This week’s selection showcases the early works of many critically acclaimed directors. Their foray into the world of short filmmaking gave them the opportunity to express their ideas, eventually leading all to develop them into features.
Alive in Joburg was the original basis for the box office smash hit, District 9. Filmed in mockumentary style, the film depicts a dystopian future in which a race of unnamed aliens has crash landed in Johannesburg and are living in the squalor of a refugee camp. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson was so impressed by the short, he gave Neill Blomkamp $30 million to adapt it into a feature film.
A quirky cult classic about the trials and tribulations of teenage life, Jared Hess adapted Napoleon Dynamite from his short film Peluca. Shot on 16mm black and white film whilst studying at Brigham Young University, the original short was made on a budget of under $500 and screened at the 2003 Slamdance Film Festival. The adaptation retained much of the original style and also featured Jon Heder in the title role.
The Babadook is a chilling psychological drama written and directed by Jennifer Kent and adapted from her 2005 short film Monster. The feature expands on the original plot of an exhausted single mother struggling to cope with a young son and his obsession with a monster he believes to be real. Although The Babadook was largely overlooked in Australia, it went on to gain huge box office success internationally.
Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket may not have been a financial success but it did succeed in garnering the attention and praise of many contemporary critics and effectively launched his career. It’s based on a 1992 short film of the same name and revisits the original plot line of the plucky duo and their criminal antics. Co-written by Owen Wilson, the films initial failure almost led him give up on his acting career.
Short Term 12 is an emotionally intelligent and highly sympathetic drama written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, based on his short film of the same name. Cretton based the screenplay on his own experience as a care worker in a shelter for teenagers. When adapting the short, he decided to change the gender of the central character and went on to cast Brie Larson in the role.
1. Still from Napoleon Dynamite. Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.