“Killing the Rock” – Art in a time of crisis

Forgive me for this departure from my usual discussions of fiction and writing, but this is a film I want to share. It touches on a way that people can find meaning and release through art. I can’t even imagine the horrors of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, but Abu Raja has had to watch it take his family and most of what he loves. But rather than let his grief and anger consume him, he turns to creation. Out of rock, he makes art.

The director, Jake Viramontez, is an old high school classmate of mine, but he did not personally contact me or ask me to share. After seeing a general notification about the film’s release and viewing it myself, I knew I wanted to share it. He and his crew made the journey out to Jordan to find a story worth telling, and they told it well. May God use it to open our eyes and our hearts.

If you appreciate the film and are able, consider sharing it on whatever platforms you can.

Killing the Rock from Jake Viramontez on Vimeo.

“Every act of creation, is first an act of destruction.” ~Picasso

The horrors of the Syrian war are recounted through the eyes of 60-year-old artist and refugee Abu Raja as he embarks on his mission of sending a message to future Syrians through his sculptures. The film explores pain, loss, and the importance of creation in the face of overwhelming destruction. Shot in Ramtha, Jordan just 5 kilometers from the Syrian border where war continues to rage on.

To give, go to:
give.classy.org/killingtherock

Director: Jake Viramontez
Director of Photography: Tristan Nyby
Produced by: Wjd Dhnie, Jens Jacob
Executive Producer: James Shani
Production Company: Madison + Vine, Sypher Films
Co-Producer: Brent Madison
Editor: Jake Viramontez
Sound Design: Defacto Sound
Original Music: Ryan Taubert
Colorist: Bryan Smaller, Company 3
Story Editor: Jarod Shannon

Shot on: Red Weapon Helium w/Kowa anamorphics.

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Short Film: “Darklight” (2015)

One of the most important reasons I love fantasy fiction is the way it makes me look at things in the real world with new eyes. Reading of the beauty of Lothlórien in The Lord of the Rings only enhances my admiration for the redwood forests of California or the wet woodlands of Scotland. The chilling, dramatic tales of the Wild Hunt throughout various cultures makes me listen more closely to the variety of sounds in awesome storms.

Yet a work does not have to be fantasy in order to accomplish this. Darklight simply shows us some modern mountain bikers riding through landscapes in the Pacific Northwest and Utah at night, illuminated by bright colored lights. In doing just this, with no narrative or dialogue, only the visuals and carefully chosen music, it creates something potent and beautiful. These forests and deserts will be familiar to many, but shot and lit in this way they look alien and magical. But they are our Earth, God’s creation.

Enjoy.


DARKLIGHT – 4K Full Film by Sweetgrass Productions from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

Short Film: “Cloudrise”

Yeah, I know, as a blogger I’m becoming sort of like that uncle you used to like and spend a lot of time with, but who now is never around except when he pops in randomly with a treat or something and is always promising to continue taking you on awesome adventures just like you used to in what is fast becoming “the old days.” But seriously, this short film is cool enough that you should forgive me anyway. It’s got airships, and hang-gliding pirates, and love. Why don’t more films feature these things? Is it because they’re afraid of joy?


Cloudrise from Denver Jackson on Vimeo.

“Breathtaking. One of the best short films I have ever seen.”
– Kazu Kibuishi, Author of New York Times Best-Seller Amulet

Cloudrise is a short animated film directed and animated by Denver Jackson.
It was created in the span of four months from conception to completion.

Set in a fantasy world above the clouds, Cloudrise follows a pivotal moment in the lives of two lovers as they face a great challenge. Watch as Miko and Tenku fight to survive an attack on their new airship and take the necessary measures to help each other. Hold on to your seat as you witness how far someone is willing to go to rescue the one they love. This is an action-packed short film that ties together various fantasy/science fiction influences.

 

Short Film: “Dark Noir”

A stylish, lean short film about a private eye who can see into the invisible world where peoples’ ideas are manifested literally.

There’s something cheeky about a film that is essentially titled “Dark Black.” A splash of stylish French is but a token attempt to mask the redundancy. This fantasy noir plays its story fairly straight, but there is a hint of humorous exaggeration in the animation; just enough to let me feel that the filmmakers were having some respectful fun with the genre, and not getting too full of themselves.

Going by the “disclaimer” at the beginning and the announcement that “Dark Noir” is produced by the vodka company Absolut, this might be some sort of advertisement. However, it has nothing obvious to do with vodka or any kind of alcohol, beyond one of the settings being a bar. Perhaps this is another touch of irony?

Regardless, I think it works pretty well as a short film. It takes only a lean two and a half minutes to tell a story complete with set up, interesting plot progression, a surprising twist, and a satisfying resolution. The plot as a whole is nothing brilliant or original — in fact, it’s almost by-the-numbers for the noir genre. But the fantasy premise is a neat one, and the storytellers work it in well. The animation is pretty fantastic, especially how they gave 2D animation a functional, effective place amidst all the fancy 3D graphics. I’d happily watch a feature film in this style.

Let me know what you think of “Dark Noir.”

 

Dark Noir from Gillian Glendinning on Vimeo.

Short Film: “Oktapodi” (2007)

For some reason I never thought to share this one before. It was one of the very first animated shorts that I discovered on YouTube, and it’s equally hilarious every time I watch it. My niece and nephews also get a kick out of it. There’s a madcap, slapstick brilliance to it that reminds me of both Looney Tunes and Buster Keaton. But what are words in the face of it? I can say this, however: Oktapodi features one of the most entertaining car chases I’ve seen in any film, long or short. And there’s only one car involved.

It’s also kind of a sweet love story.

Another gem from Gobelins l’école. Here is more information about the filmmakers.

Short Film: “The Girl and the Fox” (2011)

“The Girl and the Fox”

Premise: A young girl who lives in the wilderness with her family takes it upon herself to hunt a fox that has been killing their livestock.

I like short movies like this. It’s a simple, sweet concept well-drawn and animated. The characters have bold, clear designs, uncluttered by unnecessary lines, but they move through landscapes of subtle shades (that, while almost certainly digitally drawn, look like watercolors). The music is smooth and ethereal to bring out the emotions, but is grounded by the natural sounds of the forest; as the high flute and lyrical strings play, we hear birds twittering and leaves rustling. The central concept of the story is a bit romantic and not likely to happen in real life (though I have heard stories of wild animals showing uncharacteristic care for humans), but there’s a layer of reality at its foundation: the girl’s family needs their livestock in order to survive the winter, and likewise the fox needs to eat in order to avoid starvation. The success of “The Girl and the Fox,” apart from the beauty of its art and sounds, is that it acknowledges this reality while still telling a tender almost-fairy-tale.

The Girl and the Fox from Base14 on Vimeo.

Congratulations to the team who made this for the awards it has received.

The movie’s official site.

Short Film: “Paperman”

There's something romantic about black-and-white films.
There’s something romantic about black-and-white films.

I was going to put a slightly-snarky-but-actually-pretty-sincere clever quip right here, but it contained a spoiler, and I don’t feel like spoiling the sweet little surprise of such a short film. Disney itself, as separate from Pixar, hasn’t been doing so well in the animated features department for a few years (with the possible exception of <em>Tangled</em>, which I still haven’t seen), but here they’ve produced a short film easily as charming as anything their better half can make. No doubt John Lasseter producing has something to do with that, but likely much credit goes to director John Kahrs as well. Well done, chaps, well done.