This visually-stunning London Short by writer-director Ray Panthaki is a tour-de-force of filmmaking, all the more impressive for being made in just two weeks. Life Sentence is stylish but more than that it manages to dramatise the difficult subject of knife crime and how that can destroy families without once being preachy or lapsing into cliché.
Panthaki says: "The story came about under tragic circumstances when a close friend of mine found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was the nicest kid you'll ever meet — a star student, kind, good-looking, creative — in every way the perfect child. We still don't know what happened, but in a completely unprovoked attack he was confronted and stabbed 11 times in five seconds. I was thrust into a whirlwind — angry, I wanted to hurt the people who did it. But of course, you can't do that — you have to channel it somehow. What was worse was witnessing the family falling to pieces."
"I started writing one night and that was very therapeutic but I put the script on the shelf and it sat there for years. Over time I got stronger about it and knew if it was going to get it made I'd have to direct it." It was two weeks before an exhibition about knife crime that a friend asked Panthaki to make the film so they could screen it in the show. "We just went out and did it — the whole thing from casting to music. I had to push through the boundary of what was possible with the adrenaline keeping it going. I didn't sleep much."
The incredible cinematography is by Pierre Aïm, who also shot the French classic La Haine. Panthaki says he paid for him to come to London for a meeting then launched into a breathless explanation of his vision for Life Sentence with Aïm listening in silence until finally he stopped him with the words: "I love your passion — I'm in."
That passion is evident in every frame of Life Sentence and it's no surprise that Panthaki was named one of BAFTA's Breakthrough Brits in 2014. He's now lining up the features with Convenience, a comedy about two bungling robbers in a petrol station, which he both produces and stars in, in cinemas from today, 2 October.
Want to be featured? If you have a London-themed short film that you’d like us to consider for this series, send an email with the subject “London Shorts” to Stu Black and Ioanna Karavela via our email: londonshorts@
To see other London Shorts click here.