A real-life couple navigates love and codependency in this mosaic of moments set in South Africa. What does it mean when someone makes you feel like a whole person? What are its joys and consequences? Narrated by snippets of an intimate conversation between real-life lovers Mohamed Allam and Shae Barnes, director Sandra Winther’s short film examines the tender complexities of a relationship forged of two halves of the same soul. “Shining Star is a story of a relationship coming undone and the cycles we go through in love,” says Winther, who met Allam and Barnes at a casting in South Africa. “Sometimes we're not loved the way we would like to be and in our desire to be seen, emotions swing like a pendulum. Even as we feel hurt, we glue our love back together, over and over. There’s beauty in allowing imperfection in relationships, but my hope is that this film leaves a lot for interpretation—whether this love is real or successful." Despite the comfort that comes with finding a soulmate that fits into every nook and cranny of your being, it is challenging to draw boundaries in a relationship as partners become increasingly interdependent: tightly intertwined and without an answer to the question “where do you end and I begin?” “We had many conversations about their relationship and they were vulnerable enough to record some of their most intimate conversations for this film,” says the director. “We filmed in Misty Cliffs outside Cape Town and shot on 35mm film, a combination of place and process that translated Shae and Mohamed’s world into this very specific feeling I had when we met.” Editor Mikkel E. G. Nielsen, who recently won an Academy Award for his work on Sound of Metal (2019), gives Shining Star “a sort of fluid and organic quality,” describes Winther. “Watching it feels a bit like trance.” Nielsen creates a visual mosaic of moments from the couple’s life and imbues the project with a deliberate, considered pacing. The middle section of this moving portrait hints at a potential end to their sun-kissed romance. But in reality, the process of making Shining Star made the couple stronger than ever—encouraging them to be comfortable with the vulnerability that comes with interdependence, as expressed in the closing moments of the film.
Born in Copenhagen and based in New York, Sandra Winther’s work matches a youthful storytelling ability with a unique and powerful directorial vision. Sandra’s style melds documentary and narrative techniques with an emphasis on capturing the stories and pulse of vibrant youth cultures the world over. She has helmed an array of projects that reflect this approach, for clients such as Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Beats By Dre, Versace, Hugo Boss and Levi’s. Her award-winning 2019 short documentary, 'Lowland Kids', premiered at SXSW and went on to be screened at 30+ prestigious festivals, winning awards including the Audience Award for Best Documentary Short at the Palm Springs Film Festival and a nomination for the Cinema Eye honours Award for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Film. Sandra is currently developing the film into a feature.