“From An Aesthetic Point Of View, Carga Is Faultless”
Set in a remote factory in Iraq, two filmmakers (Tania Watson and Agustín Mateo) look to uncover the secrets hidden within. Knowing that their presence is likely to be unwelcome and doing their best to stay under the radar, the pair must put their trust in their driver (Rawand Khalid Saeed) and pretty much hope for the best.
Carga, a short film directed by Yad Deen, who also co-writes here with Chesco Simón, benefits from an incredibly tense atmosphere throughout. Knowing that our protagonists are venturing into an area that is highly dangerous in order to document what they see keeps the audience compelled to keep watching. As the pair go even further off the map, managing to get past a seemingly curmudgeonly gatekeeper (Youssef Osman) we start to panic as to how much peril is in store for these characters.
The performances are excellent, in particular Watson who flows through a number of ranging emotions during the movie and her dedication to the final third is wonderful. Mateo is also brilliant as the kind but distrustful sidekick, constantly looking for danger but unable to do much about it. The chemistry between the two performers is great too, allowing the audience to genuinely care about them both and invest in their journey.
Viewers may find the coalescing genres a little too much to take. Starting as a road trip and then morphing into a tense thriller and finally more of a horror movie, there is quite a ride to be had. Fortunately, Deen handles this expertly, so if you are willing to embrace the chaotic journey there is a lot of enjoyment to be had. On top of this, there is some wonderful cinematography that captures the isolated landscape of the setting spectacularly. From an aesthetic point of view, Carga is faultless.
The story embraces some scintillating topics and themes, such as gender roles, trust, relationships and more. These get played out on a formidable foundation of great characters which allows them to explore such a wide variety without jolting the audience straight out of the picture. We care very early on about these two people and are invested in their endeavour and it’s the menacing elements of their surroundings that cement our attention.
“‘Carga’ Is A Gripping Slice Of Venture That Comes At A Price…”
A well-known documentarian and an upcoming filmmaker decide to go to Iraq to investigate the events of an abandoned cigarette factory. Director Yad Deen’s ‘Carga’ singularly plays on multiple levels. With a stellar cast, watertight script and a never-seen-before landscape, all cascaded into 19:09 minutes, the film is a gripping narration of a couple’s journey headlong into the unknown.
Marta (Tania Watson) is known by her work. Her previous escapades having taken her to Afghanistan and Chernobyl, Deen doesn’t waste time introducing his characters. Even in the most mundane activity (her introductory scene being that of brushing her teeth), Marta comes across as a fierce woman who knows her mind. Watson is brilliant; she is Marta. She is strong, yet vulnerable. Polite, yet direct. There’s a knowing confidence in her demeanour that rubs off so well for the character that it’s hard to imagine anyone else play her. Juan (Agustín Mateo), her boyfriend is unwilling to compromise this time. Letting her go alone to Iraq isn’t a question he is willing to mull over, this time. Writers Yad Deen & Chesco Simón use dialogues so deftly that they don’t seem over dramatized. Instead, making it seem like an everyday conversation, we are introduced to the characters and their backstory, making it so relatable and easy to invest in them.
As Marta and Juan set out to Iraq, Juan’s camera begins capturing the arid landscape stretched before them. Nature’s glory is often captured in green. But, Gema Briones’s lens offers another hue to the scenic palette. Breathtaking mountains lying bare across desolate landscapes under the scorching heat; and yet, looking like they are straight out of some fantasy adventure, the camera work is exquisite. Their driver (Rawand Khalid Saeed) who is also escorting them to the location gives them plenty of sermons that raises suspicion, but with the introduction of the third character, the checkpoint guard (Youssef Osman), we are torn between the shades of duplicity lurking within. To the writers’ credit, the screenplay takes good time to build the tension and yet releases the judgment at the right moment.
By the time Marta and Juan enter the factory, we start sensing the palpable thrill of an adventure, of having outwitted the authorities to get to where they want and yet the deeply, menacing and unforgiving mountainous plains seem to warn us from rejoicing far too much. The pace of the film is steady throughout, thanks to the crisp editing of Marko Kovacevic, which sets this film apart from the rest in its genre. For, despite being a thriller, it doesn’t opt for an alternating plotline which is the usual practise. Likewise, Harry Franceschi’s music only adds the right amount of elements to the film without overriding its narration. As the film progresses, you wonder of the characters’ fate, the reliability of them all as individuals. The primitive human instincts kick in as you realize the true intents of the characters and you will for the protagonists to have the same understanding. Such well written are the characters that it’s almost instinctive, natural and even easy to feel for them, to mourn for them, to will for them to have what they have set out for.
