Netflix short film/doc ‘The Trader’ (2018) REVIEW

The Trader is a mesmerizing 20-minute glimpse into another culture. I was utterly transfixed and transported by this short film from the start. it is more of a film-doc than a documentary in that it is so beautifully shot and narrativised to the extent it feels like a real story is being told. It unsurprisingly follows an outsider trader as he visits a small rural, poverty-stricken village in east-European Georgia. It is brutally honest, mud-caked picture of poverty in a culture so profoundly different from our own. There’s also raw human emotion here to a degree that I’ve never seen captured on film before. It is clear that the people in this isolated village have never seen a camera before, and they gaze in wonder down its lens, as if deep down in the glass eye there might be some sign of those silently watching. There are a number of stand out moments: One is when a group of children dance with such utter joy and abandon as the trader blows bubbles into the air around them; another when an elderly woman barters desperately with the trader, who wants five kilos of potatoes for a simple grater. she can’t afford it, but offers one lari, clearly more than she can spare. The trader refuses. Unconcerned of the camera she bares her soul, ‘I need this grater. I’m alone, I have no-one’, she pleads repeatedly. Tears well in her eyes, the desperation palpable. We itch for the trader to show mercy. It is a gutwrenching moment; another scene shows an intimate glimpse into the life of a young family. They stand outside their small, ashen house, and it is as if the concrete world crumbles, the iced mountains resplendent in the distance. In the camera’s gaze the family stand transfixed, as if waiting…  for something. Then the camera moves into their house. The rooms are dark, barren but for a few scant pieces of furniture. In the center of the main room there is a large silver pot filled with freshly dug soily potatoes. A boy of seven or eight plays with a kitten nearby, before the cameraman calls him over and asks what he wants to become when he grows up. The boy is so taken aback he cannot think straight; seconds pass and you can see the panic and excitement rising, swilling behind his eyes – “Must get it right, must get it right!” Then before he can answer, the shot cuts off and he’s seen running through the streets of the small village alongside a cow at least three times his size. He guides it effortlessly, like a ship sailor, it is as if he has somehow tapped into its mind. Later he and a friend gaze wide-eyed into the back of the trader’s van, discovering alien trivialities, and gleefully asking the trader their price. There is a suspension of time in this village, an underlying purity of the people, who are free of and untouched by our capitalism and technology. There is raw humanity here which is so rare to see and so striking and moving to see… seriously, WATCH IT NOW!

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