“THE SHIPMENT” from Bobby Bala is the $1 million-dollar short-film that will be screening at the Tribeca Film Festival this month. This science-fiction set story follows a widowed cargo hauler who travels across the universe with his young daughter. They try to live a happy existence, but he knows his child needs a better life. Something that becomes clearer when their ship breaks down on a rundown spaceport. With a chance at making a change in the life his daughter can have, he makes a decision he promised he never would. One that will also test his own moral compass.
This thirty-minute film is the creative vision of VFX artist and 3D animator Bobby Bala who wrote, executive produced, and directed this film. This is the equivalent of the heavyweight belt to Rocky Balboa and it’s as intriguing as it is impressive. The saga Bala went through over years of saving and taking major financial risks to get this film completed is commendable and should be a script on its own. The first scene opens and immediately one can see the detail of the visuals. Intricacies that you simply don’t see with independent shorts and I was completely locked in by it. The story setting is grand in scope, but the plot of it is very intimate. I felt this contrast subtly captured the vast emptiness this father and daughter were feeling without the family matriarch around anymore.
This was something that surprised me about the film. You hear of a $1 million-dollar short-film and most would expect something completely focused on the visual appeal. Which this film is with a continuous string of crisp, detailed scenes that are fun to take in and explore with your eyes. But it also provides a couple of strong performances from Bala’s daughter Ishana Bala, and veteran actor Aleks Paunovic. The foundation of the story itself is not overly unique. But with the added emotional layers from Paunovic and Bala’s performances it can still intrigue. There is heart and sincerity in their portrayals that captured the torment they felt in a short amount of time. As the viewer you can quickly get the backdrop of the family dynamic, connect to the history there between them, then get the added sci-fi elements to build something unique out of it all.
The narrative of this small families bond carries the viewer through a seamless blending of amazing visual sequences. The effects overall were far better than many VOD movies with much larger budgets. Without large studio backing and when taking into account how far $1 million-dollars actually goes when making a film these days the finished result was amazing. It was a polished film with some excellent green-screen work. There was a perfect use of lighting. The wardrobes and set-design were on-point and the make-up design for the alien characters was awesome. I was compelled with what I was watching and wished it was a part of a larger story-line because I felt Bala was able to create a rich world with a ton of immersive depth.
Going in I was expecting a surface-level story with loads of visual effort and what it delivered was a surprisingly emotional tale that grabbed my attention with a feast of eye-candy that could delight any fan of stories that explore science-fiction universes. I think what Bala was able to accomplish with this budget delivered all you could ask for and more. And with his skill-set showing a high level of quality it would be interesting to see what he could do with $40 million and a feature length run-time to explore more of the vibrant world he created.