by the BMPA Founders
How do you successfully pair up a veteran actor and an
eight-year-old child with no acting experience whatsoever?
Good directing. How do you successfully explore a relationship
between two people when one of them will never stop asking
questions and the other will never start answering them?
Writer/director Beth Armstrong achieves both of these feats
in her short film Danya, starring the pitch-perfect
newcomer Maddi Newling and the veteran actor Ian Bliss,
who could teach a course entitled Acting Without Dialogue.
Ms. Armstrongs use of dramatic lighting, camerawork,
and score emphasize the distance in one of the storys
relationships and the intimacy in another. When Danya is
with her father, Patrick, the frame almost always tells
us that these two people must be mindful of each others
space, and that the inquisitive Danya must always be aware
of her fathers proximity. When Danya is with her friend
Mrs. Rakovskiplayed by newcomer Lija Veikins with
a freedom and eccentricity that rings truethe frame
accentuates closeness and trust.
Danya, Patrick, and Mrs. Rakovski each live in a world
of isolation. Danya has questions about her late mother,
but her father refuses to discuss the issue. Patrick, in
an attempt to cope with the loss of his wife, tries desperately
to cut himself off from any memory of her, but Danyas
continual questioning makes this impossible. Mrs. Rakovski
lives a solitary life with no one to share her dreams, memories,
and thoughts except Danya, an eight-year-old girl who cant
understand love and loss the way an adult can. When Mrs.
Rakovski dies, Patrickin a particularly moving scenemust
tend to the body. This moment stresses not only the impossibility
of Patricks attempt to ignore death, but the responsibility
he has to discuss the subject with his daughter.
In the end, Danya is not a movie that attempts to
answer questions about death or the afterlife. In fact,
its too smart for that. Instead, Danya reminds
us that answering questions about death is not nearly as
important as facing it.