STOP10 May 2017: 'Sofia' by Tawfik Daud

Sofia directed by Tawfik Daud is a short film about a young prostitute whose life takes a turn just as she thought things were getting better. The film had recently won the second runner-up spot at the Stomper’s Choice Award as an entry for the mm2 Movie Maker Awards 2016. It is now available on Viddsee.

The film is a taut, effective story that invites you into Sofia’s tumultuous life. The story is quite straightforward though borders on cliché as we have seen countless other stories of the prostitute running away and trying to live a better life only to have her past catch up. However, we never really get to see much Malay productions centering on such topics and good representation is a pretty good hook as any.

The actors are mostly serviceable, particularly Lydia Asyqin, who has always been instantly magnetic with the camera finding her favourable at all times, although I was not sold on the romantic chemistry between her and Shahril Wahid. They do not gel and seem at times to be in different movies. Shahril seems to have wandered in from a romantic comedy, which falls flat against Lydia’s troubled intensity.

The film works largely due to its good momentum, progressing from scene to scene as the plot unravels without giving too much away nor trying our patience. The good use of non-linear storytelling is essential. It is however a shame that the dramaturgy focuses so much on careful plotting rather than using the interesting character and capable actors to drive the film forward.

Even though she is the main character, and I was hooked on the concept of a film revolving a prostitute, we never feel enough with Sofia as she is constantly pushed around not only by the characters but also by the narrative and directorial decisions to portray her character as someone with very little agency. Whilst this seems somewhat thematically consistent, it is not emotionally rewarding and makes her extremely one dimensional aside from a small moment we have with her about her childhood.  Because we know so little about her, we feel very little.

The techniques used also suffers from ill discipline, particularly its cinematography and blocking which never really serves the story and becomes a distraction rather than enhancing the effective plot. In one shot, the emphasis on aesthetics backfires entirely, when the characters are eating at a crowded hawker centre and we completely lose track of where they are on screen, in favour of shooting for architectural symmetry and framing.

Overall, the film is an efficient display of plot and structure, as the strength of the film comes from its well-crafted plot and editing, which is able to mask some poor creative choices in the direction and an overused story. The draw comes largely with Lydia Asyiqin’s good performance and the cultural values it only briefly touches upon of a Malay-Muslim prostitute and her world.

Written by Rifyal Giffari

You can watch Sofia here on Viddsee:

For the full list of May 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.
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