Sundance 2013: ‘Movies Made from home #6’ is a quietly devastating work that manages to effectively use narration

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movies made from home #6

Films always have an uphill battle in depicting a tragedy. It can be tricky to properly communicate the devastating toll a major event can take, just as it can be difficult to get the audience to empathise with the characters onscreen. These problems are compounded in a short film, as the compressed running time means that the filmmaker has to pull off a successful emotional resonance with less resources. Robert Machoian, in a short that runs under four minutes, manages to successfully pull this off, an impressive feat that effectively showcases the filmmaker’s ability.

The short makes a very effective use of narration. Narration can be a tricky item to use to deliver exposition, but Machoian manages to pull it off in this instance, not only delivering background, but providing practically an entire story that manages to wrap itself around the onscreen action in a way that is very rarely witnessed. Choosing to forego a voiceover narration in favour of a written one is also a bold choice, and one that allows for a greater impact, as it contrasts the information being imparted with the events playing out onscreen, a juxtaposition that would have doubtlessly suffered by a disembodied voice pressing down on it.

Along that vein, the short also wonderfully decides not to use any music, instead letting the ambient sounds of the scene float through. Rather than attempt to manipulate the audience into feeling a certain way as the story movies along, Machoian instead lets the story deliver, and the end result is a stronger gut punch than would have been expected with a score that would invariably have telegraphed where the story was going.

Machoian also, very interestingly, seemingly employs one long take through the duration of the short. The first half is a sight to behold, as the camera holds steady in one spot, almost as if it were set on a stand to record the events. However, the camera’s inactivity doesn’t signal a lack of activity onscreen; quite the opposite, as a lot happens without anything drawing special attention to itself. The short as a whole is very quiet, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t effectively tell a story, and nowhere is this more evident than in the opening half, which demands a rewatch for a full understanding of what occurs.

The question that arises with many shorts is whether or not they would translate to full-length features, and in the case of Movies Made From Home #6, the answer would seemingly be a convincing “no”. This is not a knock on the movie; on the contrary, it’s a testament to Machoian’s ability that this story feels perfectly paced, and that a longer running time seems unnecessary. Telling a complete story is a challenge for many filmmakers, and his ability to do so combined with a clear willingness to take chances would indicate that Robert Machoian is a name to look out for. Movies Made from Home #6, on its own, is definitely a movie worthy of a position at a film festival such as Sundance.

– Deepayan Sengupta

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