Short of the Week

Jonah

Jonah is a big fish story about the old and the new, and the links and the distances between them. A Sundance 2013 short film from the heralded creator of “Robots of Brixton”.

It’s a pleasure to welcome back to Short of the Week Kibwe Tavares, an exciting talent we spotted in 2011 via his indelibly unique Robots of Brixton. Jonah is his followup, and it builds on every aspect of craft and storytelling we liked in his initial work, cementing his reputation not only as a gifted visual stylist, but as a prominent filmmaker of the short form.

Jonah is a 21st century myth, a modern tall tale. In the way Robots of Brixton filtered a sci-fi vision thru historical filters, or (vice versa you may argue) this work seizes upon older forms of story, but updates them into a contemporary, and then futuristic landscape.

From the film’s description: “Mbwana and his best friend Juma are two young men with big dreams. These dreams become reality when they photograph a gigantic fish leaping out of the sea and their small town blossoms into a tourist hot-spot as a result. But for Mbwana, the reality isn’t what he dreamed – and when he meets the fish again, both of them forgotten, ruined and old, he decides only one of them can survive.”

Tavares got noticed initially for Robots’ visual splendor, and Jonah is no slouch in that category, but it is gratifying to see his narrative skills expand.  Robots was his graduation project from architecture school, which, on the surface, seems like an odd fact. However architecture students must be adept at 3D modeling, familiarizing themselves with much of the same software that animators use.  Also architecture is a philosophical art, as larger concerns of social systems and culture inform its practice, and as such, Tavares’ work always seems to function on a larger social level, even when here, the plot is, on its surface, a story of two friends. With Jonah, Tavares fuses his social consciousness with personal storytelling, as the result is dynamite, fleshing out his larger than life epic.

On a day when we debuted our new database of online premiere policies for major fests, it is fitting that we feature Kibwe, who rose to prominence on the web, and who, only after viral success, was accepted into Sundance 2012. He won a special jury mention there, and has been on a steady ascent since, having recently delivered a TED talk, as well as having received major support from preeminent UK organizations like Film4 and the BFI for Jonah. Paired with the success of Factory Fifteen, Tavares’ collective comprised of artists who “produce the imagined, the unreal and the surreal”, Jonah is the rare film that validates promise and in turn, cements Tavares as filmmaker poised to shape the nature of storytelling moving forward.

~
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.
  • Edahi

    How can I download the videos?

    I REALLY love them. They make my day very special!

  • Ivory Loyd

    I really like your film, but I’m curious as to why the cast was not named in the credits. Everyone must be credited for their participation, especially the talent who play the main characters.

  • Graham

    I liked it but I don’t think I truly got it. Anyone cares to explain?

  • Mavi

    it is about dreams and reality, dreams are always promising but in reality results may be rather negative. so here we have two young people living somewhere in north africa i guess, who are dead bored of their village. they live in a villiage without much to do. they aspire to have monumental attractions such as buckingham palace or taj mahal in their villige, and lots of tourists, and fun. these dreams become reality when they photograph a gigantic fish leaping out of the sea and their small town blossoms into a tourist hot-spot as a result. with swarming commercial and un-controlled tourism purity of their natural environment and society gets corruted. the fish symbolises first their dream (magnaficent and pure) then reality (corrupted). in the final encounter between the now toxic giant fish and once a promising dreamer now a wanderer hobo, fish the nature eliminates human the beast.

  • Mavi

    it is about dreams and reality, dreams are always promising but in reality results may be rather negative. so here we have two young people living somewhere in north africa i guess, who are dead bored of their village. they live in a villiage without much to do. they aspire to have monumental attractions such as buckingham palace or taj mahal in their villige, and lots of tourists, and fun. these dreams become reality when they photograph a gigantic fish leaping out of the sea and their small town blossoms into a tourist hot-spot as a result. with swarming commercial and un-controlled tourism purity of their natural environment and society gets corruted. the fish symbolises first their dream (magnaficent and pure) then reality (corrupted). in the final encounter between the now toxic giant fish and once a promising dreamer now a wanderer hobo, fish the nature eliminates human the beast.

  • Mavi

    it is about dreams and reality, dreams are always promising but in
    reality results may be rather negative. so here we have two young people
    living somewhere in north africa i guess, who are dead bored of their
    village. they live in a villiage without much to do. they aspire to have
    monumental attractions such as buckingham palace or taj mahal in their
    villige, and lots of tourists, and fun. these dreams become reality when
    they photograph a gigantic fish leaping out of the sea and their small
    town blossoms into a tourist hot-spot as a result. with swarming
    commercial and un-controlled tourism purity of their natural environment
    and community gets corrupted. the fish symbolises first their dream
    (magnaficent and pure) then reality (monstrous and corrupted). in the
    final encounter between the once a magnificent wonder of nature now a
    toxic giant fish and once a promising dreamer now a wanderer hobo, fish
    eliminates man. nature and man are one but if it comes to such a point
    of confrontation for survival man has little chance compared to nature.

  • Mavi

    it is about dreams and reality, dreams are always promising but in
    reality results may be rather negative. so here we have two young people
    living somewhere in north africa i guess, who are dead bored of their
    village. they live in a villiage without much to do. they aspire to have
    monumental attractions such as buckingham palace or taj mahal in their
    villige, and lots of tourists, and fun. these dreams become reality when
    they photograph a gigantic fish leaping out of the sea and their small
    town blossoms into a tourist hot-spot as a result. with swarming
    commercial and un-controlled tourism purity of their natural environment
    and community gets corrupted. the fish symbolises first their dream
    (magnaficent and pure) then reality (monstrous and corrupted). in the
    final encounter between the once a magnificent wonder of nature now a
    toxic giant fish and once a promising dreamer now a wanderer hobo, fish
    eliminates man. nature and man are one but if it comes to such a point
    of confrontation for survival man has little chance compared to nature.

  • http://reddysteadygo.tumblr.com/ Sindhu R.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how a very basic or often told story such as this one can change when placed in a new environment. What is troubling to me about this short is its reliance on some idea of Zanzibar and its people, because it feels to me like it needed to be this certain kind of place in order for this story to function.

    Those idle musings aside though, I loved the visuals, love a good fish story and above all: phenomenal music!

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Ivory, it looks like the primary cast is credited at the end around 15:00

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Ivory, it looks like the primary cast is credited at the end around 15:00

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Great use of special effects to build a rich, surreal world and tell a large story.

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Great use of special effects to build a rich, surreal world and tell a large story.

  • Graham

    Thanks a lot! Appreciate it! Makes things a lot more clearer.

  • Anonymous

    This is an amazing short. The only thing that peeved me a little is the characters West African accents (when they speak english) for a film set in East Africa.