Film Review: Her Broken Shadow

In Association with Africa in Motion film festival


Let me begin this review by explaining that, whilst I have not written many film reviews for qmunicate, the ones I have done were enjoyable. My choices have been fortuitous, as I seem to normally pick films that are quite good. Unfortunately, on this occasion, not only was the viewing experience displeasing, it was quite simply heart-breaking.

Perhaps the problem is that Her Broken Shadow is billed as Uganda’s first sci-fi film. This responsibility not only demands quality, but also something radical, even breath-taking. The film’s plot certainly suggests this: two female authors, one human and one from another unnamed planet, coming to realise that they have both created the other. The themes it tackles are broad and philosophical: how far can a fictional character resemble a real person? How much of the author’s subconscious is fed into their work? How far do past experiences help a writer to understand the real world, and create another believable world? Insert the word ‘discuss’ after any of these questions, and they would not look out-of-place in an English literature exam. As someone who studies this subject, I could not help but be excited. Thus I forgave the film some of its weaknesses: the dialogue is often didactic, the acting sometimes falls a bit flat, and the gory elements of a murder scene are too ludicrous to be believed.

On the other hand, writer and director Dilman Dila deserves a lot of praise for his cinematic techniques: the lighting often creates a gloomy atmosphere; the small spaces create a claustrophobic feel throughout; and the scene in which blood flows through disparate jigsaw pieces oozes with symbolism.

And then the twist, in which Dila feels the need to explain exactly what is going on. It reminded me of Star Wars Episode I, where one of the characters explains that the Force is somehow scientific. Like George Lucas, Dila fails to recognise that sci-fi is allowed to have some level of unexplained mystery. It is what keeps it compelling, this sense of the unknown, the inexplicable. Unfortunately, Dila’s twist turned the inexplicable into the incredulous, not helped by the fact that it is offered by a random piece of furniture that can suddenly talk.

If your idea of a Friday night is to watch Fifty Shades of Grey and laugh at just how dreadful it is, then I cannot recommend Her Broken Shadow enough. However, I feel qmunicate’s readership should know that Dilman Dila and Ronan Duff owe me an hour and fifteen minutes of my life.

[Editor’s note – Sorry Liam, but no.]

[Liam Caldwell]

More information on Africa in Motion film festival can be found here

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