Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer, Comika Hartford for allowing me access to an online screener of her 13 minute Horror/Drama short “Bango”, Directed by Eric Shapiro. Bango centers around suburban housewife, Sam (played by Hartford herself) who brings home another woman (Rhoda Jordan) to join her and husband, Aaron (played by Richard Caines) in a threesome. The uncertainty of the pending situation becomes overwhelming for all three and things take an interesting turn during the night.
Bango is Hartford’s first screenplay, and tonally speaking one can see that it elicits the kind of conflict ever-present in the works of De Palma and Polanski (especially with films like Passion and Death And The Maiden). It’s an engaging thriller right from the outset, commencing with wonderful narration from Hartford’s, Sam about her thought process regarding the events for the evening. I enjoy films that aim to give you insight into a character early in the piece (obviously this is a short film but still). Emmy award-winning DP, Ian McGlocklin sets the high production value in motion. There’s a series of nice establishing shots in the beginning, followed by an effective slowed frame rate sequence as the trio raise their wine glasses to toast the night away. Everything is nicely framed and the use of several two shots help build the setting well. The mood lighting is perfect too. A series of shots during a conversation between Sam and Chris (Jordan) are depicted with nice yellow lighting that hits the drapes in the foreground in a splendid way. The audio level is neat and clear, and the music (though stock compositions from Frederic Chopin) complements the sense of what the night supposed to be about. All three performances are really good but it’s Hartford that burns the brightest, playing a more complex character than perhaps first thought. Comika plays uneasy and nervousness so freely and the interactions between all three (but mostly occurring between Hartford and Jordan) are much more natural than you’re used to seeing in independent film.
It’s a nit picky thing but Sam’s laugh annoyed me, it was so flaky and odd. I know most inexperienced people might be nervous preparing for a situation like that, but I don’t think you’d laugh in that manner or be so painfully awkward (none the less its great acting from Hartford). I understand the reason behind the hand-held camera approach during the bedroom scene between Sam and Chris was to depict a hazy psyche, but it was a little hap hazard for my liking. I would’ve preferred to have seen some focus lapses, fade ins and fade outs or anything else instead, just because everything was so well shot up until then. I was also hoping for a more definitive ending, though I suppose that keeps events open for Hartford to explore in greater depth.
It was only a week or so ago that I all but completed my best short’s list of 2017, in hindsight, Bango should have been on it (might have to make amendments). Comika’s script is of the highest quality, it’s ultimately about control and taking your life back, so to speak. Shapiro’s directing flows strong, McGlocklin proves his weight in gold with ambient lighting and a lot of nice shot types, and the piano score fits appropriately. All three actors are extremely instinctive, but it’s Hartford with her impactful narration and natural flow that fittingly makes Bango as good as it is. While there were a couple of minor things that could have been altered, I think Bango is the best work I’ve seen from a combined Writer/Actor and I highly recommend everyone give this one a look when it becomes available.
My rating for “Bango” is 8.5/10