Cleveland International Film Festival Review: I Am (2021, Short)

I Am is a new short film from director Jerry Hoffman and writer Florens Huhn, the film follows the withdrawn Noé (Sheri Hagan), a woman who suffers from constant night terrors. On one of her morning walks, she finds a woman in the forest and takes her home.

This woman, Ela (Melodie Wakivuamina), also happens to be an android. Noé takes her home and reactivates her, beginning a strange relationship which eventually gets a bit stranger as Ela starts to copy Noé, as the short film becomes an a unique tale about a robot and a woman.

The chemistry between the pair of actresses, especially in a scene when they have fun and dance together, is neat to watch on-screen and is one of the biggest reasons why I Am maintains attention throughout the runtime. Their dynamic has some laughs, too, especially because Ela the android is so curious and, when Noé would ask something like, “What’s your purpose?” Ela would always Uno reverse card it and ask it back.

I Am, short film
Sheri Hagan and Melodie Wakivuamina in the short film I Am. (Courtesy of Jerry Hoffman.)

The human moments they share are interesting especially as we learn more about Noé and her backstory and the source of her nightmares. Speaking of these night terrors, they fit seamlessly into the pacing as the film writing pulls off the challenge of these night terrors feeling realistic enough that they really do feel like they’re happening. I find a lot of films can be predictable when it comes to dream sequences, so it feels fresh here. That’s also helped when the style is similar to the rest of the film and is smart in cinematography by Lena Katharina Krause, and also smart in Jerry Hoffman’s direction.

There are some great visual scenes throughout the short, too, and the way that Ela’s eyes look when they “light” up to be a bright blue looks super cool, too. The music is also memorable, and it all amounts to an intriguing sci-fi short.

Score: 75/100

I Am is currently playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival until April 20th. Tickets here. 

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