The next film in Four8’s “I Am” series, introducing biblical characters to audiences through timeless settings, reinventing ways to tell their journeys and making their stories more relatable to today. A journalist is sent to the home of former district governor, but his routine obituary fact check reveals an extraordinary secret. Directed by Femi Oyeniran, written by Keiran Bourne and starring: Tomisin Adepeju, Kayode Akinyemi, Letitia Hector, Jamie Kristian, Jazz Lintott, and Shaun Scott.
Opening on the image of handwashing couldn’t really get more relevant than right at this particular moment but it’s an action that we learn means more as the story develops. The story itself you quickly realise is set in some form of dystopian future, by dropping the words ‘district’, ‘governor’ and ‘obey orders’, though they may be plenty mundane in any usual context, here feel more sinister and nodding to something more akin to an oppressive regime or dictatorship. The style reflecting a clean, sharp tone pushes that atmosphere slightly further, especially with the use of white in the costumes and the direction using clean lines and limited movement, creating a more focused approach.
The word Pilate may bring to mind exercise more than the Bible these days so to simplify things, the easiest aspect to know and put this film into context is that Pilate was the one who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus. Although that comes through quite easily with the story, there’s no confusion in what happens, it slowly unravels and explains itself well, however there isn’t really that much to explain. It’s a short film so ultimately you can’t ask that much of a filmmaker to include an epic story, however the film feels as though there’s a layer missing, it’s quite vague in its setting and needs a little more detail to hit that compelling button.
Most of the story is held by Shaun Scott, he gives a solid performance that gets across the various emotions of a character in that position: the arrogance, the resentment, the holier than thou appearance which is knocked down when he looks back upon his mistakes. Kayode Akinyemi does well but there isn’t much asked of him, similarly could be said for Jazz Lintott with the exception that with the little he does have to say, he holds a stoicism and spiritualism that his character calls for. Whereas Jamie Kristian’s performance as the young version of Pilate feels forced, his accent feels parody-esque and it’s a little over the top which loses the sincerity that the film is aiming for.
Taking it at its core goal, it’s a very interesting concept to watch unfold, these stories have been told so many times before that it’s hard to really hear them anymore, so making them have the ability to get through to a whole new audience is an intriguing challenge. You can feel the spiritualism coming through but it doesn’t quite reach the depth that it’s aiming for, it’s a hard thing to establish in less than 10-minutes, and the vagueness of the story hinders the film from achieving that.
I Am Pilate is a great attempt at reinvigorating an age old story, it certainly gives a much more interesting spin on it than a period recreation of the events would be. It’s a shame that one performance disturbs the calm, sharp tone of the film and that there wasn’t just a little bit more detail to make the story whole but regardless, the style reflects the story its trying to tell and it’s a very respectable effort at telling an old tale in a fresh, challenging way.