When we featured Aneil Karia’s BEAT back in 2015, I described it as one of the most striking and memorable short films of recent times. Four years later and it still has a firm grip on me. Returning to Short of the Week with Work, the story of a young girl battling through a trying day in the City, Karia once again serves up a visceral, unshakable cinematic experience that will reverberate to your very core.
Inviting it’s viewers to spend a few exhausting moments in the life of Jess, an aspiring dancer, as she’s bullied, harassed and abused throughout what feels like an onerous, but not uncommon daily routine. In the 13-minutes we spend with Karia’s young protagonist, we witness her battle to keep calm and collected as a series of interactions remind here just how cold and unfair everyday life can be.
Work is an uncomfortable watch. You feel every knock Jess takes, your skin crawls as she’s assaulted on public transport and your anger grows as she’s questioned about whether she has “any other shaved items” whilst waiting tables. Much of the uneasy feeling caused when viewing Karia’s film could be put down to the scenarios its young lead encounters, however the director focused a lot of his attention into putting his audience into his character’s perspective, as he reveals when discussing the film with Short of the Week:
“We tried to shoot Work in as naturalistic manner as possible”, Karia explains. “In a way that would place the viewer right there with the protagonist; let them see the world through her eyes and feel her experience as deeply as possible. To achieve this we used a mixture of handheld, keeping very close to Jasmin (the lead actress) and then long-lens shots which find her through people and city texture, to place her and create a sense of the oppressive environments she inhabits.”
Much like in BEAT, Karia’s directorial approach injects his short with a sense of foreboding and claustrophobia, that means Work isn’t just a film you watch, it’s a film you experience. Though you may not be able to relate to the characters directly, there’s an authenticity to his on-screen worlds and their inhabitants that means their experiences resonate and trouble the audience. He presents a singular perspective and makes it feel universal – that’s no easy task!
Short film is one of my main passions in life, so when I really love a film it’s easy to come across as hyperbolic when singing its praises, but Aneil’s filmmaking causes reactions in me that few other shorts manage – it crawls under your skin and refuses to leave. Having recently directed the opening block of Channel 4’s Pure and the closing three episodes of Netflix’s Top Boy, he’s now moving on to pre-production, with his regular producer Scott O’Donnell (who also produced Daniel Mulloy’s BAFTA-winning short Home), on his first feature film SURGE. His short films are a real personal favourite of mine, so I can’t wait to see what he can achieve with a longer piece.