Occasionally, a sci-fi short film is released that is so good, it raises the bar for the rest of the genre.
The sci-fi short DUST is without question just such a film.
Finally released after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, DUST is set in a lush world whose ecology is studied and protected by a group of people known as "trackers."
Trackers study the interrelationship between all livings things, as well as observe and catalog the evolution of life.
As a result, trackers are also extremely adept in the healing arts.
When the planet became more industrialized, people began clustering in huge, fortified cities, becoming more isolated from nature. Trackers and all their knowledge were soon forsaken.
At the beginning of DUST, a virulent plague is decimating the citizens of a walled city. A opportunistic merchant (Michael Evans Lopez) hires an apostate tracker named Irezumi (Mashasi Odate) to find the source of the mysterious plague - and create a cure.
However, Irezumi must come to terms with his own tragic past if his dangerous mission is to succeed.
Written by Jason Gallaty, Josh Grier and Michael Grier (who also directed), DUST is an ambitious short film heavily influenced by anime, horror, and silkpunk - a subgenre that imagines sci-fi and fantasy worlds through the cultural lens of East Asia.
Shot in Japan, the film's cinematography brilliantly uses the beauty of the nation's countryside to create a verdant world of majestic beauty.
The project's art design takes inspiration from the art, traditions, and history of the Far East to create a unique and highly realized world that is a far cry from typical western-influenced SF&F aesthetics.
Kudos to the film's production studio, Ember Lab, for using stunning visual effects to create a menagerie of mesmerizing fantastical beasts.
Altogether the entire production, as well as the magnificent cast performances, creates a rich world that will enchant from opening credits to the final scene.
With it's compelling story, lavish production, unique setting, timely environmental message, and dazzling visuals, DUST has secured its place among the best sci-fi shorts ever produced.
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