Sonera Angel, Tommy Alexander, Jessica Balmer, Erin Elkin, James Graeme
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
In Hassan Raza's engaging short film Zaara, Zaara is a young filmmaker with a lot of debt and nothing but holes in her pocket. On one early morning, she heads out to film the final scene in her movie. While she's out, a couple of unscrupulous bailiffs pay her family a visit including her father Aslam (Brij Mohan Thathal) and mother Rehana (Monisha Hassen) along with her sister Irtiqa (Geeth Reddy).
Zaara has already proven to be wildly popular on the film festival circuit with screenings in a dozen fests. Raza tells an engaging, insightful story and Sonera Angel brings it beautifully to life as Zaara. While we've certainly seen similar stories before, Raza adds some freshness to it with a talented ensemble cast and Raza's own excellent lensing for the film.
Zaara is an emotionally honest and well-informed film putting on display the often negative sides to the creative pursuit. Desperate to finish her project and unemployed, Zaara has been taking out loans unbeknownst to her family. Of course, loans eventually come due.
Angel is impressive as Zaara, giving a performance that is both internal and external with her entire being expressing this tension-filled journey. However, the film's real tour-de-force comes from Brij Mohan Thathal amidst his frightening encounter with James Graeme's Harvey, a bailiff intent on claiming his dues and causing as much damage as he can along the way. While he's somewhat caricaturish, he's nevertheless rather terrifying.
Raza's own lensing for the film is relentlessly jarring and intense. Raza captures the intensity between characters and yet also never lets us forget their humanity. It's impressive work from beginning to end.
Zaara's script is for the most part effective, though occasionally it feels a little bit too broadstroke with dialogue that lacks the authenticity that otherwise feels very present here. Still, Raza develops these characters nicely and the ensemble really brings them to life.
Continuing on its festival journey, Zaara is an intelligent and insightful drama worth your time if you get the chance to watch it.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic