9 Mar 2011

Short Reel : Condemned (Oren Shai)

At a mere 14 minutes, I guarantee that you would wish 'Condemned', the latest short from emerging talent Oren Shai, was longer.  It's my only criticism of this brilliant little gem.

With an obvious cinema lovers eye, Condemned plays homage to 1950 melodrama, women in prison movies, spaghetti westerns, exploitation cinema (minus the exploitation) and noir paranoia , all with an unique stylish voice of its own.  What is so unique is that none of it is played for cheap thrills, shock value or nodding approval, at the heart of Condemned lays a story about a female prisoner's vulnerability and fear; real or not and a patience of mood, tone and execution. 

Prisoner #1031(Margaret Anne Florence) waits lonely in her dank, dingy cell in a sleep deprived insomniac daze, the voice in her head acting as narrative, allowing us into her paranoia now made more manic by the lack of rest.  A prison guard, brilliantly played by Ashlee Atkinson taunts her pleas to see a doctor, her claims she'll be dead soon, that she's snitched and everyone is in on it; as paranoid as she sounds, atmosphere, lighting, cinematography and that wonderful Spaghetti Western like music tell you otherwise, prisoner #1031 may well be on borrowed time.

Enter Prisoner #1059, Laura (Aprella), a blonde bombshell, all teeth and as sweet as pie, her new cell mate, to stoke the fire of desperation further and to add to Prisoner #1031's growing paranoia. Who is #1059, her executioner? Her saviour? Her guardian? Just another prisoner?  Keeping it simple, Condemned offers no easy answers, dialogue, due to the nature of Prisoner #1031's plight, is unreliable to say the least, our protagonist so far gone that she's hardly credible, the cinematography, atmospherics and set design are at contrast to Prisoner #1059's sweet nature and Prisoner #1031's reasoning to her cell mates motives.  Who's to be trusted here?

It's a wonderful film of the moment made by a rare stylish talent that has the depth and real cinema knowledge to back up the technique, make no mistake Oren Shai is one to watch for the future. I look forward to tracking his career as it bounds along, which it surely will on the back of something as grounded, mature and unique as Condemned, which I'm pleased to announce, you can now watch the whole film below.

CONDEMNED from Oren Shai on Vimeo.

Whilst you're at it, be sure to check out Shai first short, Heavy Soul.


  1. breath taking ,thank you

  2. I love this. Short, yes, but in all honesty I think its just enough. It does more than enough to inspire a little imagination as to its final conclusion.


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