TIFF14 REVIEW: Listen [2014]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 13 minutes | Release Date: 2014 (Denmark)
Studio: Nordic Factory
Director(s): Rungano Nyoni & Hamy Ramezan
Writer(s): Rungano Nyoni & Hamy Ramezan

“Go home and pray”

There is no more apt title for Hamy Ramezan and Rungano Nyoni‘s Listen except maybe Comprehend. A 13-minute gut punch dealing with the disparity of culture, language, and religion, to say too much would ruin the perfectly orchestrated dissemination of information from start to finish.

It asks questions like: What do we do when we cannot ask for help? What can we do if those meant to help start reacting subjectively rather than with the victim’s wellbeing at heart? Our world has become so flat so quickly that we haven’t quite been able to keep up. It’s one thing to reside somewhere foreign, but it’s another completely to actually live there.

Centered on a devout Muslim mother (Zeinab Rahal) covered head to toe, we witness her plea for help to get away from an abusive husband. She states her case, explains what he did, and relays the fact that she took her son (Yusuf Kamal El-Ali) with her and cannot return. The filmmakers use a static shot to show this, solely focused on the woman as another voice is heard. From here it cuts to that second voice—a Muslim translator (Amira Helene Larsen) interpreting the Arabic into Danish for the authorities also present (Nanna Bøttcher and Alexandre Willaume). We watch it a third time from the police officers’ perspective and finally understand exactly what’s happening.

Add in the boy’s reaction as a secondary translator and you cannot help but feel sick. One believes a move out of a bad situation will be helpful, but just because the new home’s freedoms are beneficial doesn’t mean your accessibility to them is. Everyone we encounter is going to be possessed by his/her own prejudices and ideals above true altruism. So, tragically those ill-equipped to stand on their own may have no one left to turn to—not even those they love.

courtesy of TIFF

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