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SUNDANCE 2021 Indie Series

Series review: 4 Feet High


- Maria Belen Poncio and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan’s six-episode series revolves around a 17-year-old girl in a wheelchair, exploring her own identity and tired of society's paternalism

Series review: 4 Feet High
Marisol Agostina Irigoyen in 4 Feet High

Argentinian filmmakers Maria Belen Poncio and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan are the writers and directors of 4 Feet High, a new Argentinian-French co-production presented in the Indie Series strand of this year's Sundance Film Festival.

The young-adult series is a transmedia project, composed of six 16:9 episodes and four 360/3D VR experiences taking part in the festival’s New Frontier programme. While the VR experiences centre on the lead character's emotions and sensory climax, the focus of this review will be on the six 16:9 episodes only. The story of 4 Feet High is set in the Argentinian city of Córdoba and revolves around Juana (played by the talented Marisol Agostina Irigoyen), a 17-year-old girl in a wheelchair, ashamed of her body and tired of society's continuous paternalism towards her. We follow Juana during her last year of secondary school, exploring her own identity and making two new friends, Julia (Florencia Licera) and Efe (Marcio Ramses).

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From the very beginning, the series is dominated by the charisma of the lead actress, who, little by little, tries to find her place in a world that is still reluctant to accept diversity or is simply afraid of it. The bond with Julia and Efe, however, makes her stronger and helps her to make her voice heard. Despite its short length (the whole series, as it stands today, lasts less than 80 minutes), the writing and direction leave enough room for a thorough exploration of Juana's inner conflicts, and her relationships with her family and friends. Not enough narrative depth, however, seems to be shown when depicting the struggles between Juana, her classmates and her teachers – the main conflict is caused by the headteacher, who keeps on rejecting the students' requests to implement the teaching of sex education. In particular, the heated discussions with the teachers seem rather rushed and not overly organic, so perhaps different writing solutions to deepen the staff's motives could have heightened the quality of the whole piece, enhancing its commendable message of empowerment. Besides, part of the plot tackles the delicate theme of abortion, a topic particularly close to people’s hearts in the Catholic Latin American country, where it was legalised (up to the 14th week of pregnancy) just a few days ago.

Overall, the direction is brilliant and involving, with no slowdowns or pointless detours. The addition of colourful, luminous visual effects in post-production, occasionally overlapping the images, is also a nice touch, which allows an exploration of the girl's imagination and dreamlike world. The series' conclusion may appear a little abrupt – it feels more like the closure of a narrative segment, rather than a season finale – but hopefully there will be more room to develop Juana's story in future episodes. All in all, the series is an enjoyable, timely production, which possesses the right qualities to attract a large teen and young-adult audience.

4 Feet High was produced by Detona Cultura, Realidad 360 Argentina, MalditoMaus, Stormur, Red Corner and ARTE.

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