Visual effects artist and 3D animator Bobby Bala has been dreaming for years to have full control of a film of his own. After 15 years working as a VFX artist and animator, Bala dream becomes reality at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival with his new short The Shipment.
The short tells the story of ex-slave trader Kaidan Katar (Aleks Paunovic) and his daughter Zohra (Ishana Bala) who find themselves stranded on a dingy spaceport after their cargo ship breaks down. With little money to his name Kaidan is soon approached by a figure from his past who offers a chance at a better life if he is willing to sacrifice his moral compass.
On the surface, the short’s plot isn’t all together unique. Grungy pilot, dark past; we’ve seen it before, but The Shipment is able to stand out thanks to the work of Paunovic in the lead role. He carries the emotional load and manages to create a connection with the audience in a limited amount of time.
He isn’t given a lot to work with either. With a limited number of people to work off of (some of which are limited in range) and writing that chooses to stay surface level, Paunovic is shouldering most of the weight of the storytelling, something that comes naturally to him here.
However, given the director’s career so far the selling point of the short are the effects. Given the short’s relatively small budget the visual effects are quite good. There’s no mistaking that the actors are working on a green screen, but once the father/daughter pair land their broken ship the effects manage to fade into the background and it all comes together nicely.
The traditional FX makeup used on the short’s alien creatures are another story entirely though. They stand out for all the right reasons. The team’s design work does an excellent job of stirring up sympathy for the creatures, further elevating the relatability of Katar’s internal struggle. There are a few feature-length films that could take a note from this short.
Set your expectations correctly, this is a small budget sci-fi short coming from a first time director. But The Shipment shows a lot of promise and should inspire interest in Bala’s future projects.