Screening in Cannes in 2018, “The Storms in our Blood” is a very intelligent short that is based on a rather intriguing ‘what if' that results in a number of social comments while retaining a sense of comedy for the entirety of its duration.
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Uma, a Ghanaian girl working in a bar, becomes pregnant by one of two Chinese sailors who slept with her one drunken night. She decides to find the father, and eventually reaches the town the two live in northeast China. After a meeting with two of them, and essentially the whole town, the older one, Zhao Daguo admits he is the father, and essentially takes responsibility for Uma, also because his mother pushes him to “continue his line”. The other one, however, Richard, who is actually the only one in the area who can speak a bit of English and communicate with the girl, also seems to care about her. Time passes with Uma in the village, and the cultural differences result in a number of episodes.
Shen Di uses this absurd idea to present a rather episodic narrative, that highlights the difference in culture between Ghanaian Christians and Chinese communists, in a way, though, that remains flimsical and funny throughout the 31 minutes of the short. Starting with the fact that Uma does not understand what anyone is saying and vice versa, and the ways the villagers implement in order to get to know her, the hilarious scenes come one after the other.
As the locals watch National Geographic documentaries to learn about Africa, she tries to find a Christian church, which ironically, is looked after by a mentally handicapped young man, while she eventually forces the locals to have a kind of “Last Supper”, in one of the funniest, and most visually impressive scenes of the movie. The presence of another African man in the area, who is actually some kind of doctor, is even more hilarious, with him prescribing substances that seem to combine African magic with Chinese medicine, as in the case of “three deer penises and some ginseng”.
At the same time, Shen Di also sends a message regarding cohabitation, highlighting how people can overcome any kind of barrier, in this case religion, language and race, and coexist in harmony.
Apart from context, the movie also thrives on visuals, with Wang Weihua's cinematography resulting in a number of excellent compositions, with the scenes with the candle, the aforementioned with the “Supper” and the ones in the beach being rather memorable. The job done in the editing is also top notch, with the sudden cuts being part of the deadpan humor of the movie.
Jane Mansah as Uma gives a very convincing performance, despite having very few lines, while Chen Zhenfei as Richard and Xie Huiwen as Daguo have captured the absurdness that dominates the narrative to perfection.
“The Storms in our Blood” is an excellent short, equally smart, funny, contextually rich and well shot, in a truly impressive effort by Shen Di.