Multimedia artist Shezad Dawood makes his feature film debut Piercing Brightness, a sci-fi story with an art film edge.
Two aliens, Shin (Jennifer Lim) and Jiang (Chen Ko), disguised as a young Chinese girl and boy land a spaceship in Preston. Their assignment is to make contact with and retrieve the ‘Glorious 100’ – a group from their own civilisation who were sent to Earth millennia ago in order to observe its development.
Over the centuries the group has lived countless lives in various human forms, blending into their environment. However, human memories have taken root and the Glorious 100 is slowly starting to forget its collective purpose, with some wishing to remain in their adopted home. The pair tracks down Naseer Khan (Bhasker Patel), one of the Glorious 100 living as a Pakistani shopkeeper, who acts as a kind of bridge between them and the human experience that Jiang begins to crave.
The film tells us that Lancashire has the highest number of UFO sightings in the UK, and Dawood uses a mix of HD and 16mm film stock with ‘archive’ footage of these events. This, coupled with the use of at times psychedelic imagery and colour, blurs the lines between traditional and experimental filmmaking.
At times this can come off as a little jarring, but the approach has wit and adds much to the atmosphere.
Dawood’s background in multimedia art is a clear influence; the central narrative, weaves in and out of the action onscreen with less prominent characters passing through, adding nuance. The plot unravels in its own time and there are some welcome moments of calm. Lim and Ko manage to convey a lot with subtle looks and Patel pitches himself somewhere in between their other worldliness and a slightly removed form of humanity.
This is not a movie for a Sunday afternoon or indeed the casual viewer.
You need to be in the right frame of mind to approach the film or it will come off as impenetrable. Give it time to seep in and you’ll find Piercing Brightness is a strange yet compelling film worthy of further contemplation.