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Just Hold On review: A joyous, life-affirming story about fighting against all odds

Release Date: 2020 / 7min

Cinestaan Rating

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

The documentary short tells the story of a formidable seven-year-old who holds on to life, and other things too.

Directed by Sam Davis and Rayka Zehtabchi, the documentary short Just Hold On is the story of seven-year-old Marlie McDonald from Houston. 

A Mutton Bustin’ champion, McDonald was born with an aggressive brain tumour. Although her first few years were spent in hospitals, she fights the disease with vigour, displaying strength and resilience that far exceeds her years. As her mother says, “We just kept telling her to hold on”, and she did. 

At just seven minutes, the film sucks one right in and we see McDonald practising for her rodeo, which is similar to bull or horse riding but involves children riding sheep. 

The joyous, affirmative film is stunningly shot with the characters framed against the landscape. As we learn about McDonald and her condition, one cannot help but be awestruck by the little girl. With her ready smile and curls, the adorable redhead wins our hearts as her charm, confidence and spirit shine through. “I’m still holdin’ on," she says at the end when attempts are being made to playfully unhorse her. McDonald is now in long-term survivor care.

Davis and Zehtabchi won an Academy Award in 2019 for Best Documentary Short Subject for their film Period. End of Sentence (2018). Just Hold On won the Jury Award for Best Texas Short, SXSW Film Festival and was screened at Palm Springs International ShortFest 2021.


Related topics

Palm Springs Short Festival

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