Zubroffka Review: Mai

At the 2014 Zubroffka Film Festival 4 young Polish journalists were mentored by film critic and journalist Michael Pattison in a workshop that helped them to explore the role of modern film criticism and journalism. Every day, the journalists met filmmakers, distributors and journalists as they learned how to make themselves stand out from the crowd and negotiate the complexities of a film festival. The following review is one of the results of this workshop.

At the beginning of the Estonian short film Mai, directed by Maria Reinup, a young girl prepares to go to a party. Her friend calls her and cleverly convinces her that she has to be there: everybody's there but she isn't, and they're asking about her and her friend doesn't know what to say. The girl, called Mai, goes to the bus stop. She's frightened of a suspicious man who wants something from her. An approaching bus calms her fears. At the next stop, however, a Russian man gets on and pulls another man on board with him.

Mai, concerned about their behaviour, talks with the driver, who passively states that they are drunk or under the influence of drugs. Understandably so, perhaps: bus drivers are used to drunken passengers. Mai is upset less by his indifference than by his arrogant, even vulgar, behaviour towards her. The girl decides to intervene.

Indifference could lead the human species to extinction due to a lack of empathy. Reinup pays attention to this problem, possibly out of a failure to understand how people can act indifferently to someone else's vulnerability or need of help. Even if someone under the influence of drugs needs assistance, the film seems to suggest, we should be willing to help.

Scenes in the film are so well chosen, I felt like I was on the bus. I was one of the passengers who did not do anything – just an onlooker to human suffering. Characters' reactions increase their uncertainty and turn into fear. Mai, a young girl, has more sympathy for these men than the adults, people who should know how to behave in such a situation. One boy responds. One in a crowd of people. Mai calls an ambulance and they take the Russian man. Her friend calls her. She says the same thing as before: everyone's at the party, Mai is not; everyone asks for her, but still she's not there.

After watching this short film, I came to the conclusion that we should help others even when we are scared. Indifference is the worst disadvantage. It's better to hate than to be indifferent. Hatred is at least a reaction.

By Karolina Odachowska

Film: Mai

Director: Maria Reinup

Country: Estonia

Year: 2013

Contact: Evelin Soosaar 

09 January 2015, by Cineuropa Shorts