Daerik, an army veteran, returns to his hometown after being discharged from military service. Now homeless and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, Daerik tries to drown out the memories of a failed mission in Afghanistan with alcohol. Meanwhile, a young girl attempting to find her brother who also disappeared after the war visits the place they played together as children. She honours his memory by flying a kite, as they both once did. When these two lost souls find each other they have an inner urge to help and their connection changes the course of both of their lives.
At the end of writer/director Gianlorenzo Albertini’s powerful short film The Ribbon on the Kite, there is a footnote that reads,
“There are over 40’000 homeless veterans across the U.S. A large number of them live with the lingering effect of PTSD and struggle with substance abuse issues. Many of them never return home.”
Here in the UK that number is around 13’000 and both of those shameful figures are record highs for their respective countries. Many ex-soldiers are reduced to sleeping in doorways, bus stops, parks and begging people for money and almost all of them are struggling with the devastating effects of PTSD which then lead to other problems, including mental health issues and addictions to alcohol and drugs. Once they leave the armed forces these people simply lose their support structure.
It is a sobering thought to realise that two of the most powerful governments in the western world are failing those people who put their very lives at risk in order to protect us and keep our privileged place in the world safe.
With virtually no dialogue, director Albertini manages to convey the pain and suffering of this horrendous problem and by the end of the 18-minute film, we are left in no doubt that he is very angry about it.
Opening on the character of Daerik (a stunning turn from lead actor Greg Hill) and his Lo-Fi windup radio, we are given a couple of close-ups and mid-shots of this man’s plight and situation. These establishing shots are mixed in with quick cuts to a black screen overdubbed with the sound of Daerik’s army radio in which he and his colleagues discuss and explain the mission they are currently on. Suffice to say the mission goes wrong.
It is a powerful opening with the rapid-fire nature of the editing helping to highlight the confusion and stress of the predicament Daerik now finds himself in. During his daily routine of exercising, drinking and washing, he sees a bright red kite flying high in the air and like a distress flare overhead he is drawn to its location.
The Kite is the only bit of clarity in Daerik’s life and he discovers it is being flown by Rebecca, played by the beautifully innocent Yuliya Yusupova. She flies this kite regularly in order to remember her lost brother. The performances of the leads are pitch perfect; Hill’s face is so characterful that it tells a thousand stories, while Yusupova has such a warm open quality that it is hard not to fall in love with her. You want these characters to find the closure they need and it’s this relationship that drives the story forward.
The film wears its politics on its sleeve but it does so with skill. The cinematographer Aric Coppola has the camera swooping and shaking similar to the Kite we see flying on the breeze but also to highlight Daerik’s state of mind. The script written by Albertini and Coppola uses symbolism instead of dialogue and gives us images we will remember long after the film has finished. Albertini also composed the music which helps encompass the feeling of loss but also manages to uplift the audience as well and, as the film ends, we are left with a feeling of satisfaction that these characters’ lives have changed forever and for the better.
The Ribbon on the Kite is an engrossing short film that educates us about a genuine problem. Now it’s over to the politicians to make sure these horrific numbers of homeless veterans are looked at and that the services they need are provided for them. In fact, after viewing this compelling short you may feel the urge to put pen to paper and tell them all yourself.