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Disney-Hotstar’s Anthology Launchpad Is Worth A Watch




Anthology of 6 Stories Introducing  Promising New  Directors

Rating: *** ½

2 out of 6.  That’s actually the  score of brilliant films in this short-film anthology introducing six new  directors  from the worldover addressing the  issue of ethnicity , colour and culture in the context  of a cosmopolitan multiplicity.

Straightaway let me say the sextet’s   last two stories  Let’s Be  Tigers and  The Little Prince(ss) are outright winners. In fact they are so   outstanding that  they should have have been featured as  separate  films,  and  not a part  of  the anthology.

 Not that the  other films are not interesting. The  opener of  the anthology is  a heartwarming  take  on  Islamic assimilation  in the American Dream. Director  Aqsa Altaf’s  American Eid is  so populated  with angelic  people  I  felt I had arrived in  jannat. Two sisters from Pakistan Ameena  and  Zainab try to  come to terms  with their new home environment  and school in  the  US. While the elder one wants to  “belong” the  lovely endearing  younger  girl clings to her Pakistani  heritage. No sign of racism anywhere. God bless America!

Dinner Is  Served  showing a Chinese student  tying to “belong”  and excel in a  high-end boarding school aims for a little  more emotional  diversity than American Eid, and succeeds  to a  point. The hero is  a  young Chinese student  aiming to serve as a maitre d’  in his school’s  classy restaurant,until he  discovers that his  seemingly liberal  benefactors are  deep-rooted  in their  prejudices. The  climax  where  the protagonist  bursts  into a Chinese  song in a room full of American elite  reminded me  of Hai preet jahan  ki reet  in Manoj Kumar’s Purab  Aur Pachim. For a short film this one is  weighed down  by too much  emotional  baggage. Nonethless director Hao Zheng shows promise. I’d love to  see what he  does next.

The  next two stories left me  stone-cold and  unimpressed.  Ann Marie Pace’s Growing Fangs is about a   half-vampire  half-human teenaged girl with weight issues and braces,   coping with her  mixed  breed.  Clumsy special-effects and too much silent giggling  in the  screenplay about  how clever  the  film  is  trying to be, left me cold.  Fangs, but  no fangs.

Ditto Jessica Mendez Siqueiros’  The Last of the Chupacabras about a weird and wacky  Mexican-American woman who discourses with  what looks like  an over-sized  wooden cockroach, is an embarrassment  of ideas  served up in  dollops  of quixotic  quirkiness. This story  is  by far the poorest representation of  cultural isolation with a central performance that needed severe reining-in.

  For my favourite  film in the sharply-cohesive  anthology it’s a toss-up between the last two stories. Stefanie Abel Horowitz’s Let’s Be Tigers  wins by a slender margin.  In  a beautifully shot chamber piece, a wise  wonderful  little boy Noah  bonds  with his  grieving babysitter Avalon while his gay parents are out. It is  a superbly written piece underlined by  a smothered drama and  a barely  expressed  largely untold  grief that hovers over the  beautifully shot apartment as the boy and his companion for the evening come together in  a rare clasp of kinship.

Another gem is the closing  story  Moxie Peng’s The Little Prince(ss). Like  the other stories this one too is  about belonging and  acceptance, as two little Chinese  boys in  America bond over bus rides and….dolls. Gabriel(Kalo Moss, wonderful )  the little hero  of  the show  loves playing with  dolls. Before this sweet tender story ends, little  Gabriel teaches his somewhat  bewildered and confused  friend’s  bigoted homophobic father  a lesson or two in acceptance. The  moment when Gabriel’s parents tell Rob’s father how proud they are  of their little son , is the crowning glory of this  deeply  empathetic  sometimes  uneven  but always engaging anthology.

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