A still from Black Bodies

Sundance 2021: Black Bodies Review

The short speaks powerfully to the Black Lives Matter movement.

While most of the attention at film festivals is directed toward feature-length films, some of the most promising emerging talent can be found in the short film sections. Indeed, esteemed filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson had their early breakthroughs in the Sundance Film Festival’s shorts program. Hoping to emulate their success is Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, whose film Black Bodies is already an award winner. Playing at Sundance following its Toronto debut, it confronts the harsh realities of being Black in our modern world.

Fyffe-Marshall sets the minimalist scene with a darkly lit room. It’s in this space that we meet a young Black man surrounded by black bodies on the floor. He is visibly distraught. As he launches into a monologue about the trauma and brutality inflicted on Black people, his pain becomes all too familiar.

At just over 4 minutes long, Black Bodies is a short but potent statement on contemporary race relations. And as a Canadian production, it reminds us that the Black struggle isn’t only felt by their neighbours to the south. While the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter movement is the United States, the problem of police brutality is an international concern.

Capitalizing on this universal relevance, Fyffe-Marshall crafts a resonant monologue in the style of spoken word poetry. Based on Komi Olaf’s own poem, he performs it with eloquent passion. From the whips and shackles of slavery, to the dreaded “hands up” command, to the desperate pleas of “don’t shoot” (from supporting actress Donisha Prendergast), the words ruminate on centuries of oppression that have led to our current social climate. Meanwhile, sound effects of gunshots further paint a vivid but agonizing mental image.

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Through its poignant cry for justice, Black Bodies is a worthy companion piece to other similarly themed Sundance features. That it manages to send such a deeply felt message in such a simple, concise format is a testament to Fyffe-Marshall’s talent. She is certainly one to watch.

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