Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Categorisation: Short drama
Availability: New Zealand Film Commission (https://ondemand.nzfilm.co.nz/film/madam-black/)
Storyline: This short film, directed by New Zealander Ivan Barge, was a festival hit when first screened in 2015. It won the Director’s Choice award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, the Prix de Public at the Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival, and also won Best Short Film at the 2017 New Zealand Film Awards. Barge has said that the film was inspired by a story that was related by Kafka’s lover, Dora Diamant, having met a little girl in a park who had lost her doll. Similarly, Madam Black tells the charming, if somewhat edgy, story of a photographer, a child, and a lost cat.
Film-craft: At eleven minutes long, Matthew Harris’s witty screenplay is necessarily succinct and well-paced. And Ivan Barge gets the very best out of it. From the first scenes of the tired photographer through to its clever ending, he impressively merges humour and pathos in tight concentration.
Cast: Madam Black brings together a small, quality cast who portray everyday life expertly. Yvette Parsons starts us off provocatively as the client who hires the photographer to capture her best side. She is a hoot. British actor Jethro Skinner is perfect in the role of Marcus, the careworn photographer, who finds himself increasingly embroiled in a complicated relationship with Tillly and her cat. Pearl Everard, playing the preadolescent Tilly, also deserves a mention, as does Rebekah Davies playing Rachel, her mum, whose protective instincts come nicely to the fore as Marcus starts turning up outside their house.
Personal Comments: You will be reassured to know that no animals were hurt during the filming of Madam Black. The uneasy subject matter could have gone very wrong for Barge. But his nuanced approach manages to engage all kinds of human emotion, and in the end it’s a tribute to him that broad audiences have so clearly enjoyed the film. I think it’s worth every second of its eleven minutes.