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Tabanca - BFI Flare

average rating is 4 out of 5


Amber Jackson


Posted on:

Mar 23, 2023

Film Reviews
Tabanca - BFI Flare
Directed by:
Lauren Marsden
Written by:
Lauren Marsden
Nneka Croal, Elsi Industrius, Dayleigh Nelson

‘Stuck in rainy Canada, Marlinn dreams of Trinidadian Carnival season. But perhaps a local bar can provide an alternative…’


Feeling fed up and frustrated at their monotonous office life in Vancouver, Marlinn, a genderqueer Trinidadian, is upset that they are missing Carnival season back home. This vibrant short film highlights one night after work where they discover a local bar that may have the answer to their hopes and dreams. Written and directed by Lauren Marsden, this is a very real film that actually provides a lot of fun, whilst also speaking to Marlinn’s inner thoughts and experiences as a genderqueer person. Tabanca is a delightful short about finding one’s own space and community away from home.


Each aspect of this film is fuelled by realism as there are moments of dialogue that are almost unbearable to watch as Marlinn is overlooked in their place of work. They have a glorious inner monologue that narrates over some scenes that are equal parts savage and hilarious as the viewer gains insight into Marlinn’s thought process first-hand. Not only was this a really enjoyable aspect of the short, but also further explores Caribbean identity and longing for familiarity. Marlinn demands respect and embrace their culture whilst living in Canada, but they cannot connect the two. It is a hard-hitting reality wrapped up in a slice of life film.


Yet Tabanca has plenty of soul and, as Marlinn discovers a possible solution to their feeling of isolation, it quickly becomes an uplifting experience. The camera that has been following Marlinn closely for the film’s duration suddenly opts for a greater variation of shots and allows colour and celebration to fill the screen. Marlinn meets Leela and the two are both wonderful on screen, with the film choosing to surround them with great dance sequences, masquerade, engaging music and fabulous costumes. It becomes a very inviting and celebratory experience for the viewer, as well as for Marlinn as they realise that they can find their own version of home.


Filmmaker Lauren Marsden has made this film to explore the feeling of living in one world, whilst your heart is in another. Tabanca speaks to the real-lived experience of a Caribbean-Canadian person, but Marlinn’s story is ultimately one that everyone can understand in their own way. The feeling of longing for something that you cannot have. It is exciting not only to see a film set in modern-day Vancouver, but also to see one through a Caribbean lens. It is a perspective seldom seen on screen and Marsden brings this to life beautifully with Marlinn.


Viewers will not regret watching Tabanca, as it is a fun-fuelled sequence of events that also displays sensitivity to feeling unfamiliar and out of place. It is a positive and uplifting short film that is well worth a watch.

About the Film Critic
Amber Jackson
Amber Jackson
Short Film, World Cinema, Film Festival, LGBTQ+
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