Whirlpool tells the story of deaf-blind civil rights activist Helen Keller. Structured around an interview between Keller and editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, St Clair McKelway, the narrative switches between the interview and Keller’s personal life; conversations with her boyfriend, Peter Fagan, and arguments with her mother, who forbids Helen to marry.
The visuals are superb. Shot on 16mm, DoP Stil Williams has done a wonderful job of creating an authentic period look with a dreamy, organic feel. The exchanges between Keller and her mother and Fagan alternate between regular, colour footage, and matched shots of washed out, grainy footage, with the background replaced by white. This creates a clouded, almost dream-like feel, evidently intended to represent Keller’s experience of reality – and aptly demonstrates the isolation experienced by the character, being unable to see or hear her world.
Co-written and co-directed by Elizabeth Dixon and Kate Baxter, with Baxter in the lead as Keller, this is an exceptionally accomplished short – particularly given it was made for just £15k and shot on film. It has a beautiful look, capturing not only a time period but the experience of the protagonist in an imaginative and compelling way. The structure is very well-crafted and the dialogue and drama are both captivating and touching. The only criticism might be that the opening and end credits are a little slow – the film itself runs at 15 mins, an ideal length for festivals; but with 90 seconds of credits this stretches out the length to a slightly over-long 17 mins. If this could be trimmed, this would be a near-perfect festival film, and will undoubtedly do very well.
This is a beautiful piece of work - with Keller’s politics providing a compelling backbone to the drama of her personal life - and it cries out to be developed into a feature-length project.
Watch the Trailer:
Want us to write a professional review of your film? Go to our submissions page and select 'Film Review'
Written & Directed by: Elizabeth Dixon & Kate Baxter
STARRING: Kate Baxter, Richard Dee-Roberts, Claudette Williams, Patch Harvey & Heather Rome