It’s easy to be cynical toward inclusivity considering how often attempts to be inclusive can end up being straight up insulting. Yes, media is much better for having a wider array of representation explored, however, too often this has been delivered by those who have no right to be telling these stories in the first place. This results in haphazard dealings with the ‘best of the intentions’. We need only to have a look at Sia’s heinous mess that is Music to see just how damaging poor execution can be. Thankfully, there are some shining (or, sparkling) examples of how it can be executed the right way.
With the short film Sparkles, we find director Jacqueline Pelczar supporting the voice of writer and star of the film, Tina Fielding. The result is an exercise of insight and camaraderie, telling a very Western Australian story.
Sparkles follows Courtney (Tina Fielding) as she escapes her dead end town. She’s a 30-something-year-old Down Syndrome woman navigating through a world where her point of difference has too often been weaponised against her. Fed up of being diminished and belittled, she rejects the life she’s been dealt and flees toward Perth, with a great ‘fuck you’ to all she leaves behind. Making her way through the glares of a country pub, she finds a kindred soul in the parking lot with Diamond (Gary Cooper), a drag queen whose glitter is at odds with this region of dust and tarmac. The duo connect, and soon enough they’re indulging in their karaoke fantasies, serving a dreamy performance of pop star magnificence. It’s a sweet showcase of the security and freedom a new friendship can bring.
The best part of the short is that the conflict doesn’t come from the dodgy dude that approaches and threatens Courtney, instead it reveals itself when Diamond comes to her aid and Courtney struggles to accept his help, considering she’s been fighting solo her whole life. This type of internal struggle is begging for further exploration.
Sparkles is an adorable short film. I’ve been in two minds about using the word ‘adorable’ as I worry there’s a condescending connotation to it, but I’m using it in the most sincere way I can. It’s a truly wholesome story that still wields the weight of lived experience thanks to being written by Tina. Her script gives her character Courtney an autonomy and resilience that only she could bring; this is not a character to be pitied or in need of coddling.
There’s clearly so much more to be told for the story of Sparkles. Hopefully there will be an opportunity to spend more time with these characters, whether as a feature or a series. A lovely depiction of characters who know exactly who they are in a world that’s rarely given them the courtesy that they deserve.
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