Short of the Week

The Raven

A mystical man escapes the eye of the law in this low-budget but special-effects driven film.

We’ve been taking it easy the last month, but we’re ready to kick it into high gear again with quality recommends. First though I want to weigh in on a couple of the high profile films that have come along in these last few weeks.

The Raven is joining a fine tradition of small budget sci-fi shorts with slick production that have broken through to more mainstream audiences, having been featured on FirstShowing, Slash, and a bunch of related websites. The archetype for this type of film is of course Neill Blomkamp of District 9 fame with his short Alive in Joberg, but Fede Alvarez with Panic Attack and more recently Carl Erik Rinsch with The Gift, are members emeritus. The Raven, shot lean and mean for 5k in the streets of LA using a RED camera, definitely achieves the look and attitude of films of this trend.

At 6 minutes, the film is basically an extended chase. In a futuristic, or least alternate LA, the city has descended into a police state, overseen by an increasing array of sci-fi weaponry. One man, Chris Black, codenamed The Raven, is targeted by the police, but chooses to run. The reason he is being hunted reveals itself throughout the chase via special effects, and the whole sequence is conceived and executed well, with a a little parkour thrown in for good measure.

The Raven is fun, but it isn’t really on the level of the previously mentioned films. The overall level of the compositing is a touch lacking, and the mechanical designs owe too much to certain high profile forebearers. Personally I feel the ellipsis ending is a cop out as well.

However the film is brisk, looks beautiful and grabs you from the get go. As a sci-fi fan I can say that I was gripped from beginning to end, a sign of quality filmmaking of the old school style, courtesy of director Ricardo de Montreuil.

A niggling feeling bothers me though. Even while films of this ilk are bring short film a new level attention that has been sorely lacking,I can’t help but be disturbed at the nakedness of their appeal. Short Film has often been dismissed as a “calling card” and these films live up to that criticism. More and more they jettison dialogue, character, even plot in favor of pure action. At what point do we cease to even call these works short films anymore and declare them what they seem to really be—trailers for some unidentified future project?

Co-Founder of Short of the Week, Sondhi lives in Brooklyn working as a Curator for Vimeo. Follow his musings on online video, direct distribution and branded content: @jasondhi.
  • The Raven | Directors Notes

    [...] a bit more on Ricardo de Montreuil’s film, check out Jason’s post over at Short of the Week ShareSHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "The Raven", url: [...]

  • Andrew S Allen

    Few filmmakers can make a living on short films alone. And let’s face it, most would jump at the chance to be given more time and money to complete a grander project. But I’m glad Jason brought up this point. The success stories of Fede Alvarez, Carl Erik Rinsch, and now Ricardo de Montreuil—though promising to filmmakers looking for a break—sends a message that Hollywood is more interested in a filmmaker’s ability to pull together a CG action sequence than tell a compelling story.

  • Sondhi

    What’s nice though is I don’t think that doing a slick action scenes in a short film was really on people’s radar before these films. The Raven, more than any other of these films shows that DIY-ers can pull off reasonably sophisticated action sequences, so hopefully filmmakers will see this and start to wed them to more expansive plots a la Turbo or Deus ex Machina.

  • The Un-Gone | Short of the Week

    [...] Un-Gone is a near-perfect hard sci-fi short. Unlike recent crowd pleasers The Raven or The Gift, it eschews flashy visuals in favor of providing entertainment that is [...]

  • Reign of Death | Short of the Week

    [...] its manifest destiny is to dominate the web in the tradition of recent short film internet faves, The Raven, The Gift and Panic [...]

  • Vimeo Awards 2010 « Short of the Week

    [...] Raven; Ricardo de Montreuil, 6 min—The year’s darling of the DiY crowd. We featured it when it came out, and my opinion is much the same as then; slick entertainment, but empty [...]

  • Charles Deren

    Watched this film, but didn’t finish. Became bored by its emptiness. It was a scene derived from many of the same movies along “District 9″s ilk. I agree with the above. Short on story and dialogue, too big on CG and the slick look. I imagine this filmmaker can tell a compelling story — so let’s see it!

  • Jason Sondhi

    He’s going to get his chance, The Raven was number one on the recently released “Viewfinder” list, a compendium similar to “blacklist” for scripts, but instead for internet videos. Mark Wahlburg has optioned “the Raven” for a feature adaptation, and Ricardo might get to direct. If not, he has defintely been attached to the new film “Lowriders”.

  • Short Film: The 3rd Letter | Watch the Best Online Short Films

    [...] with the surroundings—and of course no flashy chase sequences, like in the Hollywood darlings, The Raven or The [...]

  • The Chase an Intel Branded film by Smith & Foulkes | Short Film

    [...] without being burdened by the necessities of “characters” or “plot”. Think The Raven, or numerous French student animations. Leave it to a corporation however, the branded content [...]

  • Grounded by Kevin Margo | A Sci-Fi Short Film

    [...] An astronaut falls to his death on a planet. But, like Groundhog Day, the scene keeps repeating itself. It is the same astronaut, but the bodies pile up. The description attempts to give guidance as Margo writes: “Themes of aging, inheritance, paternal approval, cyclic trajectories, and behaviors passed on through generations are explored against an ethereal backdrop.” The material is there to decipher all these themes in the piece, but, rather surprisingly, the film does not force you into any of them. Truly, Grounded is an experimental film cloaked in the trappings of narrative, a piece much more akin to Solipsist, than The Raven. [...]