SHORT FILM REVIEW: FALSIFIED

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Writer/Producer: Ashley Tabatabai | Director(s): Stefan Fairlamb, Ashley Tabatabai |Cinematographer: by Adam Lyons | Cast: Ashley Tabatabai, Mitchell Mullen, Julia Leyland, Mike Archer

A man whose son was stolen at birth is convinced that he has found his long lost child. Inspired by Spain’s stolen babies scandal, Los Niños Robados.

An abhorable and largely unmentioned stain in Spanish and European history, the effects of ‘Los Niños Robados’ also known as ‘The Lost Children of Francoism’ – during which an estimated 300,000 children were reported stolen from their parents between the 1930s and 1980’s – are still being uncovered today.

In Ashley Tabatabai’s (a triple threat here as writer, producer and star) grave and pensive short film Falsified, we meet Henry, 30 years into his search for the child he lost during the regime. More tragically Henry’s wife, Maria, has since passed away – spurring his determination to to deliver on the promise he made to her before she died –  to find their stolen son.

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When we meet Henry, ruminating in an empty church – he talks of a life filled with longing, doubt and resentment. However it’s his willfulness, that can only be prescribed to a parent desperate to find a lost child, that culminates in the bittersweet meeting he has the young man he believes to be his son.

Henry’s own mortality, glaringly on the decline, makes things look doubtful until he sets his eyes on Javier.  Not only is Javier an eerie likeness of his beloved Maria,  he is also, as a man and as a son, symbolic and physical embodiment of Henry’s immortality.

Everything feels as if it’s on borrowed time, unbeknownst to Javier who is skeptical at first, but Henry’s persistence is tempting at best and tiresome at worst for the plagued Javier and his harangued wife (in mention). Having been through the process once before, Javier recalls how false hope left a sour taste in his mouth. He keeps their meetings at a cold and logical distance. There are no tears of joy or hopeful exchanges – this is a painful and dark memory for all involved and there’s no telling how they come out at the other end if their relationship proves to be positively definitive.
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Falsified is a stunning, stark film – contextually and visually. Mitchell Mullen casts a memorable performance as Henry; a frail old man who seems to be a shadow of his past self and at the end of journey in more ways that one.  It’s altogether a defiant performance that dances between stoicism but carries an underlying warmth and sadness as he recalls stories of Maria through looking upon Javier. Similarly Tabatabai’s offering as the emotionally controlled Javier is interesting. Though he seemingly holds the cards in taking their union further, unlocking the truth once and for all, it soon becomes apparent that he holds none of the cards at all. He’s a mystery simply because he and Henry are strangers. It’s a performance that evokes a picture of man at odds with having to dig up the past – its played with a strained but obvious resentment , frustration and fear. For Javier, is a questionable identity that he’s not privy to and has never had control of worth it?
Falsified is 16 striking minutes of intensity. A conversation between two strangers afflicted by pain beyond their own understanding, cruelly left to claw back any semblance of what could have been, in the little time they have to do it. It’s neither a hopeful or cynical story – just a sad and devastating reality for the many unidentified victims of one of Spain’s darkest atrocities.
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