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ShortList 2017: ‘The Silence’ Is Haunting Tale of Grief Lost in Translation (Video)

Young Fatma refuses to share a diagnosis with her mother in directors Farnoosh Samadi and Ali Asgari’s short

With her ability to speak other languages and navigate the modern world, teenager Fatma has to do a lot for her mother as the two try to get by as Kurdish refugees living in Italy. But there’s one thing Fatma isn’t equipped to handle: passing along a devastating diagnosis, even when time is of the essence.

“The Silence (Il Silenzio),” an Italian short film directed by Farnoosh Samadi and Ali Asgari that is a finalist in TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival (presented with support from IMAX), begins with Fatma (Fatma Alakus) accompanying her mother Cahide (Cahide Ozel) to the hospital where a doctor has diagnosed Cahide with breast cancer that needs urgent treatment — but has no way of communicating it to her. Without a Kurdish translator available, the best the doctor can do is tell Fatma — in English — and trust her to pass the news along. However, that proves to be a burden she cannot bear.

After an extremely long pause, drawn out with increasingly pained looks on Fatma’s face, she asks the doctor if she can tell her mother a little later. The doctor agrees but reminds Fatma that tomorrow might be too late. But Fatma continues to evade Cahide even with those dire stakes.

Fatma’s fear-based choice that leaves her mother in the dark about her medical treatment in the middle of a hospital in a major European country shows the loneliness of the refugee experience in a film that says a lot without many words — as the title might indicate.

“The Silence” was an official selection of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival among numerous other accolades. Samadi and Asgari also took home the Best Director prize at the Iranian Film Academy Awards.

Watch the film above. Viewers can also screen the films at any time during the festival at Shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. Presented with support from IMAX.