Baba tells the story of Britannia, a young, queer Libyan man who must retrieve his passport from the home he had been expelled from years before if he hopes to secure asylum in the UK. It’s a wonderful short film, with some really excellent visual storytelling and compelling performances crammed into its lean 18-minute runtime.
Adam Ali brings a delightful energy to the character of Britannia, which stands in stark contrast to the life he and his friends live in in the dark tunnels beneath Tripoli. One of the great strengths of Baba is that we are not explicitly told that being queer is illegal here. We are instead shown this truth in the way that characters act: how they live beneath the streets, tensing at the sound of footsteps.
We see it in how Britannia and his friends must disguise themselves physically when stepping out of their sanctuary; how one must always stand guard outside to warn the others of any suspicious looks they may have received. We, the audience, want desperately for him and his friends to have the freedom to live their lives and not feel suffocated.
The titular character is Baba, Britannia’s father, who is only on screen for a few key moments. For most of the time, he is cast in an ominous, villainous role. The inevitable reunion between the two is built up with masterful tension, as Britannia breaks into then sneaks around his childhood home. But, with skill which is remarkable for such a short film, we see that there is another side to Baba.
He is a father who loves and misses his son, despite feeling compelled by his culture and society to push him out onto the streets. Other viewers might feel that Ali and Arbor too easily absolve Baba of wrongdoing. Were this a feature film I may have agreed; here, there simply wasn’t time for more than what we were given.
The film ends with a plea, not to action but recognition – of hundreds of people in present-day Tripoli who must hide themselves for the sake of their families. This really hammers home the bravery of those who dare to live honestly in the face of an openly hostile society.
Dirs: Adam Ali and Sam Arbor (no rating, 18 mins)
words JAMES REYNOLDS for BUZZ CULTURE
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