By Romy Somerset.
Inspired by true events, Hold Me Down is the heart-breaking depiction of a day in the life of Chastity, a young single mother who is forced into stripping and prostitution in order to support her child. In this short feature, we bare witness to the abuse, degradation and humiliation that she endures in one night, only to provide her child with simple necessities such as Pampers.
We see, at the beginning of the film, Chastity fashioning a makeshift diaper out of a plastic bag for her baby. She hears about a bachelor party taking place later that night, the bachelor being an ex boyfriend of Chastity’s. Her and her friends are employed to dance at the party, wearing next to nothing, and are ogled and heckled by men all night. Things take a dark turn, and she is left feeling empty and exhausted.
Set in the Bronx, Swedish director Niclas Gillis uses only actresses who are from there, really living this life, which gives the film such a feeling of authenticity that hits right where it hurts. Whilst it may not be an easy watch, it is certainly an important one. Films about women like Chastity are scarce, but so essential, as the struggles these girls face are lost in today’s society, buried deep underneath the more publicised issues of modern America.
There is a touching conversation that takes place between two friends, Chastity and Tanisha (played by Tianna Allen), providing a short relief, all we could hope for in a film covering this particular subject matter. Tanisha comforts Chastity, telling her she doesn’t need to let her ex make her feel bad, that she is the most beautiful person in the room and that he is nothing. Apart from the touching depiction of the bond between mother and her child, the loyalty and sisterhood between these women is the only aspect of the film that encourages a feeling of hope and warmth.
The cinematography is hauntingly beautiful, with most of the shots lit by one lone, clinical light. The party scene is dizzying and disorientating, with the flashing beams creating a feeling of incredible claustrophobia. Whilst Chastity dances, a circle of men close in around her like hungry vultures, an image that will be difficult to forget.
This feature crams as much poignancy into 30 minutes as is physically possible, and it is an incredible watch. I hope there are more like it in the coming months, as these women’s stories are crying out to be told.
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