The Short Shrift: Ramin Bahrani's 'Plastic Bag'


Welcome to the first installment of The Short Shrift, a new feature on that will highlight and stream a short film at high noon. Every weekday. Every week.

We're going to begin by highlighting some of our favorite short films (both new and less new) in order to illustrate what it is we love about the format, and why it's worth celebrating. The idea that a movie has to be roughly 90 minutes long is a commercial construction more than anything else, and we'd love to play some small role in encouraging people to give short films the love and attention that they deserve. So check back every afternoon at 12 P.M. sharp (EST, unless we're slacking) for a short blast of great cinema. 

Oh, and before we kick things off, a quick shout-out to Scott Beggs and the gang over at Film School Rejects, who have been doing a stellar job of highlighting great shorts for a while now, and have amassed a screening library that is well worth your time.

TODAY'S SHORT: "Plastic Bag" (directed by Ramin Bahrani) 2009


WHY WE LOVE IT: After much hemming and hawing, we decided to kick things off with a relatively popular and widely seen piece of work (so far as these things go) from an established filmmaker. It's not exactly the precedent that we wanted to set for a space dedicated to the wonders of discovery, but we also wanted to launch The Short Shrift with a film that illustrated why the format is so vital.

"Plastic Bag," commissioned by Independent Television Services as part of their Futurestates series, chronicles the endearingly poetic saga of a plastic bag (whose voiceover narration is provided by Werner Herzog, natch) who helplessly floats around the United States in search of his "maker." It's part "Pinocchio," part "A.I.," and entirely anathema to the demands of feature filmmaking, which would stretch this rich but fleeting story to the breaking point and beyond. The brief running time allows Ramin Bahrani ("At Any Price," "Goodbye Solo"), to shape it like a fairy tale or a bedtime story, a plea for us to consider our impact on the environment that never allows its blunt metaphors to overwhelm the sweetly cathartic tragedy of its polyethylene hero. By the time you hear his final thoughts, you might finally be convinced that a plastic bag is the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.

And you will cry. In public. Sorry about that.

Do you have a favorite short film that you would like us to feature on The Short Shrift? Whether it's something you love, something you made, or both, send it along to and you might see it on the site!