It is exceedingly difficult to portray certain emotions via full-length feature films and much more difficult to do so via short films that are under 60 minutes. Short films are usually more evocative, thought-provoking and impactful and focus on a certain episode that conveys the required emotions. This medium usually focuses on socially relevant issues and help raise awareness about the issues.
Netflix has a wide range of films and documentaries that are worth watching. From military issues to the stigma surrounding hygiene and menstrual health, these films help raise awareness about such topics. These short films often help portray new raw talent at the hands of directors, cinematographers and actors, who often go unnoticed by mainstream cinema.
Here are the ten best short films currently streaming on Netflix:
10 best short films on Netflix
10. Resurface (Wynn Padula, Josh Izenberg,2017)
Bobby Lane is an Iraq war veteran who is plagued by nightmares, depression, trauma and concussions due to the various brutal experiences which pushes him towards suicide. However, he soon meets a former professional surfer who has engaged himself in helping war veterans help reinvent themselves via surfing. The 26-minute film documents how surfing helps in healing and boosts the confidence of such emotionally scarred veterans helping in their gradual mental well-being.
The film shows how affected war veterans are by the ravaging wars. It also helps the veterans find a renewed meaning in their lives by virtue of surfing. The psychological emancipation that comes out of riding the waves adds a renewed meaning to the concept of the film.
9. The White Helmets (Orlando von Einsiedel, 2016)
The short film is about the hundreds and thousands of Syrians who were the usual casualties of the wars as well as the destitute who were ousted from their homes. Volunteers are assigned the job of looking for survivors amidst the wreckage even as bombs are showered down on the terrain. These rescue workers are known as the White Helmets who are a part of the Syrian Civil Defence.
This Netflix short film/documentary won an Oscar at the 89th Academy Awards. There was a lot of controversies regarding the subject matter. However, the cinematographer was not allowed to enter the United States which made him miss the award season. He was roped in by Einsiedel as he had the firsthand experience of informally documenting such rescue missions.
8. What Did Jack Do? (David Lynch, 2017)
In the short film, David Lynch’s detective is a chain-smoking, hard nut who is to interrogate the crimes of the elusive Jack Cruz who is involved in a crime of intensely passionate murder of Max Clegg. In this monochromatic scheme, the interrogator has to make Cruz confess to his crimes. However, jack is not a man but a highly tormented monkey who has to face the wrath of the interrogator.
Lynch is known for his idiosyncratic ideas and he does not disappoint with this oddball short film which is unique and unnerving at the same time. Lynch had spoken of how he was building a chair for “a monkey film” before announcing how he was “working with a monkey named Jack… it’s not a chimpanzee, the monkey came from South America”.
The film was released on Lynch’s 74th birthday and seemed to contain Lynch’s signature style. Eerie, dream-like and highly stylised, the film is a Lynchian satire on screenwriting styles.
7. World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt, 2015)
Humorous, quirky, elegant and prophetic at the same time, the short film follows the journey of a little girl who is transported into the distant future. She takes a tour of the distant future after being contacted by her clone who wants to bring Emily to view her future where the sweet, oblivious Emily quickly understands how sad and empty the future looks like.
Funny and cute, the film however has a lot of existential angst and loneliness weaved within the narrative which adds a feel of the absurd. The animation is simple yet colourful and rich and adds to the strange seriousness of the plot. Bittersweet and thought-provoking, it is a must-watch for all.
6. A Love Song For Latasha (Sofia Nahli Allison, 2019)
This documentary focuses on the incident involving the shooting of Latasha Harris. Latasha Harris, a black girl, was shot in Los Angeles by a racist convenience store owner. This led to the subsequent 1992 uprising. The film’s narrative proceeds in a dreamy sequence involving intimate flashbacks about Latasha’s life as shared by her best friend Tybie-O’Bard and cousin Shinese. The documentary does not focus on Latasha’s gruesome death but on her life and experiences as a black girl as well as the aspirations she harboured.
Allison felt strongly about the cause and wanted to portray the incident along with the organisation she worked for who were indifferent to the cause, angering the director. She stopped working with the organisation as they “don’t validate the existence of other Black women and girls”. Allison worked in close collaboration with the various influences in Harris’ life and brought out the various intimate experiences of Latasha’s life.
