Filmmakers who want audiences to be invested in their movies should learn everything they can about empathy. Film Crit Hulk, one of America’s best film writers, puts it like this:
“THERE IS NO SINGLE FORCE ON THIS PLANET MORE POWERFUL THAN THAT OF EMPATHY… EMPATHY IS WHAT ALLOWS HUMAN BEINGS TO BIND TOGETHER IN ANY MEANINGFUL WAY.” (from Screenwriting 101)
It’s is also the throbbing heart of this tour de force short film.
When I saw this at the DGA I remember thinking ‘this is what movies can do.’ I was transported into the mind of a kindly sex offender as one of his darkest fantasies was realized. It was a unique and stupendous experience.
This empathy stuff is no joke; it’s science. Studies have shown that literary fiction can increase not only our capacity for empathy, but also our ability to read each other’s emotions. It’s thrilling that the power of empathy allowed me to experience the world of such a unique and marginalized member of society. Think about it; as a convicted felon, this man’s not allowed to vote in 12 states.
Outstanding chamber dramas like this are a short filmmakers’ holy grail; as feasible to produce as they are effective. Now that cameras are beyond affordable, more and more filmmakers are hurling themselves off the no budget cliff. So why, aside from a great script, does this movie work? You guessed it; outstanding performances. I can’t say this enough; casting is everything. Harvey J. Alperin goes through a dizzying range of emotions in this piece, and every little thing he does is magic.
This short is obviously a setup for a feature, by my guess a dark thriller along the lines of Strangers on a Train or Killing of A Chinese Bookie. I want to watch the rest of this movie. Will somebody please produce it?
Also, on a final note, last week the film world was in a stir about Manohla Dargis’ public plea for distributors to buy less films at Sundance. While it wasn’t my favorite idea, it seems that our new macguffin is finding a solution to our oversaturated media landscape. I don’t have an answer, but I do have a request: programmers of the world, can we please have a premiere American venue for long shorts?
I see so many new film festivals these days, but still no one has taken it upon themselves to create a prestigious and exclusive venue for long-short content (for the record I’m aware of Aspen, Palm Springs, Clermont-Ferrand, SXSW and others which feature longer shorts, but none of which are exclusive to them).
We shine our spotlight here at SOTW the best we can, but it still seems like a missed opportunity. As a curator, it would be nice to have a reliable mark of quality for medium length shorts. Filmmakers would also appreciate receiving a substantive qualification for rejection beyond length, as well as a festival to aim for besides the regulars.
Imagine a film festival with the twenty best long shorts America (or the world) has to offer. There’s a film festival for everything else, maybe it’s time to show some empathy for our long short brethren.