SXSW Film Festival Screening of Narrative Shorts

Virtually, SXSW Film Festival Screening, Narrative Shorts Section offered three outstanding very short films.  It is amazing how much can be conveyed in a very short span of time when really well done.  Each of these films packs a punch. These films are streaming through March 31 and can be viewed at this website .  Keep an eye out for Jonathan Ajayia and Kayla Abuda Galang and Bára Anna Stejskalová .

Learning Tagalog With Kayla

LEARNING TAGALOG WITH KAYLA was directed and written by Kayla Abuda Galang. In this comedic but vulnerable short, she is pleased to teach you the basics of Tagalog, the language of her homeland, The Philippines. She teaches conversational phrases and common expressions and when time permits, her newfound hobby of baking, hatred of exercise, occasional disdain for her cats and her affinity for Vivi, a black mage with a heart of gold from the popular role-playing game, Final Fantasy IX.

Created and finished over the course of just eight days with translation help from the director’s mother, LEARNING TAGALOG WITH KAYLA channels retro, lo-fi public access television and comedy to tackle the general malaise of life in quarantine and the increasing isolation and awkwardness of its heroine.

Kayla’s boyfriend likes exercise

What stood out in this film was how well it conveyed the impact of isolation related to COVID-19.  It brilliantly and immediately captured the essence of the COVID experience, or at least my experience. A remarkable feat in a short time to make and to share.


Running Time: 4 Minutes

Rating: NR

Language: English, Tagalog

Writer/Director/Director of Photography/Editor:  Kayla Abuda Galang

Actors: Kayla Abuda Galang, David Oconer, Will Kurzner


Jonathan Ajayia

From the UK’s diversity-focused boutique production entity Compulsory comes the World Premiere of PLAY IT SAFE at SXSW as a part of the Narrative Shorts Competition. This film won the Grand Jury prize for Best Narrative Short.

In PLAY IT SAFE, Jonathan (Jonathan Ajayi, Noughts and Crosses) is out of place in his middle-class London drama school. Pigeonholed for a role as a Black hoodlum in a classmate’s play, and coaxed by his teacher to take the typecast part, Jonathan is faced with the all-too-familiar decision: to challenge prejudice, or play it safe.

Though short, this movie packs a wallop. Jonathan is the one Black in the acting class.  One has an uneasy feeling immediately in the way his white fellow students reach out to him, a little too much effort to be so nice.  But it is what would be a routine acting exercise that brings a gasp.  Passing the hat with animal photos which are to be acted out, like a dog and so on, Jonathan’s hat holds a photo that caused me to gasp.  And then, the way he carries out his part powerfully and immediately depicts the impact of racism.

Drama class, talking with the teacher

Originally from Rwanda, writer/director Mitch Kalisa arrived in the UK as a child via Uganda. Mitch first explored his passion for film through acting and later moved into painting and sculpture before landing on directing as his primary creative output. He hopes to break convention and boundaries and tell rich stories from diverse, unheard voices. This is his first short film.

London-born rising star Jonathan Ajayi can most recently be seen as viewer favorite villain Lakan in the hugely successful series Noughts and Crosses for BBC One, based on the Malorie Blackman novel.

Producer Chris Toumazou is of Compulsory works, which has a roster of international director and multi-disciplinary artists to develop a slate of projects specializing in breaking new voices in film, video and advertising.  compulsoryfilm

Concerned classmates

Premiere Status: World Premiere
Runtime: 12 minutes
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Synopsis: Coaxed into playing a racial typecast in a fellow student’s play, Black drama student Jonathan is faced with all too familiar decision: to challenge prejudice, or play it safe.
Cast: Jonathan Ajayi, Heather Alexander, Kate Ovenden, Charlie O’Connor, Louis Richards, Grace Daly, Lauren Raisbeck, Emily Seale Jones
Director: Mitch Kalisa,Executive Producer: Kadri Mahmoud, Chris Toumazou,Producer: Chris Toumazou,Screenwriter: Mitch Kalisa,Cinematographer: Jaime Ackroyd,Editor:Mitch Kalisa.

Film Stills Credit Jaime Ackroyd Compulsory


From the Czech Republic comes the US premiere of LOVE IS JUST A DEATH AWAY another in the Animated Shorts Competition.

Love finds the unlikeliest of heroes in this stop-motion animated short that is all at once macabre and warm. A tiny scavenger takes over the body of a departed dog in a trash dump, where they use the carrion to seek love and companionship with the local creatures who share the space. Its decaying body presents heartbreaking and darkly funny challenges for the tiny worm who is nothing but sincere in its attempt to find a connection with another.

With no dialogue, LOVE IS JUST A DEATH AWAY relies on its brilliant stop motion to weave this story of unexpected kindness amidst rotting matter.

Director Bára Anna Stejskalová began her studies at Arts University College at Bournemouth in the United Kingdom and is currently pursuing a Masters of Animation at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Czech Republic. Her graduation film THE FISHERMEN was on the BAFTA shortlist and she recently premiered her latest film 24.

This film is strange, haunting, brilliant and beautiful and certainly presents an unusual and original view of the world. The music is impressive and no words are needed.

Photos: Courtesy of the film producers

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