The Present / Al Hadiya (2020, Short)
Dir: Farah Nabulsi
Who is this film about?
A father and his young daughter go shopping for a present.
What is the present?
It’s an anniversary gift for his wife, though the item isn’t really the important thing, it’s just an ordinary commonplace object which allows the film to focus more on the extreme effort and difficulty of having a ‘normal’ life where they live
Where do the family live?
The West Bank, very near a checkpoint. Clearly, this is not an easy place to be living, and the film shows how their daily lives and activities, even just going shopping, are made so much more complex when there are checkpoints with hostile soldiers to contend with.
Why is it an intense watch?
Although it’s a short film, only 25 minutes long, it still takes its time and makes good use of quiet, with relatively long periods where little happens and nothing’s said. This builds a sense of tension and encourages us to imagine what the characters are thinking and feeling. I noticed some well-conveyed moments where the father is on alert, he’s watching for dangers at the checkpoints, wanting to protect his daughter and protect her from potentially seeing anything traumatising either. This builds a sense of foreboding uncertainty, a constant worry that the situation could turn hostile, which put me on alert too, so for most of the film, I was expecting something terrible to suddenly happen.
How can I watch it?
Incredibly, this year Netflix has been picking up a lot of award-eligible short films, and this is one that they recently added to their service. I often say this, but it’s worth repeating, the short films are so overlooked in most award seasons, but as there are so many available this year they’re really worth watching, they’re short, you can watch all of them in less time than it’d take to watch the Snyder Cut of Justice League!
Won the BAFTA for live-action short, and it’s nominated for the Academy Award.