There are films that demand to be watched.
Zari is such a film.
Written and directed by Courtney N. Marsh, Zari is an intelligent, insightful, and deeply moving nearly 20-minute short film about an outdated and seemingly limited robot that is trying to find its place in the world.
Within moments of beginning to watch Zari, I challenge you to not have your eyes transfixed on the screen and absolutely hypnotized by this thing, this being, this weaving together of Roomba meets E.T. meets the Jetsons. Marsh's story itself is simple, though the way she brings it all to life isn't nearly as simple as it might seem. A good filmmaker makes the impossible look easy.
If so, Courtney Marsh is a damn fine filmmaker.
Zari is early in its film festival run, having already been nominated for Best Short Film at the Crested Butte Film Festival, but it's difficult to imagine an indie circuit without this film. Zari is a quiet film, relying greatly upon the vocal work of Cynthia Morgan and Pamela Hill as Zari, and a film where Marsh's disciplined and patient direction allows the audience to establish a bond with Zari despite the limited framework of a 20-minute short film.
There are so many reasons this is true that it's hard to explain.
D.P. Andrew J. Whittaker's lensing is intimate and surprisingly vulnerable. When the camera is focused on Zari, we're seeing far more than simply a robot. We're seeing what feels like a living being adapting to the world around it in pretty profound ways. With dialogue being sparse and other characters almost being secondary, Whittaker's lensing works beautifully with this presence in creating a unique world.
The film's effects teams also can't be given enough credit for creating such a figure of wondrous and mesmerizing simplicity. Zari does have the look and feel of an outdated robot, yet within that simplicity it's pretty wonderful to watch all the little pieces comes to life that add up to such a hypnotic and affecting presence.
There aren't a lot of short films that leave me wanting to spend more time with their characters, but this was very much the case with Zari, a film that could have gone so many different directions yet a film that seems to have unfolded perfectly in Marsh's assured and finely tuned directorial hands. Even as I write this, I find myself wondering about, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story."
Zari continues on its film festival run and this is one film that you definitely want to check out if you get a chance.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic