The We Are One: A Global Film Fest has begun. A virtual film program organized by Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube, the festival runs from May 29th to June 7th and is showcasing work curated by 21 of the world’s leading film festivals: Cannes, Venice, Sundance, TIFF, BFI London, and many more. All the films are free to view worldwide on YouTube, alongside opportunities to donate to organizations supporting Covid-19 relief.
With content that spreads the breadth of what you expect from a modern festival, replete with star-studded panels and sections dedicated to Feature Films, Web Series, TV projects, and 360 VR works, it is gratifying to see that the true star of this unprecedented initiative is Short Film. 71 shorts are included, containing, arguably, the festival’s most high-profile entries both in terms of pedigree and sheer quality—from a recent Cannes Palme D’or winner to formative work from globally recognized filmmakers on the rise, like Alice Rohrwacher and Mati Diop.
Your pathway into the program is pleasingly flexible. Scheduled like a film festival, with thematic programs premiering daily, you can still pick and choose individual films to watch in an on-demand fashion. Each film has a 7-day window to tune in for after its premiere. Of course, even for a 10-day event, 71 films is a lot! Where should you start? We’re here to provide a guide to some short film highlights that should not be missed. Check out our curated playlist below.
To be clear, it’s hard to go wrong. Tune in randomly and you’re bound to see something fascinating, from the sub-3min apocalyptic meditation of Athina Rachel Tsangari’s 24 Frames per Century to the beloved, and nearly 2-hour long 4-film “Leon” cycle of kid-friendly puppet fantasy from Folimage and the NFB. There is a lot of quality here, including several acclaimed works that are tied up in distribution and unlikely to return to free streaming any time soon. Still, it is a bit of an odd program as a whole—heavily experimental, with lots of 20min+ shorts which would otherwise have a challenge earning attention from populist YouTube audiences (which, to be clear, is pretty cool).
We confess to not yet having seen the entirety of the lineup, so our picks lean heavily towards more recent films from festivals we’ve been present at. Still, there is a bevy of quality here for adventurous cinephiles. Below is a brief description of our picks, which, again, you can find in our YouTube playlist.
The Distance Between Us and the Sky: The reigning Palme d’Or winner from Cannes, Vasilis Kekatos’ short is a masterclass of engaging writing and magnetic performances. In short order, the film manages to elevate a random late-nite encounter into a fable of unparalleled poignancy.
TOTO: It’s not high-art, but if you are in the mood for a feel-good story about an elderly woman’s surprise attachment to her robotic domestic helper, TOTO is an easy recommendation. A sci-fi film that unexpectedly hits you in the feels with its intergenerational dimension, the technological aspect is integrated well into its themes, illustrating the lack of understanding between grandparent/grandchild. Also, we love the choice to put a real person in a robot suit rather than use CG.
Shannon Amen: Chris Dainty’s extraordinary NFB short film blends documentary and animation to tell a deeply personal story of a personal friend lost to suicide. Reconstructing her memory through the artwork she left behind, the raw emotion of the piece is rare to encounter in any medium, and the multi-disciplinary approach to the film’s construction is a marvel.
Cerulia: The program is not long on options for genre lovers, but this creepy stop-motion animation is a welcome treat. With a detailed and gorgeous gothic style, Sofía Carrillo’s tale of a woman’s repressed memories luring her back to her childhood home is best with the lights out. Responsible for the animated segments in the female horror anthology XX, Carrilo’s film is ultimately more emotionally affecting than truly scary but is a rare and worthy combination of gorgeous and unsettling.
Le Grand Saut (The Jump): Another from Cannes, this short doc is an exemplar of the form—reasonably short, stylistically interesting, and with a clear and moving thematic arc. A real crowdpleaser on the big-screen, we expect the same reception from online audiences.
Blood Rider: The only short film curated by We Are One itself, Jon Kasbe (When Lambs Become Lions) delivers the rare adrenaline-pumping documentary with this story set in Nigeria during a blood shortage crisis. Couriers must race the clock through congested streets to deliver badly needed blood to maternity hospitals. This one is a dazzler and a ride you will remember.
Ingen Lyssnar (Who Talks): Céline’s favorite out of Cannes, a new refugee home for children is being discussed at a public council meeting in this Swedish short. With nuanced characters and terrific writing, the film presents incredibly an incredibly relevant perspective on whose opinions actually matter and what creates polarization.
Atlantiques: Mati Diop’s debut tells the story of a young boy’s tragic migratory voyage in Senegal. Diop was vaulted into world cinema royalty when the feature film this short inspired wowed audiences at festivals last year, leading to a hi-profile Netflix pickup. This is an even better watch once you’ve seen the feature, but even if you haven’t, it is still highly recommended that you check out where it all began.