There is a wonderful moment in Sotiris Dounoukos’ meditative film, A Single Body, where David (Mexianou Mendenou) stands watching a machine slowly rip a piece of beef apart. An abattoir worker, this is probably a scene that plays out for David countless times each week, but this time is different. Standing their sullen and as cold as the meat before him, the weight of Dounoukos’s film hits us. All the sadness, dashed hopes, and lost dreams, culminate in that subtle moment leaving only uncertainty and anger.
Many filmmakers would use this opportunity to manipulate the situation to pull at the audience’s heartstrings, but not Dounoukos. He lets the moment sit. The tension will ramp up eventually, but for now he just wants us to reflect. To taste the same pungent air of raw carcasses that abattoirs bring. It is this skilled judgment that makes A Single Body such a captivating portrait of human connection.
The short film follows two friends, David and Wani (Doudou Masta), as they spend their days slicing up raw meat and their nights dreaming about opening up their own butcher shop. The key to jump starting their future business begins with purchasing the van they have had their eyes on for weeks. Their dreams are unexpectedly dashed when an incident on the job occurs. David cannot help but notice that the accident comes shortly after a new, and seemingly simpleminded employee, Patate (Garba Tounkara), begins working at the facility.
Filled with anger, sadness, and a delicate mixture of machismo and insecurity, Mexianou Mendenou is quite good as the complex David. Doudou Masta’s strong work in the film should be noted as well. Masta’s subtle, but key, performance helps to sell the reverberations of his absence in the later sections of his film. Showing confidence in both his cast and his own ability, Australian director Sotiris Dounoukos conjures up a truly moving and powerful contemplation on the fragility of human connection and the forces of nature that impact it. A Single Body is a visually striking drama that captures that inexplicable void between grief and happiness that can only be accessed through tragedy. With two previous shorts already under his belt, A Single Body cements Sotiris Dounoukos as a director to keep an eye on in the future.
Screens (as part of Short Cuts International Programme 1):
Friday, September 5, 7:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, September 12, 5:30 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Ticket information can be found at the TIFF website.