The 10 Best One-Minute Films of The Past Decade
“The one minute format is some great thing, because you have only one minute to tell a story. And this needs a lot of discipline. I don’t know any other genre of cinema which requires such discipline.“ says Klaus Eder, the General Secretary of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI), in welcoming this year’s edition of Filminute, the international one minute film festival.
Let’s talk one-minute films for a moment, shall we? There is this thrill that comes packed in 60 seconds, the challenge and discipline of displaying a fully developed story in no more and no less than one minute. As short as the span of the film is, though, audiences are left intrigued and thinking about this or that little gem for days.
What makes a great one minute film is innovation, cleverness and brevitude, and you might just as well check the picks of an internationally renowned jury from the past years in here. Among one-minute enthusiasts that weighed in on the festival over the past 10 years, we meet Paul Haggis, Neill Blomkamp, Samira Makhmalbaf, Stefan Sagmeister and Cathy Shulman.
Every year, Filminute challenges filmmakers, writers, animators, artists, designers and creative producers everywhere to develop and submit the world’s best one-minute films.The festival is on throughout September, with viewers warmly welcomed on www.Filminute.com to view and vote for their favorite this year.
On the occasion of the festival’s 10th anniversary, time came for a Best Of, one that would direct itself after a precise set of rules that became embedded over the past years in the collective mind through the ‘short and tweet’ review series hosted by yours truly on Twitter. How better to describe a one-minute than in a tweet? Double the challenge, you might say, and the trouble, and let’s get to work.
The rules used to evaluate a Filminute candidate during the “short and tweet” series.
1. Don’t mess with the seven pillars: story, acting, directing, editing, cinematography, sound and music.
2. Be humble: don’t try to do things your budget can’t afford.
3. Be original: don’t use third-party works; plot/sound/music/dialogues/whatever must be yours.
4. Be impressive: writing, directing and editing are the core of Filminute.
5. (optional) Show a bit of love: violence is not surprising anymore.
For each year of Filminute history, a short film has been selected and analyzed with a tweet and its pillars.
2015 – A MINUTE OF SILENCE
Tweet – “A MINUTE OF SILENCE is a very great short, starting from its title, a bitter pun, and coming through all its sixty seconds.”
This is a violent short: violence of many kinds rules the film at different levels, while all the characters are almost still and silent. The use of subtitles is surprising, completely melted within the script, helping a huge subtext to emerge.
Objects and souls become points in a networks of relations, so sharp and intolerable: the grey palette, the whole set design and its details, the imperceptible reaction of the sister, the teapot. There is here enough material for directors to explore for hours: a great minute of silence indeed, an exceptional prelude to the first, upcoming feature directed by Renusson.
2014 – OPEN THE BOX
Tweet – “OPEN THE BOX shows how a script as strong as well as minimal and a very talented actress can do a lot of things for a director.”
Mariví Carrillo, the actress playing the daughter in this short, portrays a different emotion for every line, with each reply a turning point in the story. As she perfectly changes her voice just before saying “Kill yourself”, the viewer is introduced to a sad insight into her conflict.
Everything comes out in less than a minute while her father, the shadow she is desperately trying to revive, follows her in a trick he doesn’t understand anymore. Carrillo tunes her voice so well that behind each sentence we clearly feel the pain of their long, desperate battle, while the bitter irony of her last words will leave her even more alone than in the beginning.
2013 – M-22
Tweet – “M22 Everybody knows a film is made of just 2 things: sights and sounds. This bright doc links them between the 4th wall. Wow!”
Although unconventional, M22 is a documentary and this fact alone amazed many people. How is it possible to “document” the feelings of a person with a particular disease? The answer cinema gives to this challenge is the use of editing and sound design.
With sight and sounds, the director conveys how he struggles to speak while words simply don’t come out of his mouth. This is a very inspirational short for directors of both documentaries and fiction.
2012 – BROTHERS
Tweet – “BROTHERS. The most narrative so far of 2012: remarkable grain, color, editing, sound, VFX and the dragonfly. Go Eastern Europe!”
“The Heart of the World” is a well known short film by Guy Maddin. In BROTHERS, the script is so dense it brings Maddin to mind, but here, in this one-minute from Russia, the editing is far more contemporary and the emotions of the two brothers impact the viewers so strongly that they leave them feeling like having watched a full length feature film.
Everybody who as a teenager had a brother roughly the same age could relate to this short. On average, flashback is an overused technique that should be handled very carefully: Mironovich mixes the present with memories from times past quickly but with a natural result, so close to the flow of consciousness of a shaken boy.
The film has many elements of a larger drama: oblivion, fault, salvation, death and, after all, nature: the river and the dragonfly, with their very slow rhythm, make for a powerful fade out.
