Written by Isabella Roy
Two disembodied legs hang from hooks on either side of the frame. Stiff and pale and dead, or so it seems. A stream of water pours down a beige brick wall behind them. There’s a moment of uncertainty, followed by a man in a blue jumpsuit shuffling into the frame.
He sprays the dangling left leg with a warm mist, giving it a waxy-tan color that skin sometimes has, bringing it to life. He doesn’t make any references to James Whale’s 1931 “Frankenstein,” nor does he say anything at all, instead he does the same to the right leg.
“Irregulars,” a short directed by Fabio Palmieri, obscurely and intentionally uses the images of a well-functioning mannequin factory and the narration of a refugee’s life (and almost death) to leave the audience feeling abandoned. And in doing so, he makes them observers to a fluid documentary and listeners to the tribulations of an innocent man who is a victim of circumstance.
Filmed in the similar style of the docu-series, “How It Is Made,” what is shown on screen is not what is heard or felt. The fluorescent lights and unforgivable whiteness of the shots are blinding, but they create an angelic halo around the multiple arms that hang from hooks.
It’s the same with the torsos and several vacant faces of crafted pseudo-people.
The footage is accompanied by the roaring factory hard at work, which eventually falls into the background as the somber voice over of a 20-year-old man begins. He tells us his story, about his journey from his now destroyed homeland and to anywhere, that will take him in.
It is clear that Cyrille Kabore, the narrator, does not speak English well, or perhaps even at all, as subtitles accompany the disturbing pan of the factory work to assist the audience’s understanding of his broken English. Kabore does not belong with the factory of people but metaphorically begs to convince the figures (and the audience) that he does.
The viewers spend their time watching how mannequins are formed, how pseudo-people are put together before they are shipped off to their homes, while the disembodied voice of a real-life outsider begs to belong to any home: “My homeland refused me. The land of my dreams did the same.”
Kabore speaks about his escape from Syria underneath the tire of a truck. He tells us about the difficult, treacherous work he completed to have his rights and compensation revoked. He tells us about his desire and need to belong somewhere amidst doors slamming in his face.
The combination of the footage with the voice-over of Kabore’s story is shocking to the senses. The unsettling heaviness felt in your chest does not leave for the nine-minute duration. But to Palmieri’s credit, that’s exactly what he wants you to feel. Alone. Abandoned. Unsettled. Just as Kabore feels because Kabore is not given the care that the disembodied legs are.
He is ignored and we have allowed him to be ignored. Palmieri does not put a face on the 400,000 Syrians who are excommunicated from their homes every year in his documentary, he gives them a voice instead.