Film review: hu.mans: David Stuart
dir. Chidi Nobi
This short documentary by Chidi Nobi cuts right to the core of the human spirit.
There are no alternative points of view presented to David Stuart’s story. It is David in his own words. Thankfully, David’s words are self-reflexive, humble, and insightful.
The opening story is harrowing. David presents the events that happened to him when he was six in a completely matter-of-fact fashion. Watch the trailer here for a taste of David’s world.
A recurring statement through the documentary is the phrase “trauma upon trauma”. From the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome of David’s father after World War II, through to David’s experiences in London as a young, gay man, trauma stamps its mark across David’s history.
Although this is a recurring statement, trauma isn’t the theme of the piece. The way David’s story is presented, it’s almost like he is a cork bobbing on a stormy ocean. As events roll across him he, despite it all, manages to stay afloat. Survival and the resilience of the human spirit emerge as takeaways.
These themes are reinforced by Nobi’s cinematography. Although the documentary is shot in England (which can sometimes be a bit gray?!), this film is bright and sunny. The movement of people, trains, and cars counterpoints the static, portrait-like shots of David telling his story. David has his own quiet energy that he brings to the film and Nobi captures this energy effortlessly.
The composition of every frame is beautifully constructed to highlight David’s strength. The play of light across the backdrops and over David’s face and body highlight the intimacy of the stories that David is telling. From the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral to archival images of David, everything in the frame is carefully chosen to elaborate on or reinforce David’s history. The imagery is rich with metaphor.
The soundtrack also contributes to this atmosphere of hope and resilience. Tracks by gurdonark, cdk, and Ben Onono, carried me through the dark moments of David’s story and into the light.
I found Nobi’s direction accomplished and deft, lingering on David’s eyes in a moment of vulnerability and then cutting away to a park on a beautiful sunny day.
David Stuart has an important story to share about the strength of the human spirit and Nobi captures his story with confidence.