Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sundance ’12: The Return (short)

He is like a Kosovar Sommersby, except he is completely legitimate. That does not make the long held prisoner of war’s homecoming any easier though in Blerta Zeqiri’s The Return (trailer here), the winner of the Jury Prize for Short Film International Fiction at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

The man has been missing for four years, one of the many who disappeared during the dirty war. Suddenly released by his Serbian captors, he reunites with his wife and still relatively young son. It is awkward, even before she recounts her harrowing wartime experiences on the homefront.

Frankly, Return is more compelling before it delves into its truly heavy revelations. As the wife and mother, Adriana Matoshi vividly portrays the inappropriate emotional responses born of nervousness and confusion. There is something very honest and raw about her early scenes with Lulzim Bucolli’s shell-shocked ex-POW, as they tentatively reacquaint themselves.

Dedicated “to the missing and the victims of war crimes,” Return is not necessarily an optimistic film, but it is a forgiving one, granting allowances for the couple’s unfortunate responses and thoughtless remarks. It perhaps implies a degree of hope, but justice clearly remains unfulfilled.

Sensitively shot by Sevdije Kastrati, Return has a soft warm glow. Zeqiri also smartly avoids overt manipulation, despite the intimacy of her focus. Respectfully recommended, it screens again tomorrow (1/29) in Park City as part of a program of award winning short films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.