• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Edinburgh Alum Film Premiere: Santi

ByPatricia Kohring

Nov 9, 2022
Students sitting at a dinner table

Two years ago, former student Harry Richards left the University of Edinburgh with a Languages degree, a passion for directing and a vision for a film. In the Autumn of 2021, Santi became the fulfilment of his ambition. 

On Monday October 31, the short film returned to Edinburgh for its first screening at the university. In attendance was not only Richards, the writer and director himself, but also the executive producer, David Sierra Marquez, two student assistants of the film, and several of Richards’ former professors who had been supportive during the Spanish translations of the script.

The 11-minute short features Santi, a young Colombian man who has recently moved to the United Kingdom, and explores the difficulties of being an emigre and the complexities of integration in foreign countries. The setting is a flat dinner, where Santi is portrayed as isolated from and misunderstood by his British companions. During the Q&A session after the screening, Richards explains how his time living in Bogota illuminated for him the difficulties of adapting to a different culture, especially when language is a barrier. Though Santi, in the film, speaks and understands English, his pronunciation is ridiculed by other characters, and he is shown to suffer at times when he struggles to understand his friends’ British humour and customs.

Acknowledging that his own year-abroad experience was distinct and perhaps not as precarious as that of Santi’s, whose move to the UK is implied to be a long-term affair, Richards carefully detailed the time he took to consult and engage with the Colombian members of his cast and crew. The film’s goal, he vouches in his director’s statement, was to “ensure that this is an accurate representation of the Colombian experience”. The director praises Colombian David Sierra Marquez, the lead actor Jon Gutierrez, and the Colombian voice actors used in the phone call scene for their contribution to this presentation of authenticity. Though he provided the foundation of the script, such individuals allowed for necessary alterations that he could not have discovered without them.

The intended message is also brought to light by specific choices in the directing and production processes. The contemplative mood of the film is enforced by the extensive shots, melancholy soundtrack, and spatial positioning of Santi. This encourages the viewer to reflect on each character and minute details of the film that contributes to the overall presentation of alienation in it. As Richards professed in the Q&A session, the short is not solely a critique of British society but a meditation on what has become a global and sociological question with the influx of immigration and cultural diversification in the last few decades; what are the challenges of transnationalism and how can our awareness of them enforce a change in attitude and develop our approaches to integration? 

So what is the next step for Santi? Announced at the end of the screening was the expansion of the short into a feature film currently under the works. Richards revealed plans, in motion, to collaborate further with the Colombian film industry and to shoot parts of the feature in Colombia as well as Britain.

Image used with permission, provided to The Student by Harry Richards from Santi Promotional Files.