In our near future. Over the weekend, A24 debut a mysterious teaser trailer for an untitled film - without any information or details about what it is or what it's for or anything. After some sneaky investigation, The Film Stage discovered that the trailer is actually for a short film playing at Sundance 2017 called Toru. The footage has a sci-fi edge to it and shows the life of a baby living in a futuristic Japan. Early speculation was that this might be Shane Carruth's new sci-fi film, but apparently not. It's actually a very unique short about sci-fi tech that allows a baby to experience a full life in a matter of days. Some are speculating that maybe A24 is developing a feature, or just releasing the short, either way they've definitely got our attention.
A forest, a symbol, a dream of humanity. Fire up this fantastic French sci-fi short film titled The Edge, from director Simon Saulnier. After playing at film festivals throughout 2015 and 2016, the short has finally arrived online. The Edge is a contained sci-fi story following the journey of a young girl tracking down the thieves who stole from her something she cares about. It runs about 13 minutes, but is worth watching for the impressive attention to detail and the compelling, mysterious story of a renegade woman. The score by Alex Cortès (Eden Log, Martyrs, Arès) is also stellar. This might be one of the best shorts we'll see this year.
"I traveled many miles in tin cans…" TIFF has released a wonderful short film titled The Film Prayer, featuring narration by Keanu Reeves (who also produced the outstanding film vs digital documentary Side by Side a few years ago). It's basically a short promo for TIFF's "Save This Moment" campaign, bringing more awareness to film preservation and careful handling of film. The "prayer" which Reeves is reciting was written in 1920, supposedly by a projectionist. It was given to "film distributors to promote better handling of film and could be found inside film cans for many years." A poignant reminder to keep film alive forever.
Even with endless new CG animated features every year, stop-motion filmmaking is still going strong and it makes me happy to see this. This year there are a few stand out films, between Kubo and the Two Strings as well as My Life as a Zucchini. There's also some great short films being made, and this one here is another example of how impressive it is to see stop-motion used for visual storytelling. The Lighthouse is a B&W stop-motion short film made by up-and-coming Austrian filmmaker Simon Scheiber about a rather bored lighthouse keeper. The style and detail in this make it mesmerizing to watch, and the ending is quite trippy.
What a beautiful animated short film. The Fisherman is a short created and animated by Luke Saunders, featuring a very unique visual style telling a heartfelt story about family and remembering our loved ones. The brief description of the film explains that "a series of serendipitous events lead to a chance encounter and the fulfilling of an old man's last earthly desire." This is one of those out-of-nowhere fantastic short films that I encourage everyone to just stop and watch without reading too much about it beforehand, as the simplicity of it makes it more impactful in the end. I also just love the animation style and music, I want to see more shorts made like this. Thanks to the sci-fi network Dust for premiering this. Watch it in full below.
Pickle is a peculiar, amusing, quirky, entertaining short unlike anything else you've seen before. Made by Amy Nicholson, a New York-based filmmaker of docs and other projects, the short features her parents, Tom & Debbie Nicholson, who are dedicated caretakers of various odd creatures that "suffer from unusual medical conditions". The short film explores the "human capacity to care for all creatures throughout their sometimes greatly protracted lives until their occasionally sudden and unfortunate deaths." Pickle was a fish that couldn't swim; they also cared for an obese chicken, a cat with a heart condition, a non-buoyant goose, and a paraplegic possum. This unusual but heartfelt short deserves a small piece of your time. Watch below.
"You might say Baltimore is the best known Snowy yet." Time for something a bit different, but lots of fun. Secrets Of The Snowy Owl is a short documentary made by NPR's Skunk Bear team, featuring "owl sleuth" Adam Cole revealing the secrets of the Snowy Owl. The Snowy Owl is a certain species of owl that is well known, but not too much is known about them. The filmmaking in this doc is creative and engaging, with amusing animation and great footage of Cole's adventure to find a particular owl named Baltimore. It reminds me of another short we posted this year - The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere. Watch below.
Time to get in the holiday spirit! While this is more of an advertisement than a short, it's worth watching anyway because it's directed by Wes Anderson (and this kind of work is becoming increasingly common these days with filmmakers). Come Together is a short film holiday ad directed by Wes Anderson, starring Adrien Brody. As others have pointed out, it's kind of a nice The Darjeeling Limited reunion given that it takes place on a train. Brody plays a conductor who has to figure out some makeshift plans when he learns the train is going to be very late. It's charming, and has all the usual Wes Anderson quirks & accoutrements.
Another wicked cool cyber punk short film to watch. Lost Boy is the latest project from PostPanic Pictures, an Amsterdam-based production company (also behind the sci-fi short film Sundays). The film is a pitch for a feature sci-fi project from directors Anthony Scott Burns and Ash Thorp, and introduces us to a dark, gritty, barren world. Inspired by American action classics and Japanese samurai films, this has a true cyber punk design aesthetic, and looks damn good for a short film made on a limited budget. I really dig the world design and the costumes, though there's not much of a story here but hopefully that is something they're working on for the feature. The vehicle that shows up at the end is probably the coolest part. Check this out.
Nothing ever happens on Sunday… Hopefully everyone went to see Arrival this weekend. If you're still in the mood for some beautiful first contact sci-fi, this short is for you. It's a very lovely companion to Arrival, but that's all I'll say. On Sunday is a short directed by David Lea, who made this on his own time without any money. Via email, he explains his inspiration: "Way back in 1984 [my dad] hand built a cabin bed for my bedroom and underneath this, made from wood, flashing lights and copper piping, he'd constructed a spaceship cockpit… 31 years later I thought it was past time to repay the favour." Check out the film below.
Another impressive animated short film to feature today. Witness is a CGI animated short made by three filmmakers from the L'école Georges Méliès art school in France - Alexandre Berger, Christ Ibovy and Hugo Rizzon. The film tells another dialogue-free story of a man trying to track down the murderer of his wife. I like the twist in this, and I like the visuals - it's a dark and unsettling story that's told with clear and concise storytelling techniques. This film follows the outstanding short Borrowed Time, as another example of animation being used to tell a much darker and more emotional story than typically expected. See below.
Another wicked cool short film discovery - another one you must watch. Echo Torch is a sci-fi short about an inventor who builds an "electrical torch that reveals a hidden world layered upon our own." The concept itself is quite unique, and I love the visuals - you can see the cool blue torch on the poster, but to actually see it work so flawlessly in this short is wonderful. Echo Torch is directed by Chris Preksta, starring James Fitzgerald as the torchbearer. This has an awesome old school vibe to it, almost like Ghostbusters, and the VFX work is magnificent - making it that much more believable. I also appreciate how the film doesn't rely on dialogue, only just silence and great sound design. There's also a beautiful story bringing it all together.