If you’re like those of us on the Vimeo curation team, you probably spent much of 2017 struggling to avert your gaze from a seemingly endless stream of disheartening tweets and push notifications, each one reaffirming the social and political upheaval that we’re only beginning to reckon with. Natural and man-made disasters abounded in 2017, exemplified by hurricanes and gale force political headwinds, prompting many of us to take shelter, channel our inner-Marvin Gaye and ask “What’s goin’ on?”
For our team, this meant digging through the 1200+ Vimeo Staff Picks from 2017 and selecting the nine videos that spoke most to us throughout this tumultuous year. Had we made wagers prior to our lengthy deliberations, most of us would have bet that the resulting list would be dominated by nakedly polemical work, reflecting the issues that dominated the conversation this year. However, something else happened. As we put the final touches on our best-of-the-year list, we realized that our selection was decidedly micro and not macro. In lieu of sweeping topical work, we selected local, intimate stories. Somehow this makes perfect sense. While we already know the symptoms of the challenges facing the world, what’s less clear is the root cause of these challenges — and creators are clearly grappling with this very question.
Even though referencing grandiose concepts like “the human condition” usually elicits some eye rolling (ours included), it somehow feels appropriate in this case. If there’s a common thread throughout this year’s selection, it’s the way filmmakers are representing our common vulnerability as human beings and how we either cower or triumph in its face. Some of these videos demonstrate our failure to address the human condition — an animator creates an allegory about our search for fulfillment in all the wrong places, and a director captures a story about how we can sometimes undermine each other’s happiness. While other videos celebrate our collective triumph over these impulses — documentarians show amateur divers summoning the courage to leap off a ten-meter-tall tower, and a son makes a personal video about his mother summoning a different kind of courage when he moves 3,000 miles away. In all of these stories, creators are using their medium to teach us something about the origins of our collective challenges, as well as the strength in each of us that will eventually enable us to overcome.
Director Dave Mossop and the Sherpas Cinema crew build upon their ground-breaking “JP Auclair Street Segment” and take it to new creative heights with skier Tom Wallisch. By blending the narrative element of a kid’s imaginary slopestyle ski course with perfectly choreographed ski action from Wallisch, the town of Nelson, British Columbia turns the kid’s wildest dream into a reality as he rides in the backseat of his parent’s car. Rooftops, railings, and town infrastructure are used like park features as Wallisch fluidly links them all together while keeping pace with the kid’s morning commute. Transferring from a swinging gate to double kink rail while narrowly missing the car, and a backflip ute grab that nods to the late JP Auclair are some of the stand out tricks from Wallisch, but it is the conceptual approach and incredible cinematic execution that made “Imagination: Tom Wallisch” stand out as the clear winner of this year’s action sports category.
Since his first Staff Pick in 2012, Steve Cutts has been serving up heaping helpings of unfiltered, Grade A truth bombs. As the jaded Walt Disney of a world too glued to their screens and obsessed with material possessions to achieve true self-contentment, Cutts portrays the modern human condition with cleverness, creativity, and cutting commentary in a way that makes us want to laugh and off ourselves at the same time. “Happiness” is a brilliant jab at our Trumpian universe, where people have been brainwashed into believing that the newest device, car, hot partner, or pill will fulfill our inner yearning for peace. If this all sounds terribly bleak, that’s because it is. But “Happiness” is also a comically clear, animated mirror into our culture that may make you think twice about where you get your satisfaction in 2018.
Our team saw this film back in January and have consistently come back to this short for its inspired dry humor and pitch-perfect timing. In six minutes, director Tim Mason manages to pack in so much personality, team dynamics, and uncomfortable comedy that it makes our heads spin and stomachs shake. Once the film’s B plotline kicks in, the film goes in a deeply different direction, completely reshaping the humor that came before it. It’s a marvel to watch unfold. The script, blocking, performances, and editing are economic, tight, and deceptively well executed. There’s just no other way to say it: Tim Mason is definitely on our list of directors to watch.
