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SLAM gets 4.5/10 The politics of poetry


Directed by Partho Sen-Gupta

Starring Adam Bakri, Danielle Horvat, Rachel Blake

4.5/10

The disappearance of a young Muslim woman living in Sydney, followed by the family’s anxieties and the media hysteria that emerges from it, ought to be a more probing insight into the current state of Australia’s multiculturalism. But with an unfocused set of stories, filled with mostly poor and on-the-nose dialogue, Slam is a story worth telling, it just isn’t told well.

The ‘Slam’ in the title refers to slam poetry, which is a passion of Australian Muslim Ameena (Danielle Horvat), who disappears after another night of her political and performative poetry. Her distressed family includes her investigative brother, Ricky (Adam Bakri), who suspects her outspoken and reactionary views on Islamophobia in Australia may’ve lead to her disappearance, in one way or another.

It’s unfortunate to say Slam wastes an interesting theme on a poor script and wasteful story tangents, particularly the cop, Joanne (Rachel Blake), whose multitude of troubles seem to be explored, despite having no relation to the missing woman. It’s no unfair exaggeration to say the dialogue is at soap opera level, with the actors trying and failing to make them sound in any way compelling – characters just walk into rooms and immediately proclaim the most base accusations and revelations to each other.

The moments when there’s no talking is when Slam manages to shine a bit. Director Partho Sen-Gupta works better with looking rather than listening, with the inquisitive camera getting voyeuristic as Ricky spends plenty of time in his missing sister’s bedroom looking for clues, or scoping out the areas she was last seen at. Slam at least works competently at building up the tension, even if it turns out it’s just teasing something that isn’t there.

This wholly socially conscious film feels like it may lead to unearthing the dark underbelly of Australia, though since it ends up being so distracted by pointless story strands, it ends up not being daring enough or going far enough with the material it’s working with. Sen-Gupta proves through this he’s a competent director, able to mine a good deal of emotion and intrigue from even the simplest and quietest of domestic scenes, though as a screenwriter, he needs to inject more into a story like this, and definitely improve his wooden dialogue so that all his characters don’t sound the same. Ending on a scene that fills up what the audience would’ve imagined anyway, Slam is dramatically tone-deaf despite its best intentions.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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