By Kassandra Sharma
Shoegazer is a short film, originally released in 2019, showcased at CTFF 2020 during the “Reel Black Canada” night. All films were shorts and productions of the true north. It was a night dedicated to celebrating Caribbean creators right here in our own backyard.
Written and starring Aisha Evelyna, and directed by Isa Ben, the Shoegazere 13 minute long film had so much to say; leaving the audience thinking about Black hair and its importance, acceptance and beauty.
Shoegazer starts with our main character Sydney (Aisha Evelyna) getting ready in the morning. She looks at herself in the mirror with a tired but thoughtful expression. The scene progresses with her getting dressed and fussing with her hair as she takes it out of her headwrap to reveal long wavy hair, all the while continuously letting out deep sighs trying to finish getting ready. The whole scene already makes it clear to the audience that Sydney has a major internal conflict. She even tries to smile slightly at herself but it quickly fades away. After hurriedly getting her things she reaches for the front door knob but pulls back. With deep breathes, composing herself, all the while, the camera slowly pulls back down the long hallway that leads to the front door giving the sense that Sydney is slowly withdrawing into herself before leaving the apartment. Just as she leaves the building, she runs into her ex-boyfriend Callum (Cory Lipman) who she asks why their relationship failed. Callum replies, her hair.
Callum’s reply triggers a series of flashbacks - first is of a young Sydney taken to a hairdresser by her mother, who pleads with the hairdresser to relax Sydney’s natural hair, as she cannot handle it anymore. Her mother sits down and starts humming a slow, somber tune as Sydney is taken to be styled. The music carries on and envelopes the scene, cancelling out all other sounds – a feeling of a bittersweet serenade. With flickers of pink lights across the screen, Sydney looks at herself in the mirror. The hairdresser offers some comfort, quietly telling Sydney she is gorgeous and she loves her hair, offering a little light in a darker moment.
We return to present day Sydney, back in her apartment, fussing again with her hair - removing extensions. She looks more tired than ever. Flash back to a party scene where Sydney runs into a work friend who noticeably keeps touching Sydney’s hair during their initial interaction.
Sydney previously had a breakdown at work - has not received shifts since, which she believes is because of her hair. As another friend approaches, Sydney looks longingly at her hair, clearly wanting nothing more than to “fit in”.
In the present, Callum clarifies he felt Sydney’s hair controlled everything she did. To which she replies teary eyed:
“When the world tells you that a part of you that you can’t change is like, like bad, umm, it sorta like, it starts to make you like, like hate yourself.” - Sydney, Shoegazer (2019).
© Youtube | SilverWaveFilmFest
Sydney is the only one who feels the weight of this problem due to having to see it as ‘an issue’ since childhood, but other characters around her don’t think of it as an issue or simply just cannot relate. I found myself drawn in to the story and the characters quickly, wishing for it to be a TV show or movie series to see more interactions, development and backstory. The handheld camera work and isolated, up-close shots allows for an even more candid and personal feeling.
Shoegazer ultimately tells a lifelong tale of struggle and acceptance that can be either very relatable or eye opening to its audience.
*Editor’s note: Shoegazer screened at the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival ‘20