Short Film Spotlight: The Palace

Earlier this month James from Toronto Screen Shots announced that, starting January 13, 2012, he will be running a program entitled Shorts That Are Not Pants. This quarterly event is designed to showcase both Canadian and International short films to audiences who would not normally get the chance to see them. This has inspired me to not only seek out more short films, but to also try a little harder to highlight them on this site. What better way to kick off this initiative then with The Palace, the film that took home the Best Short Film award at the 2011 Adelaide Film Festival and the Best Australian Short Film at the 2011 Melbourne International Film Festival.

Each year there are many great award-winning short films that often go criminally unnoticed, that should not be the case for The Palace. Inspired by true events, The Palace takes during the 1974 Turkish Invasion of Cyprus. Seeking refuge from the advancing Turkish forces, a family hides in an abandon Otterman-era palace. When a young Turkish Cypriot conscript, Omer (Erol Afsin), comes face to face with the family in hiding, he is forced to confront the harsh realities of war and his part in it.

The Palace is a film that immediately throws the audience into a tense situation and manages to maintain that tension to the very end. This is quite remarkable considering the bulk of the film takes place in one room. Director Anthony Maras skillfully utilizes the space by focusing on the importance of sound. Silence is the key to survival though it is nearly impossible for Stella (Daphne Alexander), the matriarch of the family, to achieve when holding an infant. When the baby does have a loud outburst, it is overshadowed by the record that the soldiers are playing. This may seem like a conventional director trait to some, but Maras pulls it off without it ever feeling like a gimmick.

Despite the harsh subject matter, Maras includes brief moments of levity in the film. This allows him to emphasize how naive Omer and his fellow soldier Mehmet (Tamer Arslan) are in regards to the enormity of the war. This is a direct contrast to Stella and her family who see no humour in this nightmare that they are currently living. When Omer’s Sergeant (Kevork Malikyan) states “this is where art ends and real life begins” it truly feels like a loss of innocence has just occurred. Maras gets solid performances from his entire cast. Erol Afsin and Kevork Malikyan provide a nice contrast between the soldier who is trying to maintain some form of humanity and the Sergeant who lost his humanity years ago. As the female lead, Daphne Alexander does a good job in her portrayal of Stella. She is given the tough task of conveying numerous emotions with very little dialogue. There is a silent moment between her and Afsin near the end of the film that speaks volumes to how damaged each individual is. The Palace is a tense film that reinforces the notion that, regardless of which side you are on, there are no winners when it comes to war.

by Courtney Small, Big Thoughts from a Small Mind