LIFF Special Review: This Shaking Keeps Me Steady

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Shehrezad Maher’s film This Shaking Keeps Me Steady takes its title from a poem entitled “The Waking” by acclaimed American poet Theodore Roethke. Roethke’s poem is, in part, a reflection on memory and loss. Memory is fickle and permeable, changing from one moment to another depending on who is sharing it, and when they are sharing it.

Maher gives us several first responders working for the Chhipa Ambulance service in Karachi, who also participate in dramatic crime reenactments on a television show, thus blurring the lines between what is real and what is fictional, between what we experience and what we remember, especially when it comes to loss.

One of the things I love about festivals is they give you the chance to see films that you might not otherwise get a chance to see, for better or for worse, and Maher’s film is a perfect example of that. Indeed, it was a film that made me think, though it is also a film that left me feeling somewhat untethered, unable, at times, to hang on to what Maher was trying to share with me as a viewer. Part of this, of course, is that I came to the film with certain perceptions of what the film was going to be about, and while it’s true that I found the stories shared by the ambulance workers compelling and intriguing, and would have liked to hear more from them, I found Maher shaking up my preconceived notions of what I was watching. I was fascinated by the images of someone plumping up roses, wondering what that could mean in the scheme of things – and the only answer I have is that, possibly, the film was showing us that our perception of what a rose should look like is shaped by how the roses are finally presented to us. The result is a film that may not be to everyone’s liking, but which, if you give it a chance, will shake you, too, and perhaps change your perception of how documentaries should be made, and how their stories might be told.

This Shaking Keeps Me Steady screens on June 22nd and June 24th in London. The Bagri Foundation London Film Festival celebrates a decade of bringing the best new South Asian films to the UK, with 5 cities, 25 venues and 25 specially curated films. It starts on 20th June 2019 in London continues until 8th July 2019, at cinemas across the UK. For more on the festival, please visit: http://londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/

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