Short indie film round-up: Released, Life Of Illegals, Few Steps

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Our weekly round-up of short films to watch on YouTube continues – this time we’re shining a spotlight on filmmaker Andrian Gurghis.

Welcome to the Film Stories section that highlights indie cinema on Youtube and curates a mini film festival for you each week. In this post I’m featuring three shorts by the same filmmaker – Andrian Gurghis – from his Make Movie Or Die channel.

Released (2021)

Gurghis’ channel tends to specialise in moody, atmospheric vignettes, and this is my favourite of those. An exercise in pure suspense, in this two minute short a man stands in speechless awe over something unseen in the undergrowth. The music ratchets up the tension until the final reveal.

Bogdan Vatamanu plays the man — a performer who features in many other shorts on the channel. Whilst this isn’t heavy on plot, it does have a conclusion that allows it to stand alone. It’s not just an isolated scene needing context either side of it to tell a story. It does leave many questions unanswered of course, and could be part of something longer.

Only two credits, Gurghis and Vatamanu; this was clearly made on zero budget; a crewless production. A moody introduction to Gurghis’ style as a filmmaker. Think of it as an appetiser for his longer, more narrative-driven works. At the time of writing this has less than 500 views. A quick look on TikTok shows someone complaining about their science homework at 7.2m views. Give a dedicated filmmaker a chance and check out Released here:

Life of Illegals (2017)

In the words of the filmmaker, this eleven minute short “is dedicated to everyone who migrates to [a] different country hoping for a better future, leaving their home and loved ones.” Gurghis’ films all feature eastern European people in front of the camera and, although I can’t confirm, this film feels semi-autobiographical – or at least based around the lived experience of people in his community.

It stars Andrii Gronskyi as an illegal immigrant on the streets of London, who is desperate to get money that is owed to him from a human trafficker. This is shot in a very stark, cinema verité style. Gurghis takes on all of the shooting duties as well as the writing, editing and sound. He really is a one-man army, although he’s supported by Vitalii Gronskyi in the sound department (who also has an on-screen role), and Sara Chhetri provides FX and makeup.

This is a bleak look at life as an illegal immigrant, one of exploitation and violent abuse from organised criminals, preying on people’s desperation for a better life for them and potentially their families. It shows Gurghis’ versatility as a filmmaker that he can hop around genres. Check it out here:

Few Steps (2022)

A man lies on a tranquil beach in what looks like pyjamas. He paints circles in the sand with his hands. It soon becomes clear what is wrong with him – but then a miracle happens. This short film is a moving fantasy that explores a longing to be free from the realities that the central character suffers with.

Iurie Radu captures deftly the rollercoaster of emotions the central character goes through. He really makes you feel his joy and his sorrow along with him. The music (which has no credit) pulls at the heartstrings with ease. Once again, all other duties fall to Andrian Gurghis. It’s a story told with simplicity and sincerity and the best special effects available to all filmmakers at any budget level: a great acting performance.

At less than a thousand views (at the time of writing) I think this really deserves a lot more love. What an algorithm strives for is ‘engagement’, something it can quantify that looks good on a graph. What artists like Gurghis are striving for is emotional engagement. I think we all are. If you only have time to check out one of these right now, make it this one.

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