“Night Shift”, a short film by Zia Mandviwalla, knows how to play with your expectations. Salote works as an airport cleaner and the film follows her as she begins another long night shift. At first, all you see is a good worker who keeps her head down and stays focused on her tasks. “It will get easier… or you will get used to it,” another worker offers. But in the mundane act of cleaning, you being to see a more complex picture. She looks on at stewardesses gleaming themselves up, seemingly with envy, and takes a discarded lipstick. You see her excitement mixed with anxiety at an unfinished pizza left the taking— and her phone calls to no one.

“The story for Night Shift came about through considerable delays at airports and long hours flying to and from the antipodes,” Mandviwalla explains in the director’s notes. “Night Shift is a film about people who exist on the periphery. As we walk through the security checks, lengthy queues and muffled announcements, rarely do we notice or pay attention to someone like Salote – much less think about what her life might be like. This is also a film about perception. How we perceive and judge others based upon their jobs, their appearances and their actions. And how those perceptions can shift and judgements can be misguided until we fully understand the nature of someone else’s predicament.” It does so subtly, but powerfully.

You can see the whole film here:

 

We rarely pay attention to those, as Mandviwalla describes it, on the periphery. We apply anonymity and dehumanize, rather than engaging with— or even acknowledging— the fact that every story around us is as nuanced and complicated as our own. “Night Shift” forces us to face our own capacity to ignore. And that’s no easy feat.