Day One


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Day One
"An intensely visceral film with raw performances from all the main players, Day One will be very hard for many people to watch."

Day One is based on a true story. In really needs to say so in big neon letters at the start because the events that unfold within it, piling crisis upon crisis, otherwise seem so unlikely and absurd that it's difficult to suspend disbelief. Yes, coincidences like this do happen in the real world, but there's a reason why most fictional narratives pare them down. Because of its all or nothing approach, this film will lose the confidence of some viewers, which is a shame because in other respects it's a very powerful piece of filmmaking.

Layla Alizada is Feda, a Dari interpreter newly embedded with a group of US soldiers in Afghanistan. On her first day she's shocked to witness the results of a roadside bomb and the ferocity of what happens afterwards, when the troops go storming into a nearby house to look for the bomb-maker. This, however, is only the prelude to what will be a far more shocking experience. Realising that the wife of a suspect is going into labour, she follows her inside, trying to calm her. With tradition forcing the men to stay outside, she's the only one who can help. But this is far from a normal delivery. What Feda witnesses, and what she is asked to do, with rock her to the core.

Copy picture

An intensely visceral film with raw performances from all the main players, Day One will be very hard for many people to watch. In particular, those who have experienced trauma around pregnancy and childbirth may find they are unable to sit through it all, and it has the potential to bring back very distressing memories. It's by far the hardest hitting of the 2016 Oscar short nominees.

Some viewers will also feel uncomfortable with the film because of its political positioning. The Americans are very much presented as heroes and although associated promotional materials describe it as being about two sides facing a problem together, it's really the Afghans who are expected to do all the giving - and who do all the suffering. Whilst this might be seen as undue simplification in a longer film, however, it's difficult to avoid in a short. Alizada's performance goes some way towards resolving the problem, making room for doubt; and regardless of the political aspect, this is still an impressively well made film. It also does a good job of reminding viewers that Afghans face the same kind of day to day tragedies as people elsewhere on top of those stemming from conflict.

Reviewed on: 01 Feb 2016
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Day One packshot
An interpreter, on her first day of working with the US Army in Afghanistan, is called upon to help a woman going through a traumatic childbirth.

Director: Henry Hughes

Writer: Dawn DeVoe, Henry Hughes

Starring: Layla Alizada, Navid Negahban, Alexia Pearl, Bill Zasadil, Alain Washnevsky, Yanellie Ireland

Year: 2015

Runtime: 25 minutes

Country: US


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