Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Tabitha Morella, Kelly Holden-Bashar, Jon Hughes, David Bickford
Directed by Alicia Conway
Less than 9 minutes is not a lot of time to tell a story, but it certainly can be done. Conway’s “Rite”, which is premiering at Sundance in front of Grace, does an excellent job, using virtually no dialogue and one principal character.
What’s hard for me, though, is talking about the plot too much. Since it’s so short and like most short films has an important reveal, it’s difficult to get into too much detail without exposing what’s actually going on it. What I can focus on, however, are the technical aspects.
But first, a bit of plot; “Rite” follows a young girl who is being prepared by her family for some sort of ceremony. We’re not sure what she’s being inducted into or why at first, but it’s clear her family is very happy for her; just bursting with pride. Our young girl, however, has some trepidation, to put it mildly.
She sees all the family and friends awaiting her arrival in slow motion, their words both sped up and slowed down to an inhuman cadence. You can tell she’s afraid, that something is seriously wrong with this rite of passage, but until it actually goes down, we don’t realize just how wrong.
While this particular tradition is completely fabricated for the film, it’s still realistic enough that one could see some cultures adopting it, given the right religious or spiritual influence. The main stumbling block I found with “Rite” was that it paints this whole ceremony in an off-kilter light, but never actually says anything about it. There is no statement or judgment made; it just lays out the facts of what this girl is going through and why but gives no real stance on the tradition. It is beautifully made, however; “Rite” looks as good as any segment from a mainstream film would.
The main reason for this is that ”Rite” was shot on the Red One camera, so it looks remarkable. If I didn’t know it was a digital film, I would have sworn it to be 35mm. The use of slow motion and focus elements combined with sound and color techniques make “Rite” a truly mind-bending experience. From the first moment more and more is slowly being revealed to us through this girl’s perspective, which lends a sense of foreboding to what could be viewed as normal to most outsiders.
All in all, “Rite” is a wonderfully executed short whose only failing is its lack of a message. Perhaps with just a bit more time or dialogue the message would’ve been more clear, but as it stands “Rite” will keep you wondering from start to finish and even for a movie clocking it at under 10 minutes, that’s an impressive feat.
3 1/2 out of 5
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