Sixteen

Film, Thrillers
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Sixteen

This low-budget British indie from first-time feature filmmaker Rob Brown takes troubling, inflammatory subject matter – the legacy of child conscription in the Congo – and soft-soaps it into melodrama. Roger Nsengiyumva plays Jumah, a teenage refugee whose violent past threatens to erupt into the present when he witnesses a violent crime committed by a schoolmate. Torn between personal retribution and confessing to the police, Jumah’s tightly managed surface begins to crack.

The problem with ‘Sixteen’ is that writer-director Brown seems less interested in his characters and more in what they represent. Every figure on the screen feels emblematic and one-note: Jumah is terse and troubled, his adoptive mother Laura (Rachael Stirling) is grave and concerned, the local dealer Liam (Sam Spruell) is smarmy and threatening. It doesn’t help that the performances – an impressively controlled Nsengiyumva aside – are as flat as the writing.

Brown refuses to ask tough questions or present any real moral dilemmas: there’s never any doubt as to what the ‘right’ path is, or whether Jumah will take it. The result is a film unable or unwilling to face the very real horror of its subject.

By: Tom Huddleston

Posted:

Release details

Duration: 80 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Rob Brown
Screenwriter: Rob Brown
Cast: Roger Jean Nsengiyumva
Rachael Stirling
Rosie Day

Average User Rating

4.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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LiveReviews|3
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Have to disagree with Mr Huddleston! I think Sixteen aims to be, and succeeds in being, a quietly moving evocation of a complex scenario. Take out the Congolese child soldier back-story and you've got a pertinent, thought provoking film about knife crime, resilience, retribution, forgiveness, friendship and responsibility. Put the child soldier back in and you add a deep, chilling, intense anger which breathes under the central character and explodes in short, very sharp jabs. This is a tight film made on a tight budget - it's so tight at times it feels claustrophobic: the sound gets in your chest and the teenagers mumble and their sweat and blood is in your face and your anxiety is reflected in their eyes and there really is very very little space to breath. And I really enjoyed that. Partly because it makes the tiny spark of joy at the end of the film all the more euphoric, but mainly because it relied on it's audiences imagination to fill in the details of what it means to be a child soldier, and how that would affect your judgement and actions. I've known a few refugee child soldiers over the past twenty years and they don't talk about it: they live with it and don't sleep because of it. "Unable or unwilling to face the very real horror of it's subject"? Neither. More than able and more than willing. The entire team should be applauded.


Have to disagree with Mr Huddleston! I think Sixteen aims to be, and succeeds in being, a quietly moving evocation of a complex scenario. Take out the Congolese child soldier back-story and you've got a pertinent, thought provoking film about knife crime, resilience, retribution, forgiveness, friendship and responsibility. Put the child soldier back in and you add a deep, chilling, intense anger which breathes under the central character and explodes in short, very sharp jabs. This is a tight film made on a tight budget - it's so tight at times it feels claustrophobic: the sound gets in your chest and the teenagers mumble and their sweat and blood is in your face and your anxiety is reflected in their eyes and there really is very very little space to breath. And I really enjoyed that. Partly because it makes the tiny spark of joy at the end of the film all the more euphoric, but mainly because it relied on it's audiences imagination to fill in the details of what it means to be a child soldier, and how that would affect your judgement and actions. I've known a few refugee child soldiers over the past twenty years and they don't talk about it: they live with it and don't sleep because of it. "Unable or unwilling to face the very real horror of it's subject"? Neither. More than able and more than willing. The entire team should be applauded.


really good film and powerful performances all round. felt to me bang on with research into the psyche of an ex child soldier.. made me cry a few of times!