Sunday, 6 December 2020

REVIEW: Tales From the Front Line… And Other Stories, Talawa (on Youtube)

It’s very rare to leave me speechless, believe me, but Tawala and their Tales From the Front Line have managed it. And you might be thinking, I’ve heard it already. I’ve heard everything I can about Covid, I’ve watched the news, I’ve seen it on Instagram, I’ve lived it. But, if, like me, you’re a part of the readership who’ve sat on furlough for 6 months and are as white as snow, you haven’t. Of course, it hasn’t been easy for anyone, but gaining new perspectives is so important in times like this, and Tales From the Front Line gives you perspective in buckets. The short films use verbatim interviews to ‘explore the historic Covid-19 crisis and its seismic impact on those at the front line’; and its impact on black key workers specifically.
The first film stars Jo Martin, speaking on behalf of a teacher. It’s incredibly candid and incredibly personal. On an artistic level, it’s performed so subtly that if you didn’t know Martin from her other work you’d believe she’d been a teacher, this teacher, all her life. You get very natural dialogue paired with quite moving physical interpretation from Rhys Dennis and Waddah Sinada of FUBUNATION. Their delicate and guarded movement fills in a world of unspoken emotion, which makes vulnerable the strength of the unknown woman talking. It’s emotional, and perhaps it’s my ignorance/naivety/privilege that makes it that way, but I believe it speaks a universal truth nevertheless. We must be kinder, more empathetic, more understanding, towards black children.

Teachers shouldn’t get away with making off-handed comments about the students they are responsible for 8 hours a day, likewise, teachers who think it’s unacceptable that a large part of the school doesn’t have hot water or hand sanitiser during a pandemic, shouldn’t be brushed aside. The film asks the question, how are we supposed to care for others when we aren’t cared for ourselves? Sure, I knew it must be difficult for teachers trying to explain a changing world to kids who hadn’t quite got to grips with the world before it changed. But how do you go about that when you have no idea yourself? When the heroism of the people who look like you is never broadcast, but, somehow, the violence towards them always is? I realise it shouldn’t take a global pandemic, or weeks of protests, for me to ask these questions, and I hope you don’t think it’s remiss of me to soliloquise about a ‘revelation’ millions have had to live with for years, but this film is accessible and it’s beautiful and, if you are in the privileged position where this year has been one about realisation more than anything else, it’s illuminating. Please, watch it.

The second film, starring Sapphire Joy, brings all the anger that the teacher from before kept ‘in [her] head’. This film is visceral and impassioned, overlaid by images of isolation, entrapment, and, ultimately, recovery. It speaks to the unimaginable resilience of those putting themselves in harm's way to protects others. Especially those like this recovery worker in a mental health hospital without access to PPE. She’s angry, and rightly so. She’s angry with me, on furlough, whilst she’s had to leave her family to work 12-hour shifts, with you, for clapping on your front step without demanding NHS pay rises (if indeed you didn’t), with her colleagues, for assuming their black patient would be violent on account of his being black. It brings to mind the much-shared quote; ‘if you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention’. Well, this young hero demands you pay attention. So, please, watch it. 

I realise I said I was speechless and then proceeded to say many, many words, but trust me when I say nothing I have said here will tell you more than these extraordinary artists at Tawala (, and the key-workers they interview, can tell you themselves. So, please, for the last time, watch it. 

Review by Anna Smith

Rating: ★★★★★

Price: Free on Youtube

Blog Design by pipdig