Shorts are an integral part of the film ecosystem that’s much too often overlooked or dismissed. 2019 offered multiple great ones of all genres, budget sizes, from well-known directors and total beginners alike. The following list presents a few attention deserving films, most of which are available for everyone either on YouTube or Vimeo.
The multi-talented ever-evolving Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, performed at Coachella last year as one of the headliners. Being the creative spirit he is, Glover also dropped Guava Island, secretly filmed the year before on Cuba. Starring himself as an ambitious musician Deni Maroon on an island governed by capitalist greed, he decides to throw a music festival for the locals despite warnings from a factory owner, who’s not planning on giving his employees a free day. Opposite of Deni in two notable roles are his supportive girlfriend Kofi, and a factory worker Yara, played by Rihanna and Letitia Wright respectively.
Directed by a long time collaborator Hiro Murai (who’s also behind the majority of Atlanta), Guava is set in a beautiful tropical scenery that you’ll be fully transported into for brief 50 minutes thanks to Christian Sprenger’s lush cinematography. The film, in musical-esque moments features some of Gambino’s latest work such as Summertime Magic, Feels Like Summer and also an industrial version of This Is America.
How To Be Alone
She’s the writer and story editor on Stranger Things, and yet Kate Trefry is a name you might have never heard of. The same mix of pulpy and creepy atmosphere of the Netflix show is also on display, although in a more mature version, in the horror How To Be Alone, starring Joe Keery who fans now as Steve Harrington. The film follows a young woman played by the underrated Maika Monroe surviving a night on her own, battling the physical manifestations of her fears and anxieties. The concept itself is pretty simple, but the skilful stylised execution and Monroe’s grounded performance make this one worth it.
If only the animated shorts got as much attention as their feature-length counterparts. Not only is it an absolute joy to watch, in the most honest way, a father try to get his daughter’s hair ready, but it’s also a story highlighting a part of life many (especially non-black) viewers didn’t even know about. The task at hand seems simple until it’s anything but.
As far as movies made by YouTubers go, Noel Miller’s Suki is a shining example of how to do it right. Proudly wearing influences on its sleeve, the story about an Asian female killer set partly in suburbs takes quite a few hints from Kill Bill Vol.1. What’s even better, Miller goes into known genre tropes (such as the cowboy-like detective) and uses them to this advantage, not necessarily surprising the audience, but keeping them well entertained.
We all know the struggles of staying up way too late due to school. As with the best horrors, Blair Letham takes an ordinary scenario and turns it into something extraordinary and creepy. 02:34 uses a few of the well known horror concepts (both on the visual and storytelling level) in a way that feels new, original and, most importantly, scary. In stark black and white cinematography with candles lighting up the frame, Stanley finds himself working up to the fateful time, when the difference between reality and imagination begins to blur.
Battle at Big Rock
2015’s revival of the Jurassic franchise with Jurassic World seemed like a hopeful restart for the franchise, but unfortunately it aims more for big dinosaur spectacles than memorable character moments. Battle at Big Rock proves that they can still craft genuine thrills in this universe. The short is more realistic and grounded, imagining a world where dinosaurs became yet another animal of the wild, slightly continuing the story where Fallen Kingdom left it.
We follow a family as their camping trip at Big Rock turns from holiday into a nightmare when a wild Allosaurus invades the camp and starts wreaking havoc. Witnessing this event from the perspective of a family, led by André Holland, makes for enough of a compelling watch to give one hope for the next instalment.
On the surface, there isn’t anything exciting about Recluse, seemingly no reason to watch it. It’s the first film of director Grace Hannah Girven and with its amateurish production it certainly looks the part. Over four minutes we see a silent morning routine, tad too familiar to some. However, that’s where the magic hides.
Recluse isn’t particularly enjoyable while it’s on, but it’s greatest strengths come to light later as the viewer goes over it time and time again in their head. There is something, dare I say poetic, about the oddly calm atmosphere present that settles after Recluse ends and stays there long after.
From one emerging director onto the next, the only 9 year old Brooklynn Prince is already making quite a name for herself. She came onto the scene a few years ago in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project and acted in a few films across the spectrum since. Colours marks her directing debut and tells the story of two best friends one of who falls ill and has to stay in the hospital while the other copes with the reality. Brooklynn’s creative choices (like the aspect ratio), purely from the filmmaking standpoint, never cease to amaze. Given that it’s made by someone that young and it’s that good, though she obviously was helped by older and more experienced people, it makes for a fascinating watch, knowing everything came from the mind of a child. There’s something encouraging, albeit a bit depressing, about it.
Paul Thomas Anderson is no stranger to music videos and the rock band Radiohead counts among his most frequent collaborators. ANIMA serves as a companion piece to an album of the same name crafted by Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s frontman. Their musical one-reeler starts in a metro with multiple people all dressed the same, dancing while Yorke’s music plays in the background. From then, we are taken on a mind-bending journey across various spaces, none of which can be too accurately defined.
ANIMA, as an album, is a part of Thom’s mind none of us will ever fully understand. He gives us a sonic look into his world, offering visuals both as a dictionary helping us to read it, and as a brand new way to look at the piece.
Zombies is a work of a little known Congolese rapper Baloji, who’s short is really just two music videos glued together via a narrative. The film stays true to its name, depicting various parts of society acting as ‘zombies’, in a way that somewhat recalls Mati Diop’s Atlantics, another African movie dealing with the themes of body possession in a modern day setting. However, Zombies is far less focused on characters, delivering it’s wild(ly fun) story through catchy music and visuals. In brief 15 minutes we’re exposed to a world ranging from a dark vision of dance clubs to a street parade, all of which feels futuristic and really grounded at the same time.
This bubbly little short is what Wes Anderson dreams of. When the young Eden gets a pair of binoculars for her birthday, she indulges in her hoppy of people watching, observing anything and everything possible. With all the delights of both a french movie and a Moonrise Kingdom homage, Sayna Fardaraghi (whom Scratch Cinema had the delight of interviewing) made a feel-good film full of joy.
A tree shaking in the night. A mob in masks set on bringing it down. A man, in a similar mask, up in the tree holding onto his dear life. The Fall, Jonathan Glazer’s first film in six years, is a nightmare pulled straight from the mind onto the screen. It’s an in medias res scene. No dialogue, no explanation, forcing us to watch a cruel punishment of a man for unknown crimes. It’s not about what’s happening, but about all the information we’re missing, unable to form a conclusion of the events we witnessed. The horror of The Fall lies in the unknown. Maybe their punishment was just.