Directed by Hanane Bendisari | Reviewed by Anushka Dutta
‘Equal’ is an arresting short film of one-minute runtime directed by Hanane Bendisari, a transpiring self-educated, individualistic and unconventional Canadian film director and screenwriter. She has an ardent enthusiasm for working with experimental films and investing in intriguing storytelling. The primary motive of Bendisari’s work is to meet her audience with social inhibitions. Her films aim to be constructive, rewarding and fruitful. Through her art, Bendisari aspires to challenge the taboos of realities.
She does an exceptional and impressive job at directing, writing and producing her first short film. She also stands out as a first-time filmmaker with her distinguished skills in photography, directing, editing and colour grading. The transitioning from one scene to another is blended, pronto. The filmmaker attempts to convey the theme of gender equality through this one enthralling minute. As the title itself suggests, this short film talks about how one need not question their strengths, abilities and resolution to achieve something “because or despite being a woman.”
We, regardless of our gender identities, social backgrounds, career choices, nationalities and religion, are nothing, at the end of the day, but human beings. We may not be able to relate with someone in every aspect of their lives, but despite the differences, what brings us ultimately together and unites us, or should unite us, is the simple reality that we are all but human beings.
The story revolves around an athlete running through the crooked path between the woods, across devious routes and stony ways. The first narrator tells us, not just in speech but also in action, that the path to success may be formidable – in fact, there will be ups and downs, we will often be intimidated by the hurdles that lay before us, we may contemplate giving up midway, but should we? ‘Equal’ heavily impacts us and leaves us pondering the importance of believing in ourselves, believing in our worth, but more importantly, believing that “we got this”.
Roxane Barry, the woman playing the athlete, dominates the majority of the screen time. The film opens with a scene where we see her tying her shoelaces, preparing herself for the run. The run is to break the records of her coach, played by Shavae Lorenzo, who anxiously anticipates whether she can really do it. Through the course of the run, she tumbles down a dry and dusty land, hurting her knees – signifying the challenges we must face on the journey to our ultimate success.
But the very next moment she picks herself up, for she has set a goal in her mind, not as a woman, but as an athlete. It is in this very scene where we see her standing up again with the firm determination to meet her goal, the narrating voice says “we got this” – perhaps more to the people in the audience than to herself. The perseverance and willpower of our protagonist move us thoroughly. Her tenacious persistence has the potential to convince the viewer that with the right inspiration and self-reliance, they too can accomplish their dreams and ambitions.
The coach plays an important role in portraying the moral support we need from the ones we look up to and the ones we hold dear, but also in representing the shackles of male chauvinism. After her record-breaking run, the athlete needed more than the knowledge of it – what she needed was also the respect, regard and admiration from the man who had mentored her. The moment she completes the run and her coach realizes that she had beaten his record, the immediate smile on his face confirms his genuine pride for her success.
He runs up to her in the joy of their triumph and holds her face in his hand. The ending scene, however, is not merely to depict their victory. In the end, the coach says, “Now we’re equal.” To which, the athlete takes his hands off her face gently, looks him in the eyes and utters some very powerful words – “No, Christian. We’ve always been equal.” Here, we witness a change in his facial expression, perhaps due to the sudden realization of his internalized notions of patriarchy.
Anushka Dutta is a student of English Honours, and a part-time content writer. A writer, singer and an artist; they have worked as an ambassador for Japan Film Festival in 2020 organized in Kolkata, India. They are a professional singer and have done playback singing in movies.