Contained within The Winds That Scatter, the debut feature from writer/director Christopher Jason Bell, resides a one-shot sequence, restrained and delicate, consisting of the film’s main character waking calmly to an alarm, every obnoxious utterance of its prompt a unwarranted reminder of the day’s potential failures, proceeding to dress while the first glimpses of lethargy reveal themselves in the dwindling movements of his buttoning fingers that eventually give way to pause, cost-effective analysis of the foreseeable efforts of the day wash over him, shoulders dipping tipping his hand to his decision as the swell of pessimism gathers replacing resolve for a fleeting moment returning the once-determined man back to the comforting confines of sleep, bereft of worry or concern.
Within this seemingly small-scale set-piece of internal debate the viewer bears witness to the man underneath the unwavering temperament displayed up until that point. Bell mutes the extent of the faltering, limiting it to nothing more than a momentary glance of unguarded intimacy, yet the emotions and implications reverberate soundly due to the stillness of the camera capturing the ballet of body language, subtle gestures and breathes signaling a creeping realization of the continuing hardships that lay ahead.
A microcosm of the film itself, this small scene showcases the overall sincerity of the project as Bell and, lead actor, Ahmad Chahrour continually complement each other through the mirroring of their reserve and serene patience. Nothing about The Winds That Scatter feels forced with every aspect steeped in the rhythms of reality, all interactions and progressions develop (and to an extent are presented) naturally to the point of documentary.
Never once does Bell solicit emotion and/or reaction through manipulation, there is a purity in his portrayal (again, mirrored by Chahrour’s performance), far removed from the detritus of sentimentality, that stealthily taps into the universality of Ahmad’s situation, quietly extracting feeling and understanding until the final frame.The only facet of Ahmad’s journey that may seem foreign to some viewers is his status as a Syrian immigrant, further adding to his anxiety, compounded with longing, as he spreads his time among rallies and protests while checking in on his family back home.
Given the current circumstances of the turmoil in Syria, Bell’s tender portraiture is as timely as they come. Although, he refrains from overloading the film with political viewpoints choosing instead to, merely, present a man looking for work. The cinematic equivalent of walking a mile in another man’s shoes, The Winds That Scatter is, unfortunately in this day and age, a necessity. A humanistic character study reiterating the fact that no matter where we come from, the color of our skin, our religious affiliations and so on, deep down the majority of us are all the same – humans simply striving to care for ourselves and our loved ones.