Santi (Jon Gutierrez) sits wedged on a sofa at a dinner party with his girlfriend Violet (Zulekha Chaka). He’s politely listening as two of Violet’s friends bicker about the ongoings of a night out – a night out Santi clearly wasn’t invited to. Squished on-screen between their two out-of-focus side profiles, Santi can’t get a word in edgeways. Using cramped framing and limited negative space, director Harry Richards draws out a sense of claustrophobia and discomfort from his homonymous lead. Based on Richards’ own experiences in Colombia and the experiences of his friend moving to the UK – Santi is a short snippet into the life of a young man trying to settle into new social circles after moving to London from Colombia.
Image © Courtesy of Santi
Just under 10 minutes long, Santi focuses solely on the events of a dinner party of millennials in London. After receiving a missed call from his mother, Santi drifts throughout the house trying to find a private space to speak to his mum. He lingers in empty bedrooms and half-filled corridors (where he’s shot suspect glares and remarks of ‘what is he doing?’) before winding up in a crowded bathroom with two of Violet’s friends who are snorting white lines.
In the bathroom, the two men offer Santi some of the cocaine but are then confused by his rejection and bemused reaction – even also laughing at his inappropriate pronunciation of the word ‘coke’. Santi never directly tells us what to think but the implication is clear and the cultural difference is stark; two westerners mindlessly consuming something that has caused immense suffering and distress for many Colombians and extensive environmental and economic damage to their country. The film only briefly touches on many Brits’ tendency to have a detachment and desensitisation to the ongoings of the rest of the world, especially in relation to our own consummation, but it’s a sharp point that stands out in the film.
Image © Courtesy of Santi
Santi is filled with warm colours, muted lighting and a soundscape of constant chatter, rambling, and laughter – an ambience that would usually remind us of relaxation and joy, but instead, Santi finds it to be an isolating and daunting experience. Between spaces of hallways, bathroom sinks, and dining room tables – we watch Santi never truly find his place in the ongoing conversations that flow around him (figuratively and literally). Squeezed out of frames and slighted out of joining in on conversations, Santi is an attentive and grounded view of the alienation and loneliness that comes with adjusting to a new country and culture.
Richards’ short is a meditative look at the experiences of migrants settling into new countries and the customs, micro-actions, and social nuances they must navigate. Reflective and pensive, Santi is an insightful and observational glance at cultural differences, loneliness, and the yearning to belong.
Written by Abi Aherne