Still locked down? It’s been a while since my last short film review column so I decided to revisit DUST, a wonderful community of short, free sci-fi films. Who would have thought that I would find them so vibrant and eclectic? While pursuing their recent collections, I began wanting to watch some of the older shorts that I loved and was inspired by the most. Hence the list of five of my favorites.
“The Secret Number” by Colin Levy (13:45 min)
Despite a few aspects of the narrative that I find somewhat confusing, the film does a relatively good job of building engaging characters and a decent plot structure in such a short period of time. The film follows a psychologist as he meets with a brilliant scientist gone mad. The scientist is convinced there is a secret number between three and four which no one can see; the psychologist isn’t so impressed. I would love to see The Secret Number made into a feature length film one day.
“Hum” by Tom Teller (7:44 min)
The tiny and adorable robot in Hum reminds me of Wall-E. More than likely, that’s why I ended up loving this film so much. The story, structure, and characters are quite simple. A robot, who is confined to a basement doing manual labor, befriends a hummingbird. The conflict? Fight the boss that keeps the robot locked away in order to follow his new friend to freedom. You would think that such a simple plot would struggle to keep audience interest. Not so, to judge from the views and Likes.
“EI: Emotional Intelligence” by Dennis Sungmin Kim (8:28 min)
I have written on this one before. But then it is memorable. DUST’s animated films are often just as good, if not better, than most live-action shorts. What I love most about “EI: Emotional Intelligence” is the subject matter. With all the visionaries lauding the future of artificial intelligence, it’s good to see a different, underdiscussed perspective.
“Alientologists” by Tyler Rabinowitz (15:46 min)
The premise of this film absolutely made me laugh: “When Earth no longer exists, neighboring aliens examine human artifacts that float around in its place—like paleontologists learning about ancient ancestors.” Again, it’s often the less complex films that seem the most enjoyable. This film isn’t successful because of flashy special effects or action sequences. It’s successful because the dialogue and story structure are fun, witty, engaging, and memorable. If you’re looking for something to leave a smile on your face I definitely recommend this wonderful short.
“Exit Strategy” by Travis Bible (14:54 min)
I saved the best for last. While there is a plethora of wonderful films on DUST, no film kept me quite as engaged and wanting to see more as this one, on the topic of time. There are many, many short films on the topic—some mildly successful, most unsuccessful, and a few very successful. This one, in my opinion, was very successful. Normally I would give a brief synopsis without any spoilers. However, in this case, just take a few minutes over lunch and watch this one. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
More free short sci-fi films from DUST to help you forget the lockdown:
AI Week at DUST, the sci-fi short films channel: Films you have time to see and think about
“How To Be Human”: This new film turns a conventional sci-fi storytelling premise upside down.
“Dirty machines”: Short time travel flick exceeds expectations
Sci-fi shorts for the weekend from DUST: This week, check out a sci-fi short reminiscent of Wall-E and learn why letting an AI raise your child might not be the best solution to parenting. (April 18, 2019)
Sci-fi shorts of the week: With human input, “Sunspring” starts to make sense. This week, watch a collaboration between deep learning and human creativity produce something far more coherent than “Sunspring.” And check out an animation on the pitfalls of emotional intelligence. (April 4, 2019)