Vault Shorts #5 (Before Christmas, Bhor Hobe, I am Time)

The fifth entry in the column



Bhor Hobe (2018) by Suvavish Dey Sarker (2.20 minutes) 



In 2017, the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh was witness to the rise of an anonymous graffiti artist’s work who everyone was calling the Banksy of Bangladesh. All his works portrayed a depressed man wearing tatters and carrying a cage imprisoning a red or sometimes a yellow sun. The writings on the wall symbolize depression, discrimination and hopelessness. “সুবোধ তুই পালিয়ে যা, এখন সময় পক্ষে না” is one such Bengali writing on one of his graffiti artworks which in English means, “Subodh run away, time is not on your side.” What is that anonymous graffiti artist trying to say to the world? Bhor Hobe answers that very question with an essence of positivity.

In the short, we see a man passing these graffiti while Shuro Nandy's imposing voice shares a message that deals with corruption, the various flaws of society, the connection between values and time and how the former have changed for the worse over the years. While the voice of the narration grows higher and higher, the same occurs to the epic-like music, as the film's message is eloquently depicted.

"Bhor Hobe" functions as a visual manifesto calling people to embrace true values, like honesty and kindness and to fight against corruption and wrongness in general. The presentation of this rhetoric is impressive, in a film that aims at raising social awareness. However, I felt that this kind rhetoric, of asking people to fight against those that have corrupted society, is kind of dangerous, since it includes a "taking the law in your hands" message. On the other hand, extreme situations, as the one described in the film, demand extreme measures, but one has to be very careful when acting in this fashion, particularly regarding the decision of who is corrupt and where is the border between justified punishment and raw revenge.



I Am Time (2012) by Mahde Hasan (09.30 minutes)



A photographer is fascinated with the concept of time. He captures his self portrait with a big clock and tries to frame moments visually. During this journey he discovers different ambiance and landscapes. Gradually he faces mystery of time and tries to touch the enigmatic moments of life.

In this visually impressive, minimalist, black and white short, a photographer ponders on the connection among time, reality and photography, as he walks in different locations that include a desert-like scenery, a river dam and a train station, occasionally carrying a large wall clock on his back. His thoughts are depicted through narration, since the sole actor (Jeved Kaiser) never actually speaks.

The extreme contrast and the minimalist, guitaristic music by Zion Rabbi Samadder  give the film an essence that kind of reminded me of Jim Jarmusch's films, although in much more art-house style, while they  induce the movie with a dystopian essence. The editing (by the director, as is the case with the cinematography) is also quite good, with the various images fitting nicely with the narration, while retaining a nice pace.

Mahde Hasan's efforts is impressive, both in context and implementation, and I would like to see him directing a dystopian feature with social and philosophical extensions


Before Christmas (2016) by Chuyao He (15 minutes)


"Before Christmas" is based on the photograph "China Christmas Factory" by the photojournalist Chen Ronghui and deals with the social issue in modern China. So far, it has been selected in over 20 film festivals around the world (including Asian American Internation Film Festival) and has just finished its UK premiere at Edinburgh Short Film Festival last November!

A lower class Chinese family moves to a big city for a living. The father and his son Xiao Lee, an 18 year-old teenager who dreams of becoming a singer, begin working hard labor in a Christmas decoration factory. Reluctant to face reality, Xiao Lee decides to make a change to pursue his dream. Tragedy is in store for this young man and his poor family as they become victims of Chinese society.

Chuyao He directs a visually impressive short, with the reds and whites that are associated with Christmas dominating the film. However, her effort does not aim at beauty but rather at making a pointy remark regarding the concept of Christmas and particularly the difference in the way occidentals and orientals (the Chinese specifically) perceive it. In that fashion, she highlights the fact that in order for the West to enjoy one of the biggest celebrations of the year, some workers in China have to slave themselves, working for 12-hours and getting paid next to nothing to produce the "ornaments" of this highly commercial festivity.

At the same time, and since the focus is on China, the film makes a point of highlighting the fact that in this constantly developing, in capitalistic terms, society, there is little room for individuality (the workers are called by their number not their name), creativity, dreams, even friendship, and in general anything that sways away from the constant production of goods and the pursuit of money. The majority of these messages personify on Xiao Lee, with Deyang Hoo giving a convincing performance as a young man trying to avoid his set path.

"Before Christmas" is a great effort about a significant topic, and I would really like to see the director shooting a feature documentary about the matter. 

Before Christmas Trailer from Abigail He on Vimeo.

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Asian Film Vault: Vault Shorts #5 (Before Christmas, Bhor Hobe, I am Time)
Vault Shorts #5 (Before Christmas, Bhor Hobe, I am Time)
The fifth entry in the column
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