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Amber Wilkinson

Like several of the short-listed fiction shorts for the Oscars this year, Katja Benrath's film, written by Julia Drache (with advice from Alexander Ikawah and Brian Munene), is based on a specific real-life incident - in this case, a fateful bus journey from Nairobi in Kenya to Mandera County. The latter is in a northern pocket of the country close to the Somali border, which makes it a danger zone for terror attacks by al-Shabab jihadist fundamentalists.

Here, as in so many regions of the world, religion has become a flashpoint, pushing many communities who would normally be content to live next to one another in peace into a state of fear and anxiety. This is exemplified by the Christian woman (Adelyne Wairimu), who warily glances at her fellow Muslim passengers, including teacher Salal Farah (Abdiwali Farrah) while clutching her rosary.

To say more about the story would be to spoil it but Benrath does an excellent job of building tension in double-quick time, also finding room for other, less easily evoked emotions, such as regret and doubt. Wairimu makes a strong contribution, conveying volumes simply through her body language, while cinematographer Felix Striegel also makes a good account of himself both within the confines of the bus and via an impressive aerial shot. The emotion is also gently supported by the song Watu, soulfully sung over the films final moments by Vusa Mkha ...

Like several of the short-listed fiction shorts for the Oscars this year, Katja Benrath’s film, written by Julia Drache (with advice from Alexander Ikawah and Brian Munene), is based on a specific real-life incident – in this case, a fateful bus journey from Nairobi in Kenya to Mandera County. The latter is in a northern pocket of the country close to the Somali border, which makes it a danger zone for terror attacks by al-Shabab jihadist fundamentalists.

Here, as in so many regions of the world, religion has become a flashpoint, pushing many communities who would normally be content to live next to one another in peace into a state of fear and anxiety. This is exemplified by the Christian woman (Adelyne Wairimu), who warily glances at her fellow Muslim passengers, including teacher Salal Farah (Abdiwali Farrah) while clutching her rosary.

To say more about the story would be to spoil it but Benrath does an excellent job of building tension in double-quick time, also finding room for other, less easily evoked emotions, such as regret and doubt. Wairimu makes a strong contribution, conveying volumes simply through her body language, while cinematographer Felix Striegel also makes a good account of himself both within the confines of the bus and via an impressive aerial shot. The emotion is also gently supported by the song Watu, soulfully sung over the films final moments by Vusa Mkhaya.

The short nature of the film does make it somewhat reliant on explanatory title cards, a similar issue with fellow nominee My Nephew Emmett. Benrath and Drache may have take a specific incident but they help it to speak volumes about the bigger picture.

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