There’s something about Sonny Baez’s short film that’s hard to capture in a few words, though its central stakes, especially the drama of the modern couple, are far from a thematic novelty. And yet, ‘Don’t Choke‘ offers a refreshingly cynical and profound take on the well-known war of the sexes, reconsidering in a dynamic key the general typologies of parents fighting for custody of their daughter. The crisis of the contemporary family thus becomes the central pivot around which the conflict between the two partners reaches its climax. But the realisation of this climax takes a rather atypical form, in the sense that the final confrontation between the protagonists takes place on a tennis court in front of spectators who do not hesitate to place bets or to embrace gender affinities in order to determine the winner. Such a narrative structure implies a metaphorical dimension, a theatricalization of both social conventions and pre-established roles that oppose the norms by which the concepts of “masculinity” and “femininity” are perceived.


This tennis match consequently turns into an episode of furious outburst, in which unspoken thoughts, frustrations or hidden desires become the ammunition used by the two characters. Sonny Baez’s tragicomic approach to the challenges of parenthood is gripping and painful, captured in a brisk, pulsating pace and through insidious visceral insights. Social critique is woven into the layers of this film, insisting on the shallowness of imposed standards, but also the superficiality with which an individual is perceived, depending on their gender or financial means. We are indeed talking about a complex short film that pits the intimate drama of a failed marriage against the outward spectacle of bloodthirsty viewers. And yet, even after all has been said and the contracts signed, freeing the “prisoners” from the captivity of the same domestic space, the bitter taste remains lingering. ‘Don’t Choke’ is not a film about heroes or victories; rather, it is like a widely recognized tragic comedy in society, where the needs of each person collide with the contractual patterns or stereotypes that have replaced our usual way of life. Tough and incisive in its authenticity, Sonny Baez’s short film is undoubtedly a success.


For the authenticity, cynicism, and sensitivity with which it illustrates the tragicomic confrontation of individuals in their struggle to assert their own spoken and unspoken needs, ‘Don’t Choke’ was awarded with the Film of the Month distinction in the November 2023 edition of TMFF.