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average rating is 4 out of 5


Chris Buick


Posted on:

Jul 4, 2024

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Ashley Tabatabai, Stefan Fairlamb
Written by:
Ashley Tabatabai
Ashley Tabatabai, Mitchell Mullen, Arian Nik

Hamdardi from filmmaker Ashley Tabatabai is a short film set against the backdrop of the 2017 travel ban, a series of executive actions that was brought into law by that President, which discriminately denied entry to foreign visitors from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. But while there are of course a plethora of political discussions and specifics regarding that situation that could be dissected here, what Hamdardi chooses to focus on instead is the vastly more important human element behind seismic political moves such as these.


Directing, writing and starring, Tabatabai, who plays the lead of immigration officer Ethan, proves they are a triple threat to be reckoned with. Drawing on his own personal experiences surrounding his extended family, Hamdardi is a clearly personal piece that looks to highlight how the systems that are supposedly put in place to help and protect us are so often inherently broken and can become an ever-deepening mess for those who get caught up in them, while also showing how easily a lack of understanding and communication can lead to increasing mistrust and tension.


When Reza (Nik) and his younger sister (Rose) are refused entry to the US in order to visit their sick father and are in turn detained, Ethan (himself currently battling with child services to regain custody of his daughter) finds himself conflicted between his responsibility to his job and unrelenting by-the-rules boss (Henson) versus his unshakeable sense of morality. It’s a truly magnetic performance that Tabatabai turns out, managing to inject so much empathy and conflict into the at times maddening and almost always saddening story which they have created, which itself is as full and complete as you could possibly hope for in just twenty-five minutes. On top of all that, Hamdardi somehow just looks really damn good, managing to present itself as something much grander than its kind of budget would often allow it to be, it’s hard to believe that Tabatabai’s US immigration building is actually the First Direct Arena in Leeds, such is the level of attention, thought and care that has been applied in its production every step of the way that that sense of authenticity is unquestioned.


But first and foremost, Hamdardi has an important message it wants you to take away from it all, and for the very large majority it manages to toe the line pretty well when making its crucial points, never really trying to hammer you over the head with them and rather opting for it all to be discovered and felt organically. Henson’s unbending and unfeeling supervisor does seem to caricature the stereotypical small-mindedness and ignorance some US positions of authority have when it comes to other cultures, a tactic to perhaps augment that aforementioned effect but ultimately Henson works wonders as the face of the system audiences can unite against.


Highly infuriating to watch, but honoured to have been given the opportunity to do so. Hamdardi is a touching human connection story driven by real empathy, passion and talent.

About the Film Critic
Chris Buick
Chris Buick
Short Film
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