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

The Trader was a mesmerizing 20-minute glimpse into another culture. I was utterly transfixed and transported by this short film from the start -really it is more of a film-doc than a documentary; beautifully shot and narrativised, it feels like a real story is being told. It follows a travelling trader as he visits small, rural, poverty-stricken villages in east-European Georgia. It is a brutally honest, mud-caked picture of poverty in a culture  profoundly different from our own. There’s raw emotion here to a degree that I’ve never seen captured on film.. It is clear that many of the people in these isolated villages have never seen a camera before- 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: when a group of 5-8 yearold children dance with 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 offers five kilos of potatoes for a simple grater. this is not enough, and so she offers one lari, clearly more than she can spare, but still 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. a gutwrenching moment. we never see what happens – but can guess. another scene shows an intimate glimpse into the life of a young family. They stand outside their tiny ashen house, which crumbles under the weight of the iced mountains resplendent in the distance. caught in the camera’s gaze the family stand transfixed, as if waiting for something. Then the camera moves into their house and The rooms are dark, barren but for a few scant pieces of mottley furniture. In the center of the main room 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, you see panic and excitement rising, swilling behind his eyes – “Must get it right, must get it right!”  – but then right 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 sailor, it is as if he has 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 what their price. There is a suspension of time in this village, an underlying purity of the people who are freed and untouched by  capitalism and technology. There is raw humanity here, so rare to see, so striking, so moving … it made me see a new potential reality for just a few minutes…

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