sian Hill stars as Camilla, the eponymous freelancer who is determined to enhance her reputation as a celebrity photographer: a profession that is ostensibly bolstered by the relentless pursuit of individual mental and physical insecurities. Simultaneously however, Camilla toils within this ethically murky field to finance her sister’s body-dysmorphia rehabilitation. Yet when the opportunity to break the news of a renowned popstar’s psychological breakdown arises, the limits of her morality receive their greatest test to date.
As the 21st century draws closer to its second quarter, one can notice seismic changes in attitudes towards celebrity culture. Responses to the Me Too Movement and ‘Cancel Culture’ are particularly notable efforts by the public to restore the dignity of household names by exposing the exploitative practices within show-business. Accordingly, it has become increasingly arduous to defend those who perpetuate this ugly side of fame without hostile repercussions. Immediately, one must commend the bravery of Fearnley’s work as she attempts to humanise the ‘villains’ within the celebrity milieu throughout Paparazza and thereby open herself intense scrutiny.
Nevertheless, the mere courageousness of a screenplay is not synonymous with a nuanced interpretation. For better or for worse, incapable filmmaking could have rendered Paparazza an offensively one-sided critique of this polarising issue. Yet throughout the film, Fearnley’s direction layers the film with complex ambiguity which permits the spectator to draw their own conclusion. Indeed, Camilla (portrayed flawlessly by Sian Hill) is neither a condemnation of photojournalism, nor is ever presented as completely guiltless. She is constantly torn by the fundamental necessity of hypocrisy in her career. Likewise, Camilla is at once fully aware of the damage she can cause, but gradually realises it is a necessity to thrive and support the very people affected by her work. The sheer naturalism of Hill’s performance subsequently affirms that this is the unreported dimensionality that convolutes their perception as emotionally vacant.
It is not only this impeccable characterisation of Camilla in Fearnle’s screenplay that provides Paparazza with its philosophical density. As epitomized by the masterful final sequence between Hill and Xiaolai Chen as global superstar Pearl Chang, Fearnley conveys her affirmation in her image and her performers. The scene superbly convolutes the security of the truth within celebrity culture from both sides of the lens. Notwithstanding, Fearnley gives way to the talents of her stars within the silent two-shots to carry the emotional density instead of her dialogue. As a result, her delicate direction throughout permits Paparazza the spectator’s interpretation to transcend the frames thereby demonstrating herself as excessively astute in the art of #filmmaking.
Ultimately, the real-world context surrounding Paparazza renders its choice to sympathise with exploitative photographers provocative. Yet Fearnley’s sensitive filmmaking and faultless script makes it somehow possible for even their most ardent opponents to consider life behind the camera lens.