Sulam (2023) Short Film Review
Alma’s story in Sulam convincingly universal. It’s a very young teenage girl trying to overcome a controlled trauma that we don’t talk about very much because we’re too myopic and think that coming to America is an automatic success story. The dream is not without cost, effort, maturity and emotional investment. Alma simply reacts in an inevitably human way, hiding from the shame of being the bridge between her non-English speaking mother and a country that is somehow still getting used to immigration.
With just 10 minutes of operating time, Sulam he manages to tell a thousand stories. Stories about a population that shouldn’t have to go through what they went through in modern times. There is hope, of course. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but sometimes it’s hard to see given the growing pains, math tests, and social cluster*ck some teenagers face, even in the most powerful country in the world.
Alma is studying for her math final. You know it will work. But the ceiling in her home begins to leak, and her mother struggles to put buckets in and prevent further damage. There is no ladder in their home, so Alma has to put aside the rehearsal to go to the store with her mother and buy a ladder. It’s simple. Only Alma’s test is coming up and she is in danger of missing out.
However, this is not the only risk. When a schoolmate asks for his notes, he hesitates. She ends up being dishonest and replies that she “stopped at a Starbucks”. This is only the surface of the social conditions that Alma is exposed to every single day. His mother doesn’t even know how to say “ladder” in English, so Alma’s presence is necessary.
In a moment of complete panic, Alma runs away from the situation. Sheer fear makes you pick up the phone and disconnect from the reality you are tired of. In this tiny circle of drama, Sulam takes place and gives us a lesson about the look we find in immigrant children in America. They were able to adapt because their brains are brand new sponges. Their parents don’t.
There is a conflict in the question that comes immediately after, which I will not address. We all learned differently, but we all know that our parents would do anything for us. Even a single word needs to be translated to get us through the day. But I’m an immigrant and I can’t judge Alma to be the most humane person he can be in an ordinary situation. Is he a victim? Naturally. But isn’t her mother a victim too?
Alma probably made it through the day. He must have gotten an A on his math exam. But that wasn’t the last day he came to his mother’s aid. His conflict is not over yet. Growing up is horrible, but growing up as an immigrant in a country that doesn’t see you as a great addition to the culture is traumatic.