‘Fighter’ is a short film from Director Bugsy Riverbank-Steel which depicts a boxer with down syndrome, and focuses around him and his his family and explores the decision, whether it is right to let him fight as well as his right to fight in the first place. The film is a visceral and intense watch, the slow build of tension being perfectly complimented by the award-winning cinematography of the short. The visuals are utterly stunning and immersive that you become incredibly invested despite the short being just 7 minutes long.
A contributing success to the film is the outstanding writing by Guy Bolton. He manages to not only engage us in the characters, but raises some fascinating questions over choice, freedom and rights. Most crucially he does not give an obvious answer to all of the questions he poses, but, gives the audience more than enough in these 7 minutes to make the decisions on their own. It is exquisitely subtle in the way it explores the core themes of the short. In addition, it features a unique characterisation for the protagonist character, at the heart of this, Guy Bolton is able to do so without pandering, he is respectful and realistic. He doesn’t just simply write a stereotypical story of someone being prevented from doing something, who then does it. It is far deeper than this, and goes beyond people with down-syndrome and essentially boils down to an exploration of free-will and choice, down-syndrome simply being the vehicle with which he explores these ideas.
Furthermore this is complimented by yet another fantastic performance by Tommy Jessop. Anyone who follows this man’s career knows that even before this brilliant short film, this man was an inspiration to people facing any and all types of adversity, especially to the down syndrome community. He was the first actor with Down syndrome to star in a prime-time BBC drama, the first to ever portray Hamlet in any form of media, and in ‘Fighter’ he is the is the lifeblood of the film as the titular ‘Fighter’. His performance is considered layered, and regardless of disability puts on a phenemonenal character. This is backed up by three supporting actors who put in very solid performances. The father, who is a huge driving force in fighting for our lead to be given the chance to box was especially good. He slowly turns the audience’s from being fully behind him to slowly question him and his decision making, which really drives home all the themes and ideas I’ve mentioned previously in relation to choice and decision making.
‘Fighter’ is my first short film of the London film festival. If every film that follows it is just as good, I personally am in for an incredible couple of weeks. My family has a close connection to down syndrome, and so to me this short film is vital and impactful. Albeit it was a film about so much more than just down syndrome. For a film that is just 7 minutes to be so simple, beautiful, visceral and thought-provoking demonstrates the true power of film, and I would recommend that everyone sees ‘Fighter’ at the first chance they get.
Written by: Michael Slavin – @michaelslavin98 on Twitter