To jump or not to jump? The premise at the heart of Axel Danielson and Maximilien van Aertryck’s “Ten Meter Tower” might seem simple, but the award-winning documentary is a deceivingly smart portrait of human behavior in the face of fear. As the dilemma of whether to jump or face the humiliation of climbing back down comes into focus for each participant, the film zeros in on the endless negotiations we use to mask our doubt. Up on that platform, everyone is equal and their undeniably relatable feelings wowed the brave and afraid in all of us. Shortlisted for the Academy Award®, “Ten Meter Tower” is a fascinating psychological experiment and a laugh-out-loud entertaining film that dove right into our hearts.
“Quelqu’un d’extraordinaire (An Extraordinary Person)” from La Distribuce de Films / Monia Chokri
We all want to be our best selves; we want to be extraordinary, but often our quest for authenticity and goodness is sidelined by ordinary drama, procrastination, and vices. Monia Chokri’s directorial debut highlights one such person — a scholar who is intelligent and beautiful, yet her own worst enemy. Waking up hungover in a stranger’s house without her blouse or her car, we are given a portrait of a flawed woman. To escape the house, her friend picks her up on the condition they attend the bachelorette party of their old friend (whom she despises). The party is ripe with pretense, feigned friendship, jealousy, excitement and alcohol — essentially the perfect recipe for conflict. Chokri masterfully sets up an unavoidable confrontation and lets it play out in all its messy, chaotic, and extraordinary glory. The film is an exercise in deception — how friends and lovers do it and, most poignantly, how we deceive ourselves.
What begins as a hand and pen extrapolating a line through a grid quickly turns into an unexpected, mind-bending experience as the line surpasses the boundaries of the grid. Using hand-drawn animation, Johan Rijpma continues to transcend boundaries within the film as his hand, pen, paper, and table all break down to their most intrinsic anatomical forms and then continue to evolve from there. The film beautifully captures the many unknown paths a creative process can take when you begin to put pen to paper. That and its unique juxtaposition of simple ink on paper next to incredibly complex movements were what made “Extrapolate” stand out to us from both a conceptual and a technical perspective.
Ilya Naishuller first tore across Vimeo in 2013 with his kinetic and hyper-violent music video for the Russian rock band Biting Elbows. Although that video regrettably never garnered a Staff Pick, it left a lasting impression on all of us here at Vimeo. So, you can imagine our excitement in February of this year when Naishuller dropped his newest music video for the band Leningrad, and somehow managed to one-up his previous work. “Leningrad - Kolshik” embodies everything we love about Naishuller’s work: it’s imaginative, sardonic, and packed with the bravado of a filmmaker who knows he has the goods and doesn’t mind showing off a little. Prepare to watch this one on repeat.
As the curation team, we approach our work each day with the hope that, by digging through piles of short films, we’ll find exciting new voices and unique stories to show us something we haven’t seen before. On our luckiest days, we find original films that not only challenge our expectations but also push the boundaries of their genre. Turning the travel video on its head, Sean Wang’s “3,000 Miles” gave us that and so much more. Wang weaves his mother’s voicemails into a New York portrait that’s as much about the city as it is about the people in our lives who give it meaning. As complicated as our feelings about 2017 are, these gorgeously shot snippets of time are an endlessly rewatchable chronicle filled with an outsider’s wonder and a mother’s warmth.
New Media Ltd.’s futuristic visions of bizarre creatures flash mobbing on distant planets and the tragic consequences of disregarding gym policies have wowed us big-time for years. But when Abigail, Mike, and Ryan presented their new masterpiece “The Giant” to us at SXSW this year, we knew it had to be our first 360 Staff Pick Premiere. Following the life span of an ancient, powerful, and sensitive woman, “The Giant” is an epic visual poem about a giant whose mental, emotional, and physical sense of being in the world are transformed by a musical record. It’s a modern-day fable about strength, vulnerability, and the power of art to (literally) flip your world upside down, and we’re super proud this uniquely beautiful story calls Vimeo home.
p>Outstanding pieces of art, no? There is more where that came from! Visit this page for a list of the best Staff Picks from years past.