Treefort Film Fest Shorts: ‘World of Tomorrow,’ ‘Oh Lucy!,’ ‘Palm Rot’

world of tomorrow short film

World of Tomorrow
Written and directed by Don Hertzfeldt
USA, 2015

World of Tomorrow presents a sophisticated envisioning of a dystopian future, with a through line of existential sorrow, musings on memory, and occasional dark and playful humor. Young child Emily is at play one day when she’s interrupted by a clone of herself, who has traveled back from over 200 years in the future. The clone takes Emily on an existential journey through her own life and the life of Emily’s clones.

The spareness of the black-and-white animation (which uses stick figures for the characters) adds to the strangeness of the world, and underscores the role of the digital in this future dystopia. Pronouncements of horrible death, delivered in the tinny flatness of the narrator’s voice, are simultaneously hilarious and foreboding. The film is ultimately more interested in the workings of love, memory, and human identity than in the specific mechanics of human cloning and universal apocalypse, and as a result can meander just a little. It’s a brilliant work, however, reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books in its ability to thread a complex philosophical narrative out of memories, and able to offset its bleakness with the child Emily’s innocently funny comments.

The film won writer-director Don Hertzfeldt the Sundance Short Film Grand Jury Prize.


Oh Lucy!
Written and directed by Atsuko Hirayanagi
Japan/Singapore/USA, 2014

This enchanting short captures a turning point in the life of Setsuko, a 55-year-old single office worker in Tokyo. Setsuko’s niece pressures her into taking English classes. When she hesitantly shows up to the class, she finds that it’s a one-on-one tutoring session, and with only English allowed in the room, her young, enthusiastic tutor takes full charge. He gives her a blonde wig and an English-speaking alter ego: “Lucy.”

Setsuko finds herself enraptured and enlivened by the experience, and the film finds moments of rich, surprising hilarity in her response and in the situation, as the tutor’s jovial bonhomie clashes vividly with his students’ culturally-inbuilt reserve. Kaori Momoi, who has a long and illustrious film career in Japan, inhabits Setsuko with a mesmerizing natural warmth, and plot-lines with other characters add depth and dimension, never letting the character slip over entirely into either dignity or pathos. Several plot twists take the story in an unexpected, yet rewarding direction, and it ends on a note of ambiguity and hope in a memorable and resonant work.

Oh Lucy! was an official selection of TIFF 2014.


Palm Rot
Directed by Ryan Gillis
USA, 2014

A phlegmatic old crop duster finds a crate floating among wreckage in this searingly effective, apocalyptic animation. The yellow crate, floating in the waters of the Florida Everglades, is full of bottles, and in each of the clear bottles is something that resembles a beetle. The old man takes the crate on-board his airboat and opens one of the bottles, but things do not go as planned. Gorgeously rendered in bold, brilliant color, the film demonstrates a sensibility for emphatic, visual storytelling, and a sci-fi flair that evokes a strong range of emotions over its eight-minute run. Superb and chilling.

Palm Rot was an official selection of Sundance 2015 and SXSW 2015.


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