Once again, we’ve scoured the web for the short movie gems that appeared at film festivals and special screenings only to go quietly into obscurity. We’ve tried to present as eclectic a selection as possible here. There’s something to appeal to everyone, with drama, crime, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and action in equal measures.
The Ventriloquist was the winning script in Trigger Street Productions’ 2012 annual Jameson First Shot short film competition. Trigger Street Productions is Kevin Spacey’s own production company (responsible for films like Captain Phillips and The Social Network), and its aim is to find talented writers and directors. Every year, Trigger Street Productions chooses script submissions from student and graduate filmmakers from different countries (traditionally, this has been the United States, Russia, and South Africa, but this year, they’ve opened up entries to a few other countries).
The Ventriloquist was originally submitted as a script by Benjamin Leavitt, a graduate of New York University. After his script was chosen, Leavitt received the honor of directing the short himself, with Spacey in the lead role. The film deals with Spacey’s protagonist and his inability to communicate without using an increasingly controlling ventriloquist dummy. Although you keep expecting this one to veer into horror, it ends up being quite a sweet tale, with Spacey’s performance helping sell what could be a pretty weird premise. Meanwhile, the ending will leave you with a smile on your face.
If you’re interested in submitting your own script and having it produced by Kevin Spacey’s production company, you can enter the competition here.
Aidan Gillen & Aisling Franciosi
Sci-fi short Ambition was released during the lead-up to last year’s successful Rosetta Stone mission—in the unlikely event you’re not aware what happened, we landed a tiny probe on a distant comet. The European Space Agency funded the movie to point out how such missions will one day lead to greater, more ambitions space adventures. In their own words, the ESA hopes to turn “science fiction into science fact.”
Ambition features Aiden Gillen (who plays Littlefinger in Game of Thrones) and Aisling Franciosi (The Fall) as a post-human mentor and student in the distant future, discussing just how far humanity has come since the 2014 mission. The film is sumptuous, almost giving Interstellar a run for its money in terms of visual special effects. Fans of Game Of Thrones and Littlefinger’s famous monologues should also get a kick out of this one.
This short film was commissioned as an advert intended to sell Pirelli tires, but what an advert it is. Mission Zero stars Uma Thurman in a role reminiscent of her earlier turn as The Bride in Kill Bill. It’s directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who made Point Break, Near Dark, The Hurt Locker, and Zero Dark Thirty. As you can see from Kathryn’s filmography, she’s a very versatile director, who can make films that are thought-provoking or simply big and dumb and full of explosions.
Mission Zero is definitely on the Point Break end of that scale. So, if you’re not a fan of that sort of thing, feel free to skip ahead to the next film. But if you do like films like Point Break, enjoy.
Happy Clapper is a short from up-and-coming director Tom Marshall, who was only 24 when he directed this. He had previously worked on a much smaller budget, producing his first short, which went on to be featured on TV, for only £80 ($121).
Happy Clapper stars Joe Dempsey. Fans of Joe will most likely recognize him from Game of Thrones, where he plays Gendry. Brits will probably also recognize him from the 2007 season of Skins, where he played Chris. In case you needed reminding that he really is a fantastically talented young actor, Happy Clapper gives him a chance to shine as Marshy, a lonely, low-level criminal stagnating in the rundown caravan that hides his brother’s vast stash of drugs. A born-again Christian comes calling, and things get a little weird.
If you’re a fan of gritty British cinema in the vein of Danny Boyle and Shane Meadows, there’s a really good chance you’ll love this one.
6The Continuing And Lamentable Tale Of The Suicide Brothers
The Continuing and Lamentable Tale of the Suicide Brothers is a dark fantasy in the style of the Brothers Grimm about two methodical lederhosen-sporting brothers who share a tiny cabin in the woods and live their lives according to a rigid schedule. An almost-unrecognizable Keira Knightley plays the Suicide Brothers’ fairy godmother, who watches over them as they decide to end it all. Every day. At exactly the same time. The punch line is that they both end up being terribly inept at suicide.
