Directed by: #JoshuaHext
Written by: #JoshuaHext
This Camera is Broken, a film by Joshua Hext, is a part of the New Creative initiative by Screen South supported by the Arts Council and BBC Arts. It’s one of a collection of over 20 short films available to view under New Creatives on BBC iplayer. At just over 6 minutes long, This Camera is Broken is brief. It invites us to a moment in the life of a director who, whilst working on a film of her life, is triggered by the presence of her younger self – or an actress playing her younger self – to confront something from her past.
The film opens as the phone rings: it’s the results. It’s hereditary. The appointment is on Tuesday.
The mother replaces the receiver and turns to her daughter, ‘you know my mum was just as hard on me as I am on you. And I thought at the time I hated her.’
But this daughter is wiser than that and does not hate her mother.
She is also an actress who is about to fluff her lines.
With her expletive the camera pulls back revealing the mechanics of a film set. The director, palm to forehead, is finding this hard and the young actress playing her younger self wants to know if the scene really happened, in real life. The director is not sure if that is important. ‘I’m trying to find truth in it,’ the young actress says.
The succeeding conversation between the director and her younger self delves deeper into the interplay between history, truth and memory, asking, what is the difference between remembering and imagining, and does it really matter? Can history repeat itself? And are we destined to become our parents?
These are big questions for such a short film, but it works. What would have benefitted from more time on screen is the story itself: here are two (or three, depending on how you look at it) generations to explore with illness, death, love and regret to get into and yet so little time for it.
The balm is of course that it’s good enough for us to want more of it. The performances (from Annabel Leventon, Cheryl Burniston and Ali Mylon) carry these compelling characters brilliantly and it’s a joy to look at: dramatic lighting, fabulous costumes, retro set design. Add to this the mother/daughter psychodrama, cigarettes and an ageing director and This Camera is Broken is confidently reminiscent of the films of Pedro Almodóvar. And all this is enough to enjoy for six minutes without getting too frustrated by all the questions this snippet of story leaves unanswered.