2011 – RÊVERIE
Tweet – “RÊVERIE. Very good idea. The smiles of the girl and the little Ronaldinho at the 37th second are worth the Filminute.”
Minne is a short film director with a neat, accurate hand. He knows precisely how to deal with fragile feelings: an art that requires a lot of empathy… a thing that doesn’t come easy at 18, which was his age during the making of RÊVERIE.
After a while, adults disappear, and although what happens might seem strange, everything occurs in a natural pace and in this regard, Belgium remains a bastion for visual storytelling.
2010 – DARK VALLEY
Tweet – “DARK VALLEY is a remarkable short, a lesson about suspense: please watch it many times, trying to study its layers.”
The listing of the Icelandic Film School on the film credits explains a lot about this short’s impeccable design. The setup might not be very original (an isolated girl surrounded by something mysterious and unknown) but the way the director follows up and manages to reach suspense is simply flawless.
While dynamic and static shots flow one after another, we find a new piece of information has been added to the story or a new pause to create more tension. The editing is done so as to let the action grow on the audience, reducing the viewers’ eye movement as much as possible and letting them focus on each and every detail.
2009 – BLACK HOLE
Tweet – “BLACK HOLE belongs to a very ancient set of stories regarding laws of nature: if you break them, you’ll be broken the hard way.”
In any given film, when someone breaks a law of nature, there’s no doubt he or she is in for quite some trouble. By the doings of either science or magic, the audience merely has to await for the failure to unleash.
The rules might be broken for a good, noble reason – and in this case our character resembles Prometheus or Ulysses – or for a dark cause (easy money, unusual power or the like). This short, set in a contemporary location, resorts to the second pattern: it’s all about identifying the wrongdoing fast enough and, as already stated, relax and wait for the other shoe to drop.
2008 – BELGRADE
Tweet – “A short for film lovers: no music, just a strong story with few lines, subtext, good acting and many well used jump cuts.”
Empathy is without doubt one of the hardest things to reach in film, let alone in one minute. Driving a random group of people we call “the audience” to feel something on the same time and level, and this just after a few seconds, is quite the challenge. This difficult task is met here by BELGRADE.
While the closing shots flow under our eyes, we already know who will stay and who will not come back. The actress in her last medium shot makes us all feel her sorrow by slightly moving her head towards camera. It’s the tale of a couple but the name of the city could mean much more.
In terms of editing, despite the fact that it is made of jump cuts, the technique is used here to create a very good continuity effect, balancing the handheld movement in a great contemporary setting. Soundwise, as many other shorts in here, there is no music and the sound design is very clean, leaving clear room for the dialogue to unfold.
2007 – GAME
Tweet – “Although the end is predictable around 20″ it is a honest and good short, with a talented young actor and a lovely “Rear Window” effect.”
Although it is not that hard to guess what is going on in this one-minute, this is honest, which doesn’t happen very often: there are too many short films out there talking about this subject, but many of them lack this one’s honesty and neatness. The window effect and the camera determine the action, despite the fact that most of it is just narrated.
At the end, there is a number on the back of the chair: a detail to take note of. Whatever one might say, directing kids is not easy; and this young actor is very talented. He has many lines, we can’t tell whether they are scripted or not, but that makes it even harder to play.
At the very beginning, everything is possible, so that even a man passing by, or, later, a dog, could be a turning point. Still, these little things don’t shift the attention of the audience. In keeping with the tension, there is no background music, just the voice of the actor and a few obvious sounds. The people outside are out of reach and no sounds are coming from the street.
2006 – LINE
Tweet – “LINE is a 1st class short, still strong after ten years and it’d have been a ruler even without VFX. Groves has his own signature, indeed.”
In just a matter of seconds, the audience will start wondering the same thing the woman is about to ask our main character, and there is at least one McGuffin. What we have here is a short from the realm of the fantastic, with a lovely contemporary setup. The dialogue consists of only two lines, but the director, balancing close ups and camera movements, melts their expression into the overall rhythm.
Watching this short or other works by Groves, it is easy to note that he likes to close up on his actors and, in the editing room, to take this idea even further. There are also good dutch angles in LINE. Mixing fast and slow cuts, it works like a curve, shifting the audience from a peaceful and mysterious beginning, to a quick peek ending with an unexpected shot.
Its VFXs are still effective even after ten years: a few of them are clear while others just add a touch of quality to a very professional product. The sound is merely a beat, starting a few seconds after the beginning, and a noise coming in a little bit later. There is no music, which makes this a very strong short because those two extradiegetic sounds are enough, with a proper editing, to make it very effective.
Author Bio: Carlo Perassi (@karlok) has directed a few short films, collected at http://dejavu.to/ and admitted to many festivals, among the international and national ones. Every year, he tweets about each Filminute candidate blogging at http://perassi.org/.