Young director Mitch Kalisa and actor Jonathan Ajayi collaborate on “Play it Safe”, a short film that tackles unconscious racism abuse, and its misconceptions on a bold approach through this 13-minute piece.
The plot is clear: Jonathan is a young drama school black actor that struggles with some prejudice from his colleagues. During an acting exercise that consists of animal imitations, he will now face an internal dilemma.
The film walks over eggshells: the line between short-film and awareness advert is thinner than ever, and Jonathan Ajayi’s performance is crucial in this differentiation, as he carries the audience through an organic and claustrophobic sense of place. His struggle is real, and a powerless wave fills the audience with what Jonathan is going through. We, just as him, can merely witness.
The climax scene is brilliantly directed with the camerawork instead focusing on the audience rather than the performance, purposely driving us away from what would be obvious, we can now see ourselves uncomfortably. The director stated “I wanted to hold up a mirror against the audience”.
If the main character, as the audience, has had enough, what is there to do? Embrace the challenge and risk playing a part in all racial prejudices, or playing it safe? At the end of the day, it is the lesser evil.