Saturday Afternoon Review: A shocking and abrasive assessment of terrorism | Sydney Film Festival Review | Sydney Film Festival Review | SWITCH.




By Charlie David Page
7th June 2019

The threat of terrorism has been felt across the globe. Escalating in recent decades, the most devastating events have been the result of religious conflict. While attacks on the Western world are most prevalent in news coverage, there are plenty of parts of the planet where clashing cultures and heightened tensions lead to regular conflict. Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki ('Television', 'Third Person Singular') has chosen to look closely at this divide within his home country in his new film 'Saturday Afternoon'.

In a café in the center of Dhaka, Bangladesh, a siege is underway. Islamic terrorists have stormed the site and taken everyone inside hostage. Anyone who's not a "true Muslim" is shot on site. As the police surround the building, tension escalates as the terrorists attempt to find the one Indian who they learn is hiding among the group of survivors - but police are closing in fast, and there's no knowing who'll make it out alive.

What's most affecting about 'Saturday Afternoon' is that it plays out in real time. Filmed in one continuous shot, it's largely thanks to cinematographer Aziz Zhambakiev that it still looks as great as it does. This technique both adds tension to the situation, creating a real sense of dread, and also allows the audience to avoid the worst of the violence, either heard as it occurs off-screen or experienced in reactions from other characters.

The single-shot scenario also places a heavy weight on the shoulders of the actors. In most instances, they achieve this - particularly when many of the characters on both sides of the siege remain nameless. The standout is certainly Raisa (Nusrat Imrose Tisha), a 26-year-old woman whose faith may lie in Islam, but whose progressive attitudes put her in harm's way. As a Western audience member, she was the one outspoken hostage who was vocalising all of the thoughts crossing my mind while the terrorists were spurting insulting sexist drivel.

What's most affecting about 'Saturday Afternoon' is that it plays out in real time, filmed in one continuous shot.

While the hostage takers' motivations are in the right place - standing up against persecution and preserving their culture - it's clear that the film is strongly opposed to their methods. 'Saturday Afternoon' is a shocking and abrasive assessment of terrorism, and will be especially confronting to Western audiences. As the finale fades to black, we'll never know the real outcome - only that many lives were unnecessarily lost.

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