Gregory G. Allen
Gregory G. Allen
Every day those who witnessed World War two firsthand are getting fewer and fewer. It may seem like, and is, an obvious statement but for many after the war - having it fade into history seemed obnoxious to even consider. It's hard to believe it has been so long and that the time is finally here for WWII to live on through film, books, and various other media sources. Eventually, it will be akin to reading about so many abominations throughout history - including slavery. Hopefully, a lesson for future generations, with no eyewitnesses left to speak with. A lesson held in place mainly by the fascination of generations of descendants, and scholars alike.
Regarding the second World War, it's at this transitioning point during the present day that "Reparations" begins its particular story. Our leading lady Michonne is completing her research for a thesis - including interviews with Holocaust survivor Howard, who lives alone but has agreed to help and more than likely, enjoys the company. This is effectively hinted at by way of tea, prepared in advance of Michonne's arrival - the way she likes it. I only bring this up because throughout this short film, Howard's presence shifts from warm to cold often. The tea was a smart way to show Michonne wasn't simply a nuisance. Michonne's paper revolves around reparations for descendants of slaves. In particular, African American slaves. Directly referencing what I started this write up with, Howard doesn't believe present-day descendants should receive reparations - based on the fact they themselves didn't live as, or witness the brutality of slavery. He, on the other hand, receives a payout from the German government - but he also actually lived through it all and deserves it. It's a valid argument but one for people far more educated than myself to debate.
Using WWII as a comparison point for slavery in a film is a smart idea to create drama - knowing that many people have probably had similar arguments again and again. It's a way to add a familiar touch to a film, drawing people closer to the screen because many have probably heard or been involved in similar arguments. Gregory G. Allen however, uses it as a way to tell a story about intolerance and differences from an individual point of view. This film starts with one thing and branches off to issues such as being gay. What's really important in this piece is that through it all, even when these two characters are at odds, there is still communication and understanding. "Reparations" is a sneakily effective way to draw its audience into one story, yet include threads of many more. It's very well done and the short of this review is this - highly recommended.
It's always pleasant when I can keep the technical opinions on a film short and sweet and in this case, very short and sweet. "Reparations" looks and sounds great. Easy to understand dialog, a light score, and some nice visuals tell Allen's story beautifully. The animations edited into the film also manage to produce a feeling of authenticity - without having to use old footage and the like. I did notice a slightly odd feeling during the third act however, as Howard is narrating a story. I can't say for sure why it struck me as odd, only that it did and I noticed. It may have been a closeup shot used, or any number of other things. I simply can't say for certain - but it was quickly forgotten about, no doubt thanks to the excellent performances. I also thought the reveal regarding Howard's past and name was not needed. For me, it never adding anything to the story. I performed my little narrative test and pictured this film without that reveal - and found that the story would have essentially been the same. It wasn't that this plot string was bad, only that it was not needed. Regarding those great performances I mentioned? Well, I don't feel the need to write much because the idea of playing a part is realism and simplicity - and those aspects were captured perfectly by both Ed Delia and Nefertiti Warren. The performances were measured and calculated - a perfect fit for the content itself.
At the end of the day this was a really good short film. The story was framed and paced nicely, and the acting and production work complemented the narrative. As I wrote above, highly recommended viewing and I was glad to have had the chance to get a peek. Thumbs up - four stars.