|Valerie Tian in Moving Parts|
Moving Parts tells a story not often told. It seeks to give audiences a glimpse of life from the perspective of persons who are smuggled into Trinidad and Tobago as well as persons who fall prey to human trafficking. That focus on these invisible groups is laudable, especially at a time when the world is alight with debate over the role of immigrants.
The film follows Zhenzhen (Valerie Tian) and her brother Wei (Jay Wong) who are both grieving the death of their father. Zhenzhen is smuggled into the country then soon finds herself captive to handlers who promptly take away her passport. After a few days of having her do menial work in a restaurant, they enlist her into a prostitution ring. As time passes and it becomes clear neither brother nor sister can free themselves of a vicious cycle of subservience, there are tragic consequences.
Refreshingly, the film jettisons the tourist brochure approach to local filmmaking and presents Trinidad in an unvarnished way, making great use of downtown Port-of-Spain locations in particular. Some thought and effort clearly went into the visual strategy of the film, with Nancy Schreiber's hand-held cinematography underlining the gritty realities of the story as well as conveying the rich mood and textures of the capital.
Sections of the film bring to mind Alejandro González Iñárritu's Amores Perros with its interlocking narratives and brooding mood. The minimal score also leaves room for mesmerizing sequences that rely on the ambient sounds of the capital. For instance, there are two memorable scenes in which Multisymptom's 'Sonita' becomes a haunting counterpoint to the action. Director Emilie Upczak shows verve in her management of all these elements.
Because of what the film is about, however, it will inevitably invoke comparisons to films like Taken and Trade. These comparisons will not be justified. This is not a film about action. Nor is it a tearjerker. Which is problematic. Despite achieving strength in some of its quieter moments, the movie - which is only 77 minutes long - is too languid given the menace of its subject matter.
Directed by: Emilie Upczak
Written by: Emilie Upczak, Nicholas Emery, Jay White
Produced by: John Otterbacher, Emilie Upczak
Co-Producers: Rhonda Chan Soo, Annabelle Mullen
Executive Producers: Melanie Archer, Bonnie Kennedy, Jud Valeski
Cinematographer: Nancy Schreiber
Production Designer: Shannon Alonzo
Editing: Gabriel Coss, Jonathan Gollner
Production Sound: Cedric Smart
Sound Design: Kris Franzen
Score: Rafael Attias
Opens today at MovieTowne, Port of Spain.