An intriguing portrait of a young woman clinging to her identity while being pregnant, writer/director Rashida Seriki’s Colby is a short looking to defy society’s expectations. As we follow the eponymous character’s movements, out and about with her friends over the course of one day, we witness her realization that their bond has changed and how she strives to ensure her pregnancy won’t define her. Delicately and subtly placing the audience in her main character’s shoes, Seriki turns the mundanity of her afternoon/early evening into a poignant viewing experience aiming to shift perspectives.
“I had this new, unique desire to flip existing narratives to normalize the inclusion of pregnant women and young parents”
“It’s not an autobiographical film by any means but it was inspired by me having my son at 22”, Seriki shared with us as we discussed her inspiration for Colby. Citing her own experience as a key motivator in what led her to depict a story of motherhood and pregnancy that we don’t often get to see on the big screen, the filmmaker saw this as the perfect opportunity to “normalize a different view”. Preconceptions often result in pregnant characters being defined by their “situation” in films and so informed by what she went through, Seriki found herself with a “desire to flip existing narratives to normalize the inclusion of pregnant women and young parents” and “write them into spaces they haven’t been put into before”.
Successfully allowing us to see the world through Colby’s eyes, although the specificities of her experience mean the narrative won’t be relatable to all, her emotional journey is nonetheless incredibly compelling. Throughout the runtime of the film, Seriki fleshes out her character by showing her flaws and vulnerabilities and deep down, at the core of the narrative, this is just a tale of a young woman who wants to be included. As we observe her strength and witty personality, the first part of the film has Colby confront her reality, while in the second part she gets to be audacious, amplifying the compelling nature of her emotional journey and ending the film on an empowering note.
Shooting the film with an observational approach, an element of production Seriki decided upon alongside DP Jaime Ackroyd (who also shot 2021 SXSW winner Play It Safe) – who the director describes as being known “for his naturalistic style and eye for capturing the raw in a cinematic way” – helps ground the film in reality and allows the camera to be intimate with the lead actor without being voyeuristic. But like in any character driven story, the performance is what makes the film emotionally successful. Precious Mustapha accesses the raw emotions of her character with a remarkable sensitivity, making her character endearing and simultaneously revealing her strong personality and her insecurities with a captivating authenticity.
Colby is Seriki’s third short film and had its world premiere at the 2021 edition of BFI’s London Film Festival. Although an excellent standalone short, it also serves as a proof of concept for Seriki’s first feature project P Ward, which chronicles Colby’s time spent on the postnatal ward of a hospital where she fosters an unexpected community of support. The director is also working on another short, this one set in Nigeria and about “life for a boy at boarding school, a world steeped in irrational hierarchy and cruelty”.