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Watch: A Smile Can’t Stay Long in This Confounding Short Film From Rwanda

Why Watch? It’s not easy to pinpoint what makes this short film from Douglas Burgdorff so watchable. The music — breezy with a beat — helps. The imagery is often exotic and playful. It feels instantly inclusive. It also throws a lot at the wall in under two minutes.

However, it might be the off-kilter editing that performs the real magic trick by allowing us to get comfortable before tipping over our seat.

We start on the evocative image of a man in rubber boots walking down a path carrying a hand scythe. There’s a hint of a narrative taking hold before a few seconds of nature photography dominates for what feels like an eternity. Then silence. A jolt and another jolt and another jolt. Ill, Kill is not content to stay in one place.

Like all experimental work, there’s a gut reaction to write it off, but there’s a genuine anchor beneath the poetry in this case. Shots of freedom and bliss are stopped short like a mental record scratch, replaced by solemnity, fog and darkness. In particular, a shot of a young black man standing purposefully in the middle of a field without the cheerful benefit of the music followed by a black bird trying futilely to escape a room whose balcony doors are just slightly open. Each new image informs the last and vice versa and so on.

There’s meaning to be found in here somewhere, but even without it, Ill, Kill is a curious artifact put together with a broken phone and creativity.

What Will It Cost? About 2 minutes.

viaA Smile Can’t Stay Long in This Confounding Short Film From Rwanda.