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black marks show the ways that sexual assault victims are silenced.

Mali Crosby’s prey highlights the brilliant potential of the school filmmaker. Though the film does not fully escape the realm of student art film, this is not a detriment. The film shows that Crosby understands visual imagery. The film’s narrative is about a young high school student being sexually assaulted. It is portrayed with narration paralleled by strong visual images.

Cinematography Done Right

hand prints on a young girls body to represent sexual assault

We start with a nature documentary-style scene where the narrator briefly explains natural predator-prey relationships. This gives way to crayon drawings of two beautiful Black girls and their natural hair. They are friends “tied at the hip.” The image evokes Black girl magic. It is eventually juxtaposed against a dark stick figure forcefully imposed behind the two girls. Our protagonist notes that this is the older brother of her friend.

The sand clock flashes every time the narrator speaks about the multiple and escalating incidents that happen over time. This doubles as social commentary on how often sexual abuse can occur under prolonged silence. This culminates in the narrator not being believed, as is the case with so many victims, and her being further victimized in the aftermath. We see grubby, white handprints all over the protagonist as the incidents compound. Red paint and red water parallel the protagonist’s calling for help with her razor blade. These are strong images that strengthen the narration of the movie. A hand, dripping with black paint, leaves marks on the protagonist’s face after physically silencing her. This imagery is pointed and unapologetic. Crosby is daring in her confrontation of sexual assault cinematically.

Thankfully, the movie’s ending tone is one of hope. She has begun speaking about her experiences, and she refuses to be silenced again. The movie topic is timely and a fantastic example of maximizing limited resources. Too often, the cause célèbre is expected to carry an otherwise technically unremarkable art piece. Not here. Cinematography makes this short film, showing that strong imagery can carry messages in visual mediums.

Andrew Joseph Tanner

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