"Earth has become a dry, uninhabitable place. A small group of humans attempt to resist in SUMER, the last city in the world."

This short film by Spanish artist Alvaro García originated as a project during his studies at CICE, an institution based in Madrid. It ended up growing beyond that, lasting almost 3 years, with up to 14 artists helping and collaborating on the short. SUMER is the result of an ambitious project, and it shows the director’s drive in bringing such an idea to completion.

The short presents one main character in a dystopian future, breaking free from the confinements of a city that is supposedly built to shield humans from a hostile environment. Staging involves a futuristic urban location as well as an open, desertic environment. The short is narrated from the point of view of the child, with abundant use of subjective and semi-subjective shots, complemented by close-ups of his face. The feather and bird are used as narrative devices to trigger motivations in the main character, launch action sequences and generate conflicts. Plot points and changes in pace work effectively to create tension, build conflict and hook the viewer.

Visual rhythm changes throughout the short, but most of the shots are done with moving cameras (in some cases, handheld ones). Their speed (together with editing) complements well the emotions of the character and the mood of the unfolding situations. The director has also effectively incorporated the character’s feelings into the camera through the use of blurs and other visual effects.

Impressive work has been dedicated to environment design, as well as to the characters and vehicles. Other aesthetic work is also worth mentioning (besides the predominant use of monochromatic warm colors) such as the attention to framing and composition of elements within the image.

What makes it work? Besides the action sequences and elements of surprise, the short successfully manages to transmit the child’s feelings, creating conflict, sense of freedom (when he escapes the city) and implied danger. The film’s focus on environment issues is clearly a sign of the times. It’ll probably help it connect with a wider audience, too.

One comment

  • Victor richie

    I’m curious if Alvaro García had a specific but hidden premise.

    Here’s my idea:
    The film opens showing asteroids heading to earth and a narration implying man had brought this on himself through pride or hubris (my words).

    The motif of this remaining civilization echoes past civilizations such as Egypt and the technology has an “old” feel.

    Then the movie itself is called Sumer.

    The first civilization we know of on earth is Sumeria. Historically Sumeria seemed to emerge with writing, law, commerce and many other elements of a society with a long history but we have no evidence there’s anything before it.

    My theory is that Alvaro García is playing with the idea that this is a past, technological civilization that was destroyed by cataclysmic meteor impacts that almost wiped out all life on earth but this last city remained – Sumer – which we now know was Sumeria. Where life began again and where all the ancient architecture from other old civilizations, like Egypt, got their inspiration.

    So Sumer is actually not a futuristic story but really the first story of man. From the past.

    Am I at all close on my theory?

    *Also, this was a finely crafted film and was very impressive. Whether my theory is right or not, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Thank you.

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