Directed by Hassan Zara, ‘Zaara’ is a drama short that stars Sonera Angel, Brij Mohan, James Graeme and Monisha Hassen.
Zaara, a Muslim immigrant, lives with her father and her stepmother and dreams of becoming a filmmaker. That is all well and good, but when Zaara takes out a loan from a bank to finance shooting her new film, trouble soon finds a way to her house in the form of debt collectors when she fails to pay back her loans. With the collectors laying down an ultimatum for either full cash payment or asset repossession of equal value, Zaara’s father is forced to make tough choices to keep his household from imploding. Disastrous consequences soon ensue, and Zaara finds herself at a crossroads in her life that she did not expect.
Zaara, at its core, is an exploration of youth and how a Muslim girl, against all odds, wants to follow her passion. In the pursuit of her dreams, Zaara inadvertently hurts her father, who grows to become increasingly weary of her daughter’s adventures. Perfectly encapsulating a brown Muslim household in the UK, the film asks pertinent questions about immigrant life in the country. Life is unpredictable and brutal, and Zaara is an accurate reflection of how passion and poverty combine to form a combustible mix.
The black and white colour palette amplifies the emotional stakes of the film, and the fantastic performances elevate the already well-written script. Sonera Angel, as the titular character, is a revelation and the way she exudes her internal conflict is a sight to behold. Equally fantastic is Brig Mohan, who plays Zaara’s father. Mohan draws up his character’s frustrations in a near-perfect way, and the swaying power dynamic between him and Zaara is what forms the crux of the entire film.
For the lack of a better word, Hassan Raza’s ‘Zaara’ is simply stunning. A barebones story of a girl following her passions against all odds, the film will make you root both for the protagonist as well as for her father, even though both are at odds with one another. As this typical family navigates the trials and tribulations of the difficult immigrant life in the UK, the film asks deep questions but, like real life, does not always provide pertinent answers. Raza has therefore managed to make a hard-hitting short, one that speaks so much about the immigrant experience in the UK in such a short amount of time. We give the film five out of five.