At its very core, writer/director Robin Lochmann's short film THEM is a film about celebrating what we have in common rather than what divides us, though the 15-minute story that unfolds to get us there is a complicated tale that explores themes of authoritarianism, tribalism, and resource consumption. The film has screened at over 50 festivals nationwide and captured a Best Animated Short Prize at the Hollywood Blood Horror Festival along the way.
Truthfully, as I watched the riveting film unfold I found myself utterly surprised that it hadn't snagged far more attention than it did along the way. The Berlin-made film is described by the filmmakers in this way "In a remote village, where everyone is cut from the same cloth, a new, self-proclaimed leader arrives, changing the local way of life. Dividing lines are carved out as the once unified society is torn and segregated. THEM is a cautionary tale of misguided ideologies, destructive leadership, and of being an outsider." Mika Ceron's cinematography for the short is nothing short of mesmerizing, an emotional response from the visuals inevitable and amplified by Tomer Moked's atmospheric, immersive original music for the film. The visuals are truly the storyteller here, an imaginary world created via digital and analogue techniques and characters added post-production by adding stop-motion and animation. The characters, faceless as they are, still feel incredibly alive and vibrant somehow belonging in this world that gets created by model makers with background plates captured in-camera.
THEM is a remarkable indie animated short, a film that pulsates with meaning and is jarring in its impact. While it's noted that the film has been seen in educational settings, it's intended to have its universal statement and it is in getting this universal statement across that Lochmann truly excels. Because of the way the animation manifests, it's nearly impossible to assign this story to a certain part of the world or to a certain type of person - indeed, THEM is universal and this story could be anywhere.
Available now for viewing on Vimeo and Youtube, THEM is the kind of film that's not easily forgotten from a unique language that is still surprisingly easy to understand to battle scenes that look and feel both fundamental yet overwhelming. The original story is open to much interpretation, though there's a compassion at the core of the film that radiates throughout.
It saddens me in a way when I discover a film that feels like it simply didn't get its due. While THEM certainly proved popular along its indie fest journey, with its immersive animation and remarkable storytelling this is a film that deserves to be seen far and wide.