Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: Do Not Hesitate

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

Do Not Hesitate
Directed by Shariff Korver
International Narrative Competition – Screening Information

There is a concept that what happens while someone is away from home can stay there and not have an impact on their everyday life back home. It’s a notion that’s utilized in comedy when people make drunken decisions that they regret and would rather not follow them permanently, but also one that can be applied in a much more serious context. Being in a different mindset or mode may also affect behavior and can lead to irreversible actions that can’t even be truly understood by those who haven’t experienced it, and that’s certainly true of a warzone.

In the Middle East, Erik (Joes Brauers) is a soldier in the Dutch military in a convoy that breaks down in the middle of the desert. One of his fellow soldiers accidentally shoots a goat thinking that it is an advancing enemy, and the local owner of the goat, a fourteen-year-old boy (Omar Alwan), comes looking for compensation. When Erik’s supervising officer leaves to find an outpost, he is left in charge with Roy (Spencer Bogaert) and Thomas (Tobias Kersloot), out alone in an unknown and treacherous landscape, and watched constantly by the boy who won’t leave without getting what he believes they now owe him.

The premise of this film doesn’t suggest a positive outcome, and real-life stories of very problematic and violent interactions between supposed peacekeeping presences in Middle Eastern countries and the local population foreshadow a miserable trajectory. While this film is definitely grim in certain respects, Erik does do his best to treat the boy as a human being (not that it should be a high bar by any measure), trying to communicate with him despite not speaking his language and to do more than merely give him American currency as a way to make up for the taking of his livelihood.

There are strong performances featured in this film, particularly from Brauers and Alwan. The other two primary members of the ensemble, Bogaert and Kersloot, emphatically illustrate the ways in which boredom and immaturity can lead to consequential and disturbing moves with lasting reverberations. This film has a distinct point of view that manages to bring its audience into the environment inhabited by its characters, and while it’s certainly intriguing, the ultimate course of the film isn’t quite as vivid or inviting as its premise or early stops along its journey, still interesting but also unsettling and unfulfilling.


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