Written and Directed by Ari Gold
USA, 2001, 20 Minutes
Helicopter is easily one of the most emotionally engaging and universally appealing short films I’ve ever seen. The film follows a college-aged boy named Ari as he deals with his mother’s sudden death in a helicopter crash. The grieving becomes complicated as this is overshadowed by the death of famous club promoter Bill Graham, who was her lover and also died in the crash. As the city of San Francisco throws a massive benefit concert in his honor, Ari and his two siblings are shepherded around the festivities in a limo while they deal with the insensitivity of a clueless public. Directed by Ari Gold (unaffiliated with the fictional Entourage character of the same name), the events are autobiographical, and reflect a deeply personal story that manifests itself beautifully through Gold’s innovative filmmaking techniques.
Ultimately what is immediately interesting about this Oscar-award-winning-short is how Gold seamlessly merges different styles and types of film and animation without compromising its emotional heaviness. The film effortlessly blends black-and-white animation, personal photographs, montages, miniature toy re-enactments, and real festival footage with traditional 35mm film and grainy Super 8mm film. And while this could have been jarring or non-cohesive, Gold uses the mixed styles to his advantage by capturing his character’s tension, confusion, and grief through each of these mediums. And what’s more: the short is aesthetically beautiful. Even when character Ari becomes convinced that the spirit of his mother is embodied in a roach, what would be a bit disgusting is actually fairly peaceful and serene, as the glossy roach glides through each frame.
Beyond the visuals though is a deeply personal narrative that is deals not only with the loss of a loved one, but the loss of innocence. Gold brilliantly captures the confusion and grief of death for someone not yet fully grown not only with his mixed-media style approach, but through the use of voicemail messages as part narration, part dialogue that gives unique insight into the closeness of their relationship.
There is certainly nothing new about death and grief in film. However, Gold manages to take this relatively traditional narrative and turn it on its head with his unique filmmaking style and non linear approach.