★★★ Directed by: Monir J. Aljaradli Starring: Ahsan Alobaydi Short Film Review by: Bruna Foletto Lucas
How many times have you shouted at the main character of a film hoping they would do something different? Maybe don’t split up on a horror film or don’t ask who’s there when there’s clearly a killer on the loose? Well, in Monir J. Aljaradli's short film you can actually choose the character’s next steps – The Sketchbook Chase is an interactive film, which means that the spectator has a say in how the story unfolds - by the end of every sequence there are two options the spectator can choose from. Personally, I am not a fan of interactive films since I feel it takes away from the story and the construction of the character, as they don’t actually make their own choices, therefore they aren’t rounded individuals, but rather vessels for our decisions. It felt more as if I was playing a video game rather than watching a film; however, having that said, the plot of the film was perfect for its type.
A man, played by Ahsan Alobaydi, finds a sketchbook where everything he draws materialises. Inside the notebook he finds a picture of a hooded man, and no longer after that, this man materialises and starts following him. We don’t know what the man is after, nor if he is good or bad, and the fact that the choices we are making don’t actually explain the film, rather they keep allowing for scenes to develop without creating a story or a thread for us to follow is a bit frustrating. I watched the film a few times, always choosing different options, and I was never fully satisfied – I always felt deprived of an ending or a sense. Nonetheless, this project was pretty ambitious and the whole team behind it should be congratulated. J.Aljaradli delivered what was promised – an interactive film and whether everyone likes it, it’s beyond his powers.
There are some key elements of filmmaking that the film embraces fully and uses it to express what words cannot (rather, what words “don’t”). The use of sound throughout the film helped create an eerie and mysterious atmosphere, and the fact that almost no words are spoken during the film only enhances this tense tone – which, for me, was the most important factor during the film. We knew what we were seeing through the sound and imagery, rather than plot and character development.
The camera angles didn’t have any mystery behind them – some close-ups, dutch angles, the use of the focus to show and hide different aspects of the shot -, but it was clear that J.Aljaradli thought them through and the result was a beautiful project with a passion behind it. As a point of view from the audience, it is always fresh to watch a film that has been made with such care and thought – it makes it a more pleasant experience, and The Sketchbook Chase is a perfect example of that – it goes for bold and challenging filmmaking and although the result is not everyone’s cup of tea, the project should be recognised for what it brings to the table.