By Murad Abu Eisheh | Drama
A young girl watches a secret TV in a war-torn world. But it becomes life or death.

Eight-year-old Tala is confined to her small, cramped home during a war-torn reality, where ISIS demands its citizens rid themselves of their televisions.

But with a deep desire to keep watching her beloved soccer games, she finds herself a secret TV that brings her freedom and solace during a difficult confusing time. But when her secret is discovered, her source of joy becomes a matter of life and death.

Inspired by real-life news reports of banned televisions during ISIS's rise in power, this compelling Oscar-shortlisted short drama -- written and directed by Murad Abu Eisheh -- captures the difficult tension of trying to remain a child amid danger, peril and uncertainty.

Told from the perspective of a little girl, the storytelling weaves a stream of images, sensations and fascinations that characterizes a young child's consciousness. Though the narrative carefully builds Tala's evolution as a character, it never feels overtly written, with its almost documentary-like naturalism. It also has a wealth of rich sensory detail, from the sound of airplanes and gunfire in the distance to the indelible image of a TV crashing in the street from above. We never see any violence, but its unseen threat is always near. This world is increasingly lonely and scary, and incomprehensible to the little girl.

As a result of ISIS's encroachment, Tala is confined to her home, forced to cut her hair and is deprived of the usual pleasures and joys of her life. Young actor Aesha Balasem offers a moving performance, one that captures how young kids can simply exist as the world wrestles with the larger geopolitical currents around them. But as the film's poetic stream of moments coalesces into a series of tense, suspense-filled scenes, Balasem reveals a subtle precision and specificity that marks a truly skilled and responsive performance. When Tala's secret TV becomes a matter of life and death, and Tala truly leaves her childhood behind.

Heartbreaking, tense and resonant, "Tala'vision" in many ways is truthful to a child's journey in a world where they don't often have much control or autonomy. Utterly dependent on the grown-ups around them, the world happens to children. They can only act out in ways that are limited to their scope and understanding of the world, which is fundamentally simple and innocent. But when the world has become dangerous, the stakes are so high, and the circumstances so dire, the simplicity and innocence become a liability, and no amount of parental protection or intervention can keep catastrophe and war at bay. "Tala'vision" captures the tragedy of this loss of innocence and the helplessness of children in a world that has forgotten them.

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