Saturday, October 1, 2016

Short Film Spotlight: DUST

Welcome to another installment of SHORT FILM SPOTLIGHT, where we dive into the world of, you guessed it, short films, good or bad, and give you our thoughts. This week we take a look at the 2014 sci-fi short, DUST.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. Dust is set in a world where evolution happens rapidly, so much so that each year brings new life forms, as well as new dangers. It falls to people known as trackers to study the course of life on this world, in order to guide others through their own struggle to survive in such a harsh environment. But lately people have abandoned trying to live in the outside world, and have fled to walled cities for safety. There is little need for trackers or their knowledge now.

But the march of evolutionary progress goes on. A new disease has appeared, borne on a pestilence known as dust. The details of the disease are not discussed in great detail; as far as we know, inhaling the dust brings death. No one knows where the dust comes from, and of course there is no cure. And so an ambitious medicine-seller hires a retired tracker named Irezumi to go with him out into the world. They'll find the source of the dust, the seller figures, and with it, the cure.

How this journey works out is, more or less, a foregone conclusion, storytelling expectations being what they are. Of course they'll find the source of the dust, and of course they'll find the cure. The story seems to be Irezumi reflecting on his life as a tracker, and the downturn it took after the death of his daughter. It seems that Irezumi gave up tracker-ing because he failed to cure his daugther of the disease that took her life. Whether or not the girl was an early victim of the dust plague, we do not know. At the end of the film, though, Irezumi has had a success, and so he decides to return to the tracker way.

And this is my problem with this story. Not to make light of the loss of Irezumi's daughter (which I cannot relate to, nor fathom), but the story makes it seem that Irezumi was full of joy and passion for his calling until he failed once, after which he quit. Then he has a good day, so he's back in again. This is likely due to the necessary limitations of the short film storytelling model more than anything, but it just seems flighty of him. The speech he makes at the end, about how the walls of the city are an "illusion" and all life is connected and nothing is separate, just makes it seem as though Irezumi is trying to convince himself that he isn't being impulsive. I have little doubt that this wasn't director Mike Grier's intention, but I think showing us more of the good Irezumi was able to do before that one admittedly crushing defeat probably would have been beneficial.

Dust is a beautiful film that unfortunately comes up short with its story, but perhaps the concept will be explored more in a feature-length project one day. Till then, this film is a promising first try. The entire film is embedded below. See what you think of it.

Robert's Score: 6/10

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