Although The Continuing and Lamentable Tale of the Suicide Brothers looks like your typical fairy tale, this one’s definitely not for children. There’s an interesting mixture of live action, miniatures, CG animation, and some effective use of good, old-fashioned stop-motion at play here. The title brothers themselves are played by Rupert Friend (Starred Up) and Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow), who also wrote this under the direction of Corran Brownlee and Arran Brownlee, aka The Brownlee Brothers.
Six Shooter is a 2005, Oscar-winning short about a man traveling by train after the death of his wife. He shares a booth with an oddly likeable (yet clearly psychopathic) young man named “The Kid,” and shenanigans abound.
The central theme of this short is death. But that shouldn’t put you off because for all its fatalism, Six Shooter is one of the funniest short films you’ll ever see. If you’re a fan of Irish cinema, Six Shooter should be the perfect film for you as it has two of Irish cinema’s biggest living legends attached to it: Brendan Gleeson (The Guard, Calvary, In Bruges) and its director, Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges). McDonagh started out as a playwright, which explains his clever use of dialogue (which is just as good as classic Tarantino: snappy, natural, and hilarious).
This one is nowhere near safe for work due to the vast amounts of bad language, exploding cows, and gory violence.
Kobe Bryant, Danny Trejo, Bruce Willis & Kanye West
Black Mamba is Space Jam meets Machete Kills but more ridiculous. It’s a basketball grindhouse movie starring Danny Trejo, Bruce Willis, Kanye West, and Kobe Bryant as the titular Black Mamba. Don’t worry if you’re not a basketball fan but do like Robert Rodriguez.
Although, at its heart Black Mamba is an extended piece of product placement for Kobe Bryant’s Nike merchandise (the Nike Zoom Kobe VI), it’s also Rodriguez’s reply to the fantastic Spike Lee/Michael Jordan shorts of the ’90s. Due to the popularity of those shorts, Rodriguez certainly had his work cut out for him with Black Mamba. However, it does not disappoint, and fans of Machete, Once Upon a Time In Mexico, and Sin City should lap this one up.
A dystopian future—a city mired in eternal war—a ragtag band of soldiers trying to survive the myriad sniper nests, booby traps, and enemy patrols that could kill them at any second.
The Silent City cries out for a full movie. There’s a plethora of influences in this one: Enemy at the Gates, Starship Troopers, Full Metal Jacket, and Screamers, just to name a few. It also features Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, 28 Days Later).
And in case you doubt Silent City is quite as good as we’re making out, you should also know that the director, Ruairi Robinson, went on to make another fantastic sci-fi short: Blinky. In fact, Robinson was once in line to direct a live-action version of Akira before it fell through. Why not give Silent City a go, and imagine just how amazing Robinson’s vision of Akira might have been if someone had given him an almost limitless budget?
Aspirational is the shortest entry on this list, with a running time of just 2:37. But that’s all the time it needs to convey its message.
Kirsten Dunst plays herself in a short film that deals with the disconnect created by social media and so-called selfie culture. Aspirational makes you just a little bit ashamed of the current generation, and it’s hard to watch without cringing. Kirsten Dunst’s reaction to a set of vapid teens who treat her like a two-dimensional photo opportunity has a ring of truth to it. It’s all too easy to imagine that this happens to her all the time. When Aspirational finishes, you feel just as violated and used as Kirsten Dunst looks.
Aspirational was the culmination of a team-up by director Matthew Frost and Kirsten Dunst for VS magazine after Dunst revealed that she was a fan of Frost’s work.
Alan Rickman & Jodie Whittaker
Dust was created as part of a crowdfunding project by Ben Ockrent and Jake Russell. The pair wrote and directed the finished short, which then went on to be featured at a bunch of different film festivals.
Alan Rickman (Harry Potter, Die Hard) is in top form, once again playing a villain. Dust may just be one of his scariest performances, as he is downright creepy in this short horror-fantasy, playing a silent trench coat–sporting weirdo who follows a mother, played by Jodie Whittaker (Attack The Block), and her daughter home from school. The film uses its musical score and sparing dialogue to subtly increase the sense of tension which ends up paying off big time in the film’s denouement. We’re not going to ruin it for you by talking too much about the plot. You’ll just have to see for yourself. We guarantee that it’s seven minutes you won’t mind losing.