Written by Ram Venkat Srikar
Bryan Buckley’s Saria is based on 2017’s tragedy when 41 girls orphan girls lost their lives to fire in Virgen de La Asuncion Safe Home in Guatemala, the very same orphanage they were housed in, or I may say, jailed. The first and last shots of the film havea spider crawling in the hallway of the orphanage, and the spider appears at three different junctures. First, the spider crawls into a closed room. Second, Saria, the titular character, saves the insect trapped in soap foam and lets it go out of the orphanage. Third, the spider crawls out of the room. If carefully observed, the arc of the spider mirrors Saria’s. The room is the orphanage Saria got in. When set free, it is Saria escaping the orphanage. And the final shot of the spider coming out of the room; it is Saria leaving the world. And it is befitting that human life is compared to an insect’s. That’s how dispensable these girls are.
I’m unsure if it is the same one in all the three cases, but the question is of no value because the representation signifies only the species, just like the girls in the orphanage. They are just women, a species, nothing more than that. That’s the way the confined and cruel world treats them, implies. Especially the officials in charge of the orphanage, there is neither physical care nor mental empathy from them. Drawing reference from 2019’s One Child Nation, we meet many government officials, mostly women, who carried out thousands of abortions abiding by China’s One-child policy. That’s what they were ordered to do decades ago. And their present lives are burdened with guilt.
Here too, government officials are exercising their power on the innocents. Unlike China’s case, here, no one has ordered them to be inhuman to these girls in a government-run orphanage. It is their cold-hearted and uncompassionate nature that I’m striving to comprehend. There is one critical scene at the end, depicting the sheer lack of fundamental human emotions in a female guard; this exposition of cruelty is agonizingly unbearable, to say the least. When Saria questions her teacher on Valentine’s Day whether Saint Valentine thinks women had the right to fight, her teacher responds Valentine felt women had no place on the battlefield. When the young girl says it’s bullshit, she is beaten and thrown out of the class while all other girls helplessly sit there. It is a simplistic scene that portrays how intensely flawed the mindsets are, of those in power.
The atmosphere is grim and dull, standing for their colourless lives, but there is a window letting sunshine, a ray of light in their lives. Freedom is what the girls fought for, and, wistfully, only death let them escape. And, it is humans who decided their fate. Filmmaker Bryan Buckley understands how sensitive and brutal the issue is, and presents it unfiltered. Being a mirror of horrifying reality, it is a potent work that emphatically proves how effective short-form cinema can be.
On January 29, ShortsTV will debut THE 2020 OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS at the IFC Center in New York City and in select markets, and then roll out across the US and Europe on January 31. This marks the 15th consecutive year of the Oscar Nominated Short Films theatrical experience. It is the only opportunity for audiences to watch the short film nominees in theaters before the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday February 9, 2020. They will also made available via on demand platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play and Vimeo on Demand. The release ensures the greatest number of viewers can see all the nominees before the ceremony, while providing short filmmakers with an unprecedented opportunity to commercialise their movies. Each nominee is released in one of three distinct feature-length compilations according to their category of nomination: Live Action, Animation, or Documentary.