As a young child you are told to always 'dream big’. You are taught in school from a young age to have aspirations and to aim for greatness whilst being told countless times by teachers that the ‘sky is the limit’. It is drummed into you as a child that with hard work and perseverance your dreams can become a reality. But, in all honesty, things are not always that simple. It is fair to say not everyone has the same opportunities but, nonetheless, there are phenomenal people who defy the odds, continually breaking constructed societal barriers and opening up avenues for others from all walks of life. Iria Pizania’s Tutu & Pointes touches on these themes in her short film, in which she implements elements of magical realism to tell the story of a young girl who, with the help of an unexpected friend, is lead to discover her dream of becoming a professional ballerina.
The award-winning director depicts the financial hardships of a single mother and daughter as she struggles to make ends meet in order to provide for herself and her daughter. Both Clare Leahy and Margot Dean, who play the single mother and daughter (Mirela) respectively, give compelling performances to bring Pizania’s vision to life, successfully illustrating the fantasy vs. reality dichotomy.
One of the strongest merits of the film is the cinematography, particularly in the scenes that include dance choreography. The film cleverly exploits the style and form of magical realism to convey the innocence of a girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina whilst battling to keep her dreams afloat, as she continually bears witness to her mother’s plight and is forced to face the reality of her immediate situation. The juxtaposition between the two realities and the film’s recurring themes of modern world challenges lends the storyline a certain amount of authenticity and relatability for the viewer.
The film closes on a lovely mother-daughter exchange as Mirela receives ballet shoes from her mother, now aware of her daughter’s secretly burgeoning passion. The narrative has enough ideas to be delivered as a feature length film and, perhaps, a sequel to this heartfelt film is an option that Pizania could explore.
Living in the western world and more specifically the United Kingdom, home to a multitude of diverse communities, there is much we are able to learn by our exposure to different cultures. It is a significant factor in understanding what it means to be British today. The importance of experiencing and appreciating other cultures helps to create solidarity and cohesion in society, encouraging us to view the world through different lenses and take on other perspectives and attitudes. In the words of Cassie Goodluck-Johnson, writer and director of the insightful documentary short A Journey to Mother India, “it forces you out of your comfort zone, which encourages change.”
The reflective documentary is a collective of interpersonal experiences and follows the journeys of individuals on a spiritual pilgrimage through India. Friends accompany Goodluck-Johnson as she shares her euphoric encounters along her travels through her motherland, and discovers the roots of Bhakti Yoga, a spiritual and ascetic discipline focused on loving devotion towards a personal god. The film provides images of the cultural, economic and geographic landscape of India as we see the affluence of asceticism, which Goodluck-Johnson captures with uncut, first-hand footage.
The use of striking, real-life images alongside the soundtrack, which incorporates Hindu scripture (‘Namah Shivaya’ by Govindas & Radha), aids the viewer in gaining further cultural awareness, not only in regards to understanding the historical context of Bhakti Yoga but also the atmospheric and spiritual processes of this type of enlightenment seeking pilgrimage.
The documentary takes an interview-style approach, working deliberately to deliver an authentic documentation of experiences and allowing the opportunity for the audience to gain unique insight into spiritual practices and personal experiences. One of the highlights of the documentary includes a conversation between Goodluck-Johnson and her friend Kari, during which she describes distinctive physical sensations she was previously unfamiliar with that she experienced whilst in India.
It is evident as the documentary draws to a close, that A Journey to Mother India’s purpose is to perform as more than just an average documentary, acting as an instrument to help the audience engage with spiritualism – some may argue to the extent of proselytism – but, taken on surface level, it is a simple and effective document of a group of friends finding themselves on an exceptionally unique journey at a special time in their lives, and one cannot help but admire the filmmaker’s attempts to spread good will and happiness universally.
'Tutu & Pointes' and 'A Journey to Mother India' were both film submissions in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.