Review: The Passage (LA Film Festival)

Title:  The Passage
Rating: NR
Director: Kitao Sakurai
Starring: Philip Burgers, Chad Damiani, Krystel Roche
Runtime: 22 mins

What It Is: Phil (Burgers) transcends language barriers by immersing himself in the cultural activities of those he meets. In this silent subtitle-less short film, Phil’s connections usher us into a more modern, visually stunning take on slapstick comedy. 

What We Think: This film, available today on TBS Digital, iTunes, and FilmStruck, makes way for a conversation on topics such as immigration, human connection, and Los Angeles’ “melting pot” culture through light-hearted humor. Try to make time to give this short film a second viewing. It can be easy to miss subtle nuances when so many of us make sense of films through the dialogue shared between characters. This is surely a polyglot’s dream come true. As for the rest of us, allow noise to just be noise and really focus on the actions, facial expressions, and body language as they flow seamlessly into scene after scene on screen.

Aside from the poetic nature of showing rather than telling, the visual approach to this narrative is breathtaking. For all of you ratio nerds (myself included), director Kitao Sakurai chose to shoot this short in a 4:3 aspect ratio. This shortens the width of what the audience is viewing, forcing them to take notice of the subject. This is unlike most films that utilize width and depth as a way to drop easter eggs. This aspect choice also brings a sense of timelessness to a modern environment. Another creative choice by Sakurai is connecting scenes, as mentioned above, seamlessly by allowing the camera to continuously follow or expose actions as they happen rather than jumping from shot to shot. And on a personal point of appreciation, as a bright yellow black girl, cinematographer Arnau Valls Colomer did a beautiful job at capturing various skin tones in both shared and separate space on the screen.

Our Grade: B+This short is painstakingly beautiful; however, on the contingency of creative choice, slapstick comedy doesn’t it do it for me. That’s not to say that during each of its screenings and six festival wins that the viewers weren’t roaring with laughter, I’m just a punchline kind of consumer. This short deserves nothing but the utmost respect for everything it encapsulates. And Burgers and Sakurai should be nothing short of proud for the work that they’ve done.

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