Take nine actors and pack them into 12 tense minutes, and you have actor-director Manjinder Virk’s award-winning film. London-based Virk, who was seen in the BAFTA-winning documentary The Arbor (2010), has written, directed and produced Out of Darkness, the 12-minute experimental short film that’s caught the festival circuit’s attention. It premiered at the BFI London Film Festival, and later at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York, where it fetched top honours – including Overall Festival Winner and Best Drama.
It’s the story of an aid worker told through nine different voices.The actors – including Tom Hiddleston, Riz Ahmed and Virk herself – deliver compelling monologues in an austere black-and-white setting, their slightest tremble or faraway look captured in intimate close-ups. “It’s almost one person, but you hear it through different voices,” says Virk of the abstract treatment. She began writing it as a play about what happens to people when they are faced with death or have seen it at close quarters.
Virk was particularly keen to explore how people respond to war situations, an aspect she deftly weaves into the story through sound – with gunshots and bomb blasts raising the tension. “Aid workers, soldiers and war photographers often keep going back to war situations,” says Virk. “And there is something to be said about feeling alive in death.”