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Dripping Depression [Jordan Brandon, USA, 2017] /// Voice for the Voiceless [Bex Kearon-Wiles, UK/Ug

Dripping Depression begins with a young white male – the filmmaker not satisfied in merely casting the character in the mould of a rebellious James Dean type, complete with self-consciously coiffed hair and (fake) cigarette, he is actually called James Dean – loitering in a dark side street. He notices a female jogger stopping to catch her breath, hunching over to rest. The camera leeringly frames and zooms in on the girl’s buttocks as she is bent over. This is how Sara (played by Ellie Moore) is introduced.

Sara asks James (Max Matchton) what he is doing standing alone so late at night. “I’m just waiting for my boys to show up, bitch! Go keep on running.” Rightly dumbstruck, she runs off. The young man, apparently affronted by his friends’ absence, begins reassuring himself that he is okay with it. He gives himself a pep talk in a vain attempt to recover from this aggrieved rejection by his friends and the bruising of his own ego. In the midst of this, his leg is hit by an egg, thrown at him by the same jogging woman he met earlier. “That’s for calling me a bitch!”

Rebel without a cause

Cut to the pair now sat together on the pavement of the street with the ice (and egg) now apparently broken, as he apologises for his initial and, quite frankly, repugnant outburst as she playfully mocks his state of apparent depressive and nauseating self-pity. He then turns the spotlight on her and, with all the sickly saccharine charm he can muster, charges her with being the adored princess spoiled with attention. But he is mistaken. She too doesn’t have too many friends and struggles with loneliness.

At this juncture, the camera frames the two from above and, astonishingly, she is now leaning into him with their legs touching, apparently now kindred spirits in this poorly misjudged, mean-spirited and misogynistic fantasy world. And then they kiss! They actually fall in love. Not satisfied in leaving it there, director Brandon adds further insult to injury by inserting, at the film’s end, explanatory text which states that “Only because she was attracted to him is she ok with being called a bitch”, before reeling off several other caustic ‘affirmations’ for the benefit of the “depressed and miserable”.

Both characters are thinly sketched and one-dimensional, existing in a completely unrealistic and obnoxious scenario. From the female protagonist being called a “bitch” to being driven to hurl an egg at the loitering and menacing teen who rambles to himself with self-aggrandising affirmations, to chilling with him in a loving embrace as they chew each other’s faces off, there truly is no end to the film’s arrogance.

It cannot be stressed enough how dangerously toxic and dangerous this type of material can be in this day and age, where moral codes of behaviour are increasingly swept aside in favour of crass humour and fantasied projections, a curious phenomenon in today’s ‘meme’ culture. Dripping Depression is entirely sexist and loathsome and left me dripping in depression despite its egregious attempts to remedy it.

Voice for the Voiceless

Voice for the Voiceless is a documentary film shot in Uganda that predominantly follows Enid, an ageing mother happily married and with seven children (who have all grown up and left home). She now looks after Titus, her legally adopted son. They live in the remote village of Kikobero, a place that lacks basic resources, amenities and schooling.

Martin, Enid’s eldest son is running for election in the hope that he can bring a quality school to the village so that the children are able to break away from the traditional way of life and explore more heuristic opportunities. He is quick to point out the disparities between someone like himself – a knowledgeable and distinguished gentleman who has seen the world and been afforded certain opportunities – and those without education, who were brought up in the same village but have been forced to take care of themselves and experience a life without an education due to the dearth of resources. This is an injustice by which Martin cannot merely stand and watch, resolving instead to use his knowledge for the betterment of his community.

The film offers us a great amount of insight into a virtually ignored part of the world, showing us the strength and resilience of the local community and particularly in Enid, whose calm posture and weathered countenance conveys a great sense of power and experience. Well respected by the younger children, they tell the filmmaker that she has taught them how to dig fields and cultivate plants, essentially rendering them self-sufficient. Voice for the Voiceless is an honourable film that clearly cares for and respects the people it follows. Kearon-Wiles’ documentary approach is modest and non-manipulative, placing the attention purely on the people and things we need to see. She allows for the audience to make honest judgements for themselves rendering this tragic account all the more humane and powerful for that.

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'Dripping Depression' and 'Voice for the Voiceless' both were submissions in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.

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