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Hallelujah (2022) Film Review

Hallelujah, from writer/director Victor Gabriel, is a compelling ‘traumedy’ short that explores family ties, the Black experience and the casual horrors of gun violence.

Described by witer/director Victor Gabriel as a ‘traumedy’, Hallelujah really effectively utilises its scant 13 minute run time to explore both sides to this genre-hybrid, precisely maintaining that balance between darkness and light to simultaneously ruminate on the harsh realities of a country so ingrained with the ripple-effects of gun violence, and also deliver a message of hope.

Brothers Paper (Bruce Lemon) and Chetty (Richard Nevels) aren’t quite ready for responsibility, but are poised to become the legal guardians for their young niece and teenage nephew. On a sunny afternoon, in their backyard in Compton, California, they bicker over what to do with Lila (Mariah Pharms) and Hallelujah (Stephen Laroy Thomas), reconcile with their grief, and come to acknowledge that a family and a home is what you make it.

Hallelujah ruminates on the Black experience in America through a tale that’s, heartbreakingly, a pretty common occurrence: the loss of a loved one to gun violence, and the process of healing in the aftermath. But Gabriel doesn’t linger on the act itself, and instead explores the joys that can be found as families shift and adapt afterwards; voices the hopes for brighter futures, but makes it clear how deep the wounds go. There’s genuine humour that doesn’t feel jarring or insensitive, as well as pathos and an innate understanding of the importance of emotional resonance, even in such a short time frame. Hallelujah is a short, compact slice of story that feels fit to bursting with resonance, heart and relevance.  

Hallelujah premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2022, and will remain available to watch on the festival’s platform till the end of the festival.

Meet the Artist: Victor Gabriel on “Hallelujah” (Sundance Institute)
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