[Overlook Film Festival Review] ACCUSED

[Overlook Film Festival Review] ACCUSED

Making its world premiere at Overlook Film Festival,  Philip Barantini’s ACCUSED shows what happens when a jump-to-conclusion revenge-filled world chooses to ruthlessly target a man based solely on the color of his skin. While set in England, this story rings true for any country. If a person differs from the majority in race, creed, religion, or sex, they become a disposable scapegoat for those in control. Throughout the film, Harri (Chaneil Kular) unfortunately experiences the pain of being a minority in trouble. When a brown person calls for help, good luck getting a quick response. But when a brown person might be the perpetrator, any vigilante with a weapon is ready to kick down the door.

During a normal day in London, couples flirt-fight, people go to work, and moms worry about their grown children. But on this particular day, the nation becomes rocked when an explosion occurs at the London train station. The leading character of the film was at the station earlier that day and while stressed about his near encounter with a bomb, he puts the danger out of his mind as he heads to his rural childhood home.

Harri agreed to housesit for his parents and while the family jokes about their Arab heritage makes them likely suspects for any bombing, none of them have any idea what will soon unfold. A blurry photo emerges of a possible suspect, which does not show a face but seems to show an Arab man. Even Harri’s girlfriend Chloe (Lauryn Ajufo) jokingly admits the guy in the image holds a strong resemblance to her boyfriend.

However, the jokes die quickly because, after this terrible event, the internet loses its collective mind. Violent anti-Muslim vitriol starts spewing from all directions and it doesn’t take long for someone else to notice the likeness between Harri and the bomber.

Now Harri’s social media accounts start blowing up and #LondonBombing now comes heavily attached with #HarriBavshar. The accused watches in terror as he sees people tweeting their plans to hunt him down and kill him. Feeling isolated and alone does not begin to describe how Harri feels. His girlfriend refuses to talk to him, his parents are unreachable, and he only has thousands of hate-mongering tweets to keep him company.

While using Twitter to track down the name of an abusive Karen comes in handy, the obsessive behavior and surprisingly invasive investigation skills of internet lurkers can also be used for evil. Because in this situation, people are not just out to embarrass Harri or make him lose his job. In this case, the faceless nameless mass known only as the Internet has a plan to cancel Harri forever.

Very quickly the audience understands they are now witnessing a manhunt as the entire nation turns on the wrongfully accused suspect. Even though the film begins with a deadly attack, all of the conflict and anxiety come from Harri’s struggle for survival. Once the action starts, ACCUSED does not release its grip until the final moment. The film works with a very minimal cast with most of the movie focusing only on Harri. Dark and tense, the audience will find themselves trapped with Harri as even his childhood home becomes a place of nightmares. Aside from the claustrophobic surroundings as the world closes in on him, Kular gives an absolutely emotional performance. From the first tweet of hatred, the actor displays an array of pain, heartbreak, and absolute fear.

ACCUSED creates fear by exposing a nation’s xenophobic behavior and how we live in a world where our most private details remain only a click away from any internet troll. Part home invasion, part social commentary, Baratini forces the audience to look deep into the dangerous and deadly mob mentality encouraged by the anonymity of social media.

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