These days there are more options than ever to get your fifteen minutes of fame, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s easy to make fun of the idea — fame is so fleeting and yet still so tempting — but it can also lead to good things. If you can inspire just a few other people with your passion for Kashubian embroidery, you might create friendships, even an online community. Or more seriously, you might also find ways to help yourself and others heal after a tragic event. That’s what Emma (Ewurakua Dawson-Amoah) tries to do in the short film Just Scream, though unfortunately in her case it’s particularly difficult.
Emma is appearing on a talk show to discuss the abuse she suffered as a child, ten years ago, at the hands of a popular and well-respected teacher. It’s depressing how often it’s the popular and well-respected teachers who do the most awful things, but I suppose the worst offenders would develop that sort of protective camouflage. It’s an impressively brave thing she’s doing, and the show’s host, Carl Peterson (Timothy J. Cox), repeatedly says this along with other encouraging things, but the atmosphere of the show still isn’t what you’d call supportive. And when Emma is asked an incredibly tone-deaf question, she’s driven to speak her mind in powerful, moving fashion.
Dawson-Amoah, who also wrote and directed, packs a great deal into this film while still keeping it simple and real. Everything is shown through the unchanging lens of a single fixed camera. Emma’s experiences — both the abuse itself and the way others approach the subject — are all too common, but the film faces both head on in a way that’s still not common enough. Cox’s portrayal of the fussy Carl, focusing on all the wrong things, creates the perfect foil for the overwhelmed but determined Emma, leading to a memorable and deeply affecting ending. In times when anything can and will be reduced to a hashtag, films like this are needed more than ever to remind us of the people behind the stories.