SALA: A Short Odyssey is an intense short film by Funk Brothers about a young man who happens to be an immigrant. The film uses a blend of noises and images to express the internal chaos of the main character due to external societal conditions such as race.
In the opening monologue, a voice that is presumably that of the main character’s, retells the events of a dream. The dream incorporates his race in a way that makes him a target to the violent world around him. The fact that the N word is used and that a gun is pointed at him is not something that is so unrealistic to our world, unfortunately. It’s a very constant scenario and fear for many people in the world and it’s all due to fear of the other. People get scared of that which they do not understand and that which seems foreign to their lifestyles. Yet, the truth is that we’re all human beings and while race can differentiate us from one another, it shouldn’t be a reason for hate and discrimination to fester amongst each other.
One of my favorite scenes that shows how the mix up of sounds is well incorporated in this film is when the main character presses his ears on and off. The audience can hear how the sounds of the water boiling and people talking are muted. It’s important to the story because it’s representing how we have the ability to block out the world around us if it gets too loud at times, but even then it’s not entirely separated from our thoughts. It also shows how we internalize the things that bother us when we feel as though there is no way to actually release it and move on. There is just no escape from the noise sometimes though, as is shown with the main character.
A mash up of noises including: glass shattering, a baby crying, an airplane and a car alarm going off creates a turbulent environment for the main character. This chaos mimics the whirlwind of emotions that he feels inside. This character never actually states his struggles, though it’s implied that he is struggling and finding it difficult to get through the day with all its noise. One of the greatest strengths of this film is that his struggles are hinted at without him having to be defined as a victim.
It’s also interesting that he doesn’t actually speak in this film after the narration of his dream at the beginning. His silence is a statement about how loud the world around him is to the point where it can overwhelm his individuality. In fact, that idea of societal conditions taking precedence over individual identity appears to be one of the biggest messages in the film as a whole. The fact that he is an immigrant, that he lives in such a busy neighborhood and has a dream involving a racial slur and a potential act of violence hints at the fear living inside him due to his external world. He is living in a state of restlessness.
Towards the end of the film, the main character is playing football. The blend of noises suddenly becomes completely muted. I believe that this total silence represents how this character finds a way to block out the world and its conditions. The fact that he is playing this sport where it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, expresses how important it is to remind ourselves that we do have control over the noise in our lives. We do get to choose how we deal with the labels that society pushes on us. We get to reinvent ourselves or simply separate our own sense of self from the ones that other people build. It was fascinating because the film starts with more of a limitative mindset because of the dream and then by the end, the noise just disappears. The situation isn’t exactly resolved, but the mood is lighter because the main character is playing a game. His mind isn’t taking in all of the other noise and there is this peace that settles into the film right before the credits appear.