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Under the Ashes of Mekong (2021) Short Film Review

★★★★★

Directed by: #EmelineCourcier

Written by: #EmelineCourcier

 

Under the Ashes of Mekong (2021) is a short French documentary, written and directed by Emeline Courcier and starring herself as well as other members of her family. The film is currently scheduled to premiere at the Screen & Story Film Festival in ‘THE PLACES THAT MADE US’ screenings. The short is set against the backdrop of the beginnings of the COVID-19 health crisis and a hostile political situation promoting anti-Asian racism.


This intimate, powerful documentary centres on dialogues between a young woman (Emeline), her mother and grandmother discussing past events when a young family member drowned in the Mekong river. The film is very cinematic in its presentation, requiring more than one viewing to truly see all of the intricate details and thoughtful filmmaking Courcier has to offer in this touching narrative focusing on her family. A rich reflective, melancholic atmosphere is maintained throughout and visuals are methodically slow and planned in advance, creating a completely immersive viewing experience.

Under the Ashes of Mekong (2021) Short Film Review
Under the Ashes of Mekong (2021) Short Film Review

There are many thought provoking visual motifs to be discovered, such as the eerie shots of broken clocks around the house which appear to symbolise time being frozen for the family as they seem stuck in the past. The imagery is very emotionally effective and compelling, with Emeline apparantly baring a striking resemblance to the girl who drowned and a shot above her head as she submerges herself in a bath symbolising their connection. There are several more instances which encourage close viewing, which greatly enhances the profound impact the documentary makes and the tangible connection we as spectators feel with the family.


Benjamin Villette’s sound design is also a wonderful highlight, with regular radio announcements emphasising the unsettling authenticity of the political unrest and impact of COVID-19 on communities. The distant sounds of gunfire and bombs dropped can be heard as Emeline walks home wearing her facemask, creating a disturbing tone which never relents. The documentary explores heavy subject matters of bereavement, racism, spirituality and racism, making for many hardhitting moments which demand viewers to really pay attention to.


Under the Ashes of Mekong is a fascinating short with a powerful voice and stunning direction. The film explores multiple humane issues which can be emotionally resonant for many, whilst addressing difficult topics which are not often given focus; a beautiful documentary which should not be missed.

 

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