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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Watch This: Don Hertzfeldt's Heartbreaking Short Film World of Tomorrow

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 2:00 PM

It's been racking up the accolades at Sundance, SXSW, and other film festivals of lesser juice, and for good reason: now available for a 30-day rental on Vimeo, Don Hertzfeldt's animated short World of Tomorrow is the best 16 minutes, and $3.99, you're going to spend this week.

You've probably seen Hertzfeldt's work without realizing it, and if you've spent any time on the internet over the past decade, this image from his short film Rejected may look familiar:


World of Tomorrow, Hertzfeldt's first digital work, operates on a far subtler level in spite of its sci-fi premise: a four year-old named Emily (Winona Mae) is visited by a third-generation clone of herself from the future (Julia Pott), who explains to her toddler-ancestor what the future holds for herself and humanity.

I can't really explain more without giving the surprises away, but suffice to say in a quarter of an hour, Hertzfeldt's says more about aging, memory, and the meaning of life than most movies can accomplish in two or three. It also features some of the biggest emotional gut-punches I've felt from a movie in recent memory.


If $3.99 seems like a lot for 16-minute cartoon, keep in mind that it's directly benefiting the artist, it's a 30-day rental that you'll probably watch more than once (I certainly have), and quite frankly, it's a bargain compared to some other streaming video prices out there: $2.99 for the 1927 Jazz Singer on YouTube? I mean, seriously, Warner VOD? I don't deny that it's a historically significant film, but even as 88-year-old movies go, it's just not very good — Kino Lorber charging the same amount for that same year's Metropolis is far more valid — and Al Jolson's ego sure as heck ain't worth three bucks in 2015, especially when it's available for free at libraries all over the world. But I digress.


With its dynamic between two women of very different ages, World of Tomorrow would actually make a swell companion piece with this week's best live-action film, Clouds of Sils Maria. And if Tomorrow doesn't get nominated for Best Animated Short Film, I hope that the same people who got so up in arms about the perceived snub of The Lego Movie this year to will get similarly worked up, but they probably wouldn't feel a similar sense of outrage; many of them may not even bother to watch it, because this is just heartfelt girls' stuff. If so, it's their loss. And if you're hankering it to see World of Tomorrow on the big screen as well, and you ought to be, it's also playing in the Shorts 3: Animation program at the San Francisco International Film Festival on Saturday, April 25 and Sunday, May 3.

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Sherilyn Connelly


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