Writer: Mei Leng Yew
Cast: Olivia Anson, Rebecca Herod, Lewis Fernee
Running time: 13mins
The lowdown: Friendship, growing pains and Middle Eastern revolution come together in this moving short film. Safiyah, a young British Egyptian girl bored in a London tenement flat attempts to get a letter to her dad, in Egypt during the Arab Spring. Local lad Thomas may have the answer with his toy helicopter. Perfectly judged magic realism twins with darker incidents happening far away in a short film that promises big things to come from its creators.
The full verdict: The opening shot of a toy truck twinned the sound of a real engine gunning sets the tone. Safiyah’s world is where fantasy and harsh reality intertwine.
Yew’s debut script is a lesson in economic storytelling, the lean thirteen minute running time briskly conveying incident, political turmoil and, crucially, emotion. Resisting sermonising and histrionics, Yew focusses plot momentum on Safiyah and Thomas’ attempts to get the letter to the girl’s absent father.
But, in the background snatched comments from her mother’s telephone conversations or grim news on the radio paint a darker, more troubling world.
On his third short director de Ceccatty imbues the film with a child’s wonder and frustration. Shots are kept low to match Safiyah’s point of view, with her mum frequently bursting the frame as a no-fun figure of authority. Thomas’ toy helicopter, a means of escape for the children, is filmed with the same dynamism as directors shooting the real thing.
De Ceccatty also elicits natural performances from Anson and Fernee as Safiyah and Thomas, their attempts to get the letter to the girl’s absent father a big adventure played with its own rules.
Honest and poignant right down to the moving denouement and a literal flight of fancy, Safiyah Flies Across The Ocean leaves you burning to see what all involved could do with a full length feature.