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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Non-dialogue shorts set the bar high for experimental storytelling

    Among Thursday’s introduction to the Arizona International Film Festival were two intriguing non-dialogue shorts, unified by their lack of voice but miles apart in content.


    Check out arts editor Steven Kwan’s reviews of the other opening night shorts at


    The American short “”Charlie and the Rabbit”” screened first, exhibiting the merits of a strikingly simple narrative. One morning 4-year-old Charlie watches a cartoon of Elmer Fudd tracking down the fugitive Bugs Bunny. Later that day, the boy pedals out to a derelict field with a BB rifle slung over his back and hunts down a wascally wabbit of his own. The 10-minute film boils down to whether or not Charlie can pull the trigger while the muzzle of his gun is pressed against a wee woodland creature’s furry temple. 


    Filmmakers Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck effectively manipulate the audience’s emotions like puppeteers, at first portraying Charlie as the epitome of adorable, then implicating him as a potential heartless killer at the film’s climax. A subjective camera trails Charlie intimately as he trundles down the street on his bicycle, invoking shades of Kubrick’s claustrophobic tricycle antics in “”The Shining.”” The effortless amusement of childhood is made palpable when Charlie reaches his swamp-ish hunting ground, pausing to take potshots at a collection of discarded beer bottles and crumpled aluminum cans. A slight shift in tone occurs when it becomes obvious that, for a kid, Charlie is a pretty damn good shot. 


    Perhaps more impressive than the subtle shifts in character is the fact that a cohesive, character-based plot is delivered with only one actor and practically no dialogue. The film is not afraid to replace telling conversation or voiceover with immersive ambient noise, and essentially creates a believable, multidimensional character through simple actions and reactions alone. Whether you see it as a critique on America’s gun-crazy culture or an inconsequential rumination on childhood, “”Charlie and the Rabbit”” is undeniably an interesting experiment in minimalistic storytelling. 


    See “”Charlie and the Rabbit”” at The Screening Room at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 23.


    Though also non-dialogue, the animated Czech short “”Seed”” emerges from across Charlie’s cinematic universe. A sinister establishing shot opens the film in the bleak landscape of what appears to be some kind of landfill, a single egg sitting triumphantly atop a mountain of twisted metal and garbage at its center. A bird’s head emerges in seamless stop-motion, and, upon noticing a lonely transistor radio not too far away, commences construction of a secondhand radio tower to earn its attention. The tension thickens when an apple on a neighboring hill sprouts a malevolent claw and races to build a tower of its own.


    The radio’s desperate, self-destructive interest in the songs of both its suitors creates a bleak view of attraction. When the radio cannot make up its mind, the battle for attention escalates and the dual kingdoms of egg and apple grow higher and higher. There is some measure of hope in the abstract finale, but ultimately “”Seed”” is a film with a complex message not easily appreciated on the first viewing. What is easy to swoon over is the animation, which synthesizes found objects with a twisted ease to create a foreboding tone throughout the entire 12-minute film. You may need to see it twice to fully understand it, but with gorgeously haunting stop-motion in its employ “”Seed”” can captivate you again and again.


    “”Seed”” is playing with the Animated Shorts on Thursday, April 22, at 8 p.m. in The Screening Room, and again with the Edgy Shorts on Friday, April 23, at 10:30 p.m. at The Screening Room.

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