KVIFF 2023: White Plastic Sky, Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell, In Camera | Festivals & Awards

Another of the film’s memorable sequences involves the final search by Thien for his brother. In a film brimming with natural, reverent metaphors—the birds, the wind, and rain—and an invocation toward a divine law that seems to bend time, the final shot, a quietly cathartic baptism, gives An’s “Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell” a sense of the has been, the being and the becoming, a cinematic trinity that begs the viewer to awake, arise, and be among the fallen.

Naqqash Khalid’s feature directorial debut “In-Camera” is a stylish, surreal satire probing the nightmarish plight faced by working British-Asian actors in an apathetic industry: It concerns Aden (Nabhaan Rizwan), a bit player making his way through the economic gauntlet such dedication to this career requires. When the film—a selection of Karlovy Vary’s Proxima competition—is firing, it’s “Hollywood Shuffle” by way of MENA identity and, quite simply, an audacious statement.

Oftentimes, Aden is seen as one of many Brown actors who are solely recognized for their audition number. To make ends meet, Aden takes any opportunity to act as an extra on stage, modeling and becoming a surrogate son for a grieving mother. The latter situation sees Aden being hired by the mother to wear her son’s clothes, act like him, and even have dinner with the family in a bid for her closure. The sequence not only commitment demonstrates Aden’s incredible—Rizwan, in particular, dances on the edge of danger with aplomb—it culminates in a mournful scream, grieving for a portion of oneself you can’t get back.

It’s a feeling Aden knows all too well. He remains edgy even at his apartment, shared with his two roommates. He is putting on a face, slowly doling out the real parts of himself until there’s nothing left. Every time “In Camera” turns its lens toward Aden, it discovers a new truth about the crushing economics, defeats, and alienation Brown actors face (one scene even sees Aden auditioning to be a terrorist). However, Khalid’s bold, colorful vision falters when he diverts his gaze away from Aden to his white roommate, who’s struggling with the grind of being a medical professional. Surely, the parallel is meant to demonstrate how fealty to one’s craft can undo the person. But the comparison doesn’t entirely align enough politically or racially to not disrupt Khalid’s cogent narrative.