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White Feather Short Film Review


Directed by: #DanielArbon

Written by: #DanielArbon

Short Film Review by: #ChrisBuick


The year is 1919. Strolling through a ridiculously picturesque landscape, George (Moore) approaches his latest appointment affable as ever, carrying crockery he hopes to sell to the local well-to-dos. After a promising agreement with one Mrs Teesdale (Wildgoose), he looks ready to close his sale, but after revealing his name, the lady turns cold, calls him out as a coward and presents him with a white feather.

As White Feather explains in its closing moments, due to the heavy losses the British army had sustained in the first two years of the First World War, in 1916 the government passed conscription into law which obliged all able men to enlist and fight for their country. These measures would allow the military to add over two million more men to their numbers.

But of those called up, approximately sixteen thousand of those men refused to fight, appealing mostly on either moral or religious grounds, leading to these men becoming known as “conscientious objectors”. If their appeal was upheld after an often long and aggressive tribunal, they instead contributed to the war effort in non-combative duties. However for the others, their only choice was to be sent to the front lines or be arrested. Those who refused to fight, were often presented publicly with a white feather as a symbol of their perceived cowardice.

What Arbon does really well here is emphasise the stark difference between the perceptions of war versus the harsh realities of such conflicts. Starting in the relative comfort and safety of an idyllic English countryside post wartime, where its easy for one to sit and talk about the do’s and don’ts of war, we then are able to witness through George’s flashbacks the grim reality of the trenches that he and countless other men were faced with that would be impossible to fully comprehend without being unfortunate enough to witness first hand.

But Arbon doesn’t just reflect these contrasts in the films locations, but also in its characters, Mrs Teesdale and her opulent surroundings equally juxtaposes the more simple Everyman George (both of whom play their parts admirably). The use of distinctive colour palettes for each time period also help establish a vivid tone for every setting and even the films score transitions from a grand triumphant opening to more haunting notes as we delve into George’s past.

There is also an immaculate attention to detail in this period piece, the film manages to look as clean and as fresh as those verdant gardens all the way through. Arbon expertly uses contained, character pieces for his scenes, rather than being tempted to bloat the piece with a flurry of attention grabbing action beats you might expect from a film with the subject of war at is heart, which shows a considered level of control and helps keep the film grounded with its poignant message at the forefront, driven once again by a strong cast performance.

These men had tremendous courage in their convictions in not wanting to contribute to one of mankind's most violent periods in our history, but were ultimately ostracised for it instead of receiving due respect for their equally noble contributions and service to their country in its time of need. However White Feather is a touching salute from a well-equipped #filmmaker to their memory that Arbon should be proud of.


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