Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Cardoso’s film is experimental in nature and the fragmented style won’t be for everyone." | Photo: Courtesy of Sheffield DocFest

There is little doubt that modern life can feel like an assault sometimes. One minute you’re playing with your kid in the garden and chasing a butterfly, the next your phone is offering you a window to a world of political problems and conflict. One seemingly as far removed as possible from the other. José Cardoso captures that sense of slippage in Flowers, which won the Grand Jury Short Film prize at Sheffield DocFest this year.

His film segues between ideas of peace and war, with his family interactions over frogs and other elements of nature cropping up like a chorus. Making the case for peace is Buddhist Thích Nhất Hạnh who suggests we should find compassion for our enemies. On the war side of the equation, meanwhile, we see the likes of Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro advocating the destruction of the Amazon due to the invasion of Ukraine.

Cardoso examines nature with his camera in one minute, while in another he zooms so close to politicians on a computer screen that they break into pixels. The idea that the world is burning also forms a connection which reaches from those Amazon forests to a street in America where one Buddhist self-immolated himself in protest - and you should be warned that there is footage of self-immolation included in this film.

Cardoso’s film is experimental in nature and the fragmented style won’t be for everyone. Watching it there’s the sense of a film that has been made as much for the filmmaker’s own exploration of his thoughts as for public consumption - while there’s no shortage of ideas it’s freeform nature means it feels rather shapeless in places. The ideas of connection are certainly thought-provoking but Cardoso’s argument relies heavily on what you bring to it, meaning its impact is likely to vary quite widely from viewer to viewer, for good and ill.

Reviewed on: 04 Jul 2024
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An experimental consideration of world-spanning connections.

Director: José Cardoso

Year: 2024

Runtime: 29 minutes

Country: Ecuador, South Africa


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