5. Anima (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2019)
Rock band Radiohead’s Thom Yorke’s studio album was followed by PTA’s 15-minute feature that was based on Yorke’s concept that all the workers are “pushed by an invisible force” as they are exhausted and their bodies refuse to exert any more. The film features Yorke riding a train when he meets a woman who forgets her bag and he pursues her. They meet, dance and then continue with their journey.
Inspired by the likes of Metropolis, 1984 as well as Chaplin’s physical slapstick comedy, the short is obsessive and restrictive with a series of the uniformed cast. Three songs from Yorke’s album is incorporated in the film that is complemented by unique and innovative cinematography. A wonderful artistically stylised product set in Prague, it explores dystopian societies well while serving visual metaphors.
4. The Present (Farah Nabulsi, 2020)
A doing father Yusef lives with his wife Noor and daughter Yasmine. As a Palestinian, he must endure the harrowing Israeli Checkpoint 300 between Jerusalem and Bethlehem every day to get to his workplace. On his wedding anniversary, Yusef is determined to journey with his daughter amidst all odds, dehumanisation, sneer and insults to get his wife a new refrigerator.
The short 24-minute poignant journey of a man amidst various challenges arising out of political tension is a moving experience in itself. The plight of the Palestinians is well portrayed in the film. Salem Bakri’s incredible performance helps evoke the strife and sacrifice of the Palestinians who endure unimaginable obstacles to lead their daily lives. It is heartbreaking to watch the constant segregation and interrogation that leads to mental and physical afflictions on the people of Palestine who face injustice on a daily basis.
3. Sitara: Let Girls Dream (Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy,2020)
The short film portrays the unfortunate reality for many girls oppressed by stereotypes and societal norms. Set in Lahore, it is told from the perspective of a six-year-old Mehr whose older sister Pari is a victim of child marriage to a much older man. Despite Pari harbouring her dreams of becoming a pilot, her story remains untold and adds to the growing tension in her family as the rest of the members blame her father for deciding her fate.
The short film focuses on various traditional and familial pressures that add to the struggles of women. Silent and short, the film focuses on the cathartic journey of the father as he goes on to realise the problem and unlearn his values, ushering in hope for the little Mehr. The director, a Pakistani-Canadian journalist and recipient of two Oscars, is known for her wonderful contribution and research in the field regarding the various atrocities and brutalities faced by women. Via brilliant visuals, she deals wonderfully with this delicate subject while ending on a hopeful note.
2. If Anything Happens I Love You (Will McCormac, Michael Govier, 2020)
A couple bickers endlessly and is suffering from the loss of their daughter. The flashbacks show how they lost her to a freak school shooting and the title of the short film is the last message the girl sent to her parents before she succumbed. As the parents grow apart, their daughter’s shadow brings them together. The lack of colour mirrors the void that subsumes the parents, the conscious lack of dialogues helps add to the despair and anguish.
With wonderful and free-flowing animation as well as a touching premise, the short film deals with the topic of grief and loss. The short film had been conceptualised while the director duo met at Griffith Park and they even met parents of school shooting and gun violence victims before making this heart-rending film. Govier later confirmed that they had always intended his to be an animated flick as a “live-action version of this would be way too intense” and ‘animation was the perfect getaway to have these deep conversations about loss and grief”.
1. Period.End Of Sentence (Rayka Zehtabchi, 2019)
The 26-minute film focuses on a silent revolution brewing in the village of Hapur in rural Delhi where Indian women battle the generational stigma regarding menstruation. They detect the problems that arise due to lack of awareness and availability of sanitary pads and soon learn to manufacture their own leading to gradual development and empowerment of the women in the community. Their constant fight also leads to the start of the “Pad Project”.
India is known for the stereotypes and stigma that exists surrounding menstruation and hygiene. The short film addresses the taboo surrounding female menstrual health and hygiene which leads to a stagnance in the improvement of female health. The subsequent empowerment in form of producing biodegradable sanitary pads ushers in a ray of hope. It is based on the life of Arunachalam Murugantham who was a social activist in Tamil Nadu. the short film went on to win at the 91st Academy Awards for its outstanding portrayal of the silent sexual revolution.