As the film closes, you wonder, if this is the price one pays for duty… If this is the reality of the world we have come to live in. If indeed an adventure can be so life altering. ‘Carga’ is moving, gripping and riveting in its story, execution and with a stellar cast to fall back on, the film is truly deserving of every praise.
“Carga Holds A Wonderful Mysterious Nature”
Yad Deen‘s attention-grabbing short film Carga is beautifully shot and staged throughout, his film follows young Spanish couple Marta (Tania Watson) and Juan (Agustin Mateo), who have headed off to Iraq in order to investigate and explore an old abandoned cigarette factory, which is rumoured to have something to do with the Saddam regime. Marta is a documentary maker and looking for some good shots and stories, and she’s aided by her boyfriend Juan.
To get out there, which is in a safe zone away from troubles, they’re assisted by Ahmed (Rawand Khalid Saeed), a local man who knows the area and drives them to their chosen destination. On the way there, they’re stopped by a suspicious-esque security man, which cleverly builds early tension, and once they arrive at the factory, things get a little stranger with certain decisions and situations – without giving too much away! – but there’s a smart intensity growing.
While the setup is definitely different to other short films in this horror/thriller genre, it’s not unusual for people to go off to find unique, abandoned places and especially those people who love exploring old places or ghost towns that show the echoes of lives gone before. In truth, this is something I’d love to do but before I digress, I really connected with that side of the narrative.
Carga also features some exquisite shots and framing, offering both the dusty roads of Iraq as vast, bright and empty, which contrasts with the factory which is dark, enclosed and foreboding. While the nature of the big finale almost happens a little too quickly, considering most of the film is the lead up to these moments, it probably could have done with more ‘intense’ sequences, despite a very visually effective scene that involves a whole lot of heat.
Carga holds a wonderful mysterious nature but it’s also unsettling because of an underlying unknown lingering. This is backed up by good performances from Tania Watson and Agustin Mateo who are believable in the basics of their characters, which is vital in short films. Despite that aforementioned, speedy resolution, the film offers an intriguing impact and this is a short film that certainly stands out with its original subject matter and high quality production.
“Carga Is A Gripping Short Film”
Carga, a Spanish thriller set in Iraq, follows couple Marta and Juan (Tania Watson and Agustín Mateo) to an abandoned cigarette factory to uncover its secrets. It’s a simple yet ominous setup, and setting. With the couple venturing into the great unknown, director and co-writer, Yad Deen, does a marvellous job of building tension in just 19 minutes.
Marta is a renowned documentarian whose presence is acknowledged — and reasoning speculated — when she arrives in Iraq. Her previous work has taken her to Chernobyl and Afghanistan but she is on the hunt for better stories. Her boyfriend, Juan, is a filmmaker and, concerning for her safety, joins Marta on her latest expedition. Within mere moments, we understand this couple and root for them, whatever their future plight. Watson and Mateo are convincing as a couple but the focus lies on Watson as Marta. She is strong and fearless, independent and quietly pensive with her inquisitive eyes never letting up, yet she is not without vulnerabilities. Watson is simply brilliant.
Assisting the couple is local driver, Ahmed (Rawand Khalid Saeed), who is taking them to the factory far out in the desert. On the way, they are stopped by a security checkpoint guard (Youssef Osman) and, without giving too much away; the scene brilliantly elevates both tension and suspicion and is key as to how the rest of the film plays out. Writers, Yad Deen and Chesco Simón, use dialogue sparingly but it only enhances and offers comparisons between characters; the concerning and caring nature between Marta and Juan compared to the blunt and somewhat unbridled speech between the couple and Ahmed and the guard.
Once inside the factory, moments of stillness highlight the desolate nature of what surrounds them. However, the tension mounts quickly and Deen expertly handles the sudden clash of genres as the film picks up its pace. The music by Harry Franceschi perfectly compliments every moment but never overruns the plot, it only ever enhances.
Within the horror/thriller genre, wandering off the beaten path to find haunted or abandoned places is not uncommon; it is becoming a frequently used trope. It is unknown as to what is in store for these characters as they begin their journey, which is certainly intriguing, more so due to its unique location. Beautiful scenic landscapes are contrasted with the cold and isolated factory, the camera never failing to highlight this stark contrast but unafraid of close-ups when the scene demands it.
Carga is a gripping short film. Its marvellous build-up is ever so slightly hindered by a speedy conclusion but it is remarkable for what it achieves in such a short space of time. Deen, previously a documentarian himself, masters the thrill yet apprehension of setting off on an adventure and, the first half in particular skilfully creates tension and a duo to root for. It’s also really fun.
Carga is currently on the festival route so check it out if you have the chance! It recently announced its Scandinavian premiere at the Annual Copenhagen Film Festival in March, and it was screened twice this month during the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. A huge thank you to Yad Deen for getting in touch with me and sending the film.