Written & Directed by: #ShonaCharlton
Short Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
#Shortfilm The Sacrifice from filmmaker Shona Charlton boldly and bravely tackles the highly controversial issue of child marriage, a practice that is unfortunately still prevalent in many cultures and countries across the world where young girls often find themselves deprived of creating their own futures and instead are forced to be wed to much older men by their families as part of almost business-like agreements.
Having found herself unable to sufficiently tell the harrowing stories of her interviewed subjects in documentary form without fear of endangering their lives, Charlton has instead opted to focus the important and consistent facets of this issue into a powerful short drama about one teenage girl from East London named Leila (Aslam), who with the help of her older sister Rukshana (Mod) and girlfriend Margot (Simai-Kral), managed to escape such a fate.
The Sacrifice’s opening moments should make it fairly evident how this talented filmmaker feels about her subject matter, a young calf's throat being slit before we've even really got comfortable in our seats is hardly a subtle metaphor for how strongly Charlton likens the prospect of these arrangements to death, a theme the writer/director is keen to make clear throughout and from start to finish there is an unwavering moral sensibility and commitment to those she is trying to give voice to which should be commended. Charlton also clearly has an eye for visual punctuation in storytelling as well. Asides from the aforementioned bovine slaughter which instantly sets the spot-on tone for this piece, the brilliantly-timed introduction of Margot is yet another prime example of the kind of statement Charlton is capable of making as it suddenly hammers home the reality of just how young these girls are yet all dressed up beyond their years ready for their prospective suitors.
That being said, the film might have benefitted from slowing down and giving its core story enough room to breathe in order to really let the message permeate in the viewers mind. Presented as a single-take (very much worth noting also that this film is never harsh on the eyes), this technically applaudable film glides through its narrative with a certain speed and grace that gives the film a very energetic tempo, but also means it seems to bounce from moment to moment in an effort to get to the end as quick as it can, instead of letting any of these important and fertile story beats really sink in.
Trying to touch on as many narrative points as it attempts to in such a short space of time also means that the majority of the performances are fleeting and therefore never long-lasting in the memory, save perhaps for Mod’s Rukshana, whose contempt for the situation and those perpetuating it is portrayed effortlessly. But what we do see from the rest of the cast is of a decent calibre, the exchange between Leila and her expectant mother the best example of something that delivers but perhaps could have been explored more.
Hats off to Charlton for creating such an important and commendable piece of filmmaking. It’s a small shame that it’s all over before its really had a chance to hook us in, but what we do get to experience in the short time we have together is a sound achievement in terms of honourable storytelling and distinctive filmmaking.