Occasionally a fantasy short film is released that is so good it raises the bar for the rest of the genre.
The fantasy short DUST is without a doubt just such an extraordinary film.
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 and catalog the evolution of life.
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 soon became an arcane art.
At the beginning of the film, a virulent plague has begun decimating the citizens of a walled city. An 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 through the cultural lens of East Asia.
Shot in Japan, the film's cinematography is brilliantly used to highlight the natural beauty of the nation's countryside. Combined with stunning visual effects, the net result is a fantasy short that succeeds in creating a verdant world filled with wondrous creatures.
The film's art design is inspired by the culture and traditions of East Asia to create a unique setting that is a far cry from typical medieval European influenced fantasy aesthetics.
Kudos to the film's production studio, Ember Lab, for using impressive visual effects to create a menagerie of mesmerizing fantastical beasts.
The entire production succeeds in creating a rich world that will enchant from the opening credits to the final scene.