Panda Bear It (2020)

Director: Evan Kidd

Running Time: 63 Minutes

Starring: Damien Elliott Bynum, Melissa Cowan Rattray, Kimberly Avery, Jeremias Hadley, Eric Hartley, Mary Miles Kokotek, Brigitte Moneybound Kelly

Local rapper Kamus Leonardo (Damien Elliott Bynum) has found his world upended by the sudden death of his girlfriend. Not helping matters is the panda bear who will not leave him alone, and may be a figment of his own imagination. In his follow-up to 2016's Son of Clowns, Evan Kidd makes his second directorial feature to tell a story about grief, and how one doesn't have to suffer in silence.

In the lead role of Kamus is Damien Elliott Bynum, portraying a version of his actual rapper persona. Bynum does excellent work in his acting debut, terrifically conveying how withdrawn Kamus has become, as he struggles to write lyrics for his next song, and loses himself in sorrow. Those close to him keep trying to have a conversation, trying to get through the walls our lead has put up, while reminding how he doesn't have to go through this alone. Even when haunted by a figment of his imagination that is dressed as a panda bear, Kamus keeps trying to shut him out, in a further attempt to close himself off from others. Yet no matter how many doors are literally shut behind the panda bear figure, they keep returning to offer encouragement, and try to coax our lead to do everyday things again.

Working with a microbudget, writer and director Evan Kidd utilises economic storytelling to breathe life into this terrific tale. Running at just 63-minutes, the compact length allows for the story to stick to the important aspects, yet serves as a double-edged sword, as a few story elements could have used more breathing room. One particular scene involving a jobless posse feels out of place, furthering the same point about how lost Kamus is, while unfortunately feeling too cartoonish to work. What's more effective is an encounter with a gun-wielding farmer, whose warm presence offers compassion, as they bond over similar feelings. This moment gets to the heart of the story, which is further emphasized by "You're Not Alone", a great song performed by our lead over the closing credits.

Panda Bear It is available to stream on Amazon Prime in the US.

If you wish to watch this film elsewhere, it is available to purchase directly from writer/director Evan Kidd's Patreon for just $5. Along with the purchase comes a bonus download of his first feature, Son Of Clowns, and bonus director commentaries for the films.