3 Uplifting Short Films from Around the World

Become a better filmmaker by breaking down this short film showcase.

 

“Never give up.”

A short film can whisk you away on a mini-vacation. Whether you’re carried off into an experience of a different time, place, or perspective, a good short transports you into its world.

The summer season of sun and travel may be a fading memory in the west, but these three uplifting short films can take you on three last trips abroad – you don’t even have to pack your bags and leave home! Simply pop some popcorn and cozy in for a Dutch drama set in France, a Bulgarian comedy, and a Japanese documentary made by a New York City-based director.

Without further ado, let’s embark!

1. Home Suite Home | Dir. Jeroen Houben, 2015 | The Netherlands

“Nothing escapes the attention of veteran hotel inspector Ludwig, from the timing of his wake-up call to the art on the wall and the wine with his dinner. The consummate professional has practically built a home for himself inside his job. A chance meeting with a much younger, female inspector – and several bottles of wine – help him to break his routine.”

Life in a hotel is a curated one: an endless supply of fresh towels, the same continental breakfast spreads, stock paintings on the walls… Globetrotting from hotel to hotel may sound like a dream, but for a man who spends his life writing reviews of his accommodations, it can be tiring – and disconnecting. The film’s final moments are a bittersweet reminder of why we travel in the first place, suggesting that we don’t need to be surrounded by five-star luxury in order to forge fun and even meaningful relationships.

From a craft standpoint, Home Suite Home matches style with story, using precise framing and camera moves to echo Ludwig’s own meticulous, nitpicking nature. It’s an excellent example of externalizing the internal, ever the holy grail of a medium as visually-driven as film.

2. Getting Fat in a Healthy Way | Dir. Kevork Aslanyan, 2015 | Bulgaria

“In a world where gravity is weak and skinny people fly into the sky, Constantine has never left the apartment he shares with his father Atanas. One day the beautiful stewardess who moves into the building will change Constantine’s life forever.”

This high-concept, science fiction comedy takes place in a world where gravity has been disrupted by an accident involving the moon. Our protagonist must overcome his weight problem, overprotective father, and fears of the unknown in order to meet the woman he loves. Getting Fat in a Healthy Way subverts cultural preconceptions with its mostly dialogue-free story, leaning into its cinematography and production design to sell its unique setting and the drama that transpires there.

Like Home Suite Home, director Kevork Aslanyan’s film minds the details. Every frame is rich with mise-en-scène that suggests the no-gravity conceit. For example, the dinner plates are metal “because of the causal non-working gravity normalizer“, and the furniture is nailed to the floor to prevent it from floating away. This depth of design helps ground what otherwise might be a baffling story.

Rendering the unfamiliar familiar and the familiar unfamiliar is one of the wonders of cinema. The next time you run up against writer’s block, try setting your story in another time or place, or try switching up characters’ roles. You might make some unexpected discoveries. Sometimes, all it takes to supercharge a fledgling idea is a single conceptual change!

3. The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere | Dir. Mickey Duzyj, 2016 | New York City

“In 2003, Japan was plunged into economic darkness, and its people needed a ray of hope. They found one in Haru Urara, a racehorse with a pink Hello Kitty mask and a career-long losing streak.”

Part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere expertly weaves interviews, archival footage, stylized animation sequences, and a bit of BRoll to encourage audiences to “never give up.” This documentary tale of perseverance is as implausible as it is inspiring, with all of Japan rallying around Haru Urara despite – or perhaps because of – her track record.

In the words of Haru Urara’s’s trainer, “If society valued only winning, then life is a constant competition.” Perhaps “success” isn’t always about who crosses the finish line first – perhaps it’s just as much about effort, about learning from the times we “fail”, so that we can pick ourselves up again and apply what we’ve learned to our next endeavor.

The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere | Mickey Duzyj, 2016

The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere | Mickey Duzyj, 2016

Experimentation is part and parcel of filmmaking. Failure is part and parcel of experimentation. Next time you create a project that doesn’t turn out quite the way you want, take a moment to appreciate the journey and its lessons, then head back to the drawing board!

 Courtney Hope Thérond, with


Want support and guidance making your own short film, documentary or otherwise? Check out our in-depth online filmmaking course, designed to keep with your vision and schedule from concept through final cut – more guided than a blog, more interactive than a textbook, more flexible than traditional film school.

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