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Asra [Caio Cortonesi, Brazil, 2018]

Asra delivers a beautifully honest and compelling story that tackles subjects not just strikingly uncommon in cinema, but also in the Islamic faith. Engaging and atmospheric from the very first image, this is a powerfully made short film told in two halves, and contained in stark but poignant black and white imagery.

Asra tells the story of Omar and his father, Ayman, who is dying from an unnamed disease. Omar recounts to his former therapist, Thais, the last night his father was alive. From his recollection we learn of the difficult relationship these two men had throughout their life as father and son. Ayman ultimately elects to have a former doctor help end his suffering as Omar is forced to wait away from his father’s side.

The bold decision to present any story in black and white is always a difficult one, for it can in many ways come across as outdated or clichéd, but, ultimately, this choice was one that only proved to elevate the film. This is a film with many deeply nuanced layers to it. Had the subject matter been specifically played to the issues that Omar has to face with not only the loss of his father, but also processing the way their relationship progressed in life, this would have been enough. However, to cross the boundary into explaining more of the life of Ayman adds so much clarity and credence to proceedings. It is a surprising twist handled with an amazing level of grace that most filmmakers could only hope to achieve.

That the film is visualised from two distinct sides is something that could have created bloat or confusion in a less capable director’s hands, but here the two stories are woven masterfully. In only fifteen minutes, it feels like we gain a rich understating of this father/son relationship, a whole life somehow perfectly packaged.


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