Short films are often brought down by their terrible editing. Unfettered by a feature-length time frame, they lack the quick progression that fits with a short film’s story space. This is absolutely not true of SHOTKAM MK V-ORDINARY PEOPLE (Michael Siebert, 2017), which seems to feed off its lackadaisical editing and extension of time. The two main characters pace, bicker, even occasionally nip off a bottle in the kitchen, but their rising excitement over their soon to arrive package (the ShotKam MK V) makes for an unnerving exhibition of self-justification and cruelty. Constructed as a video interview in progress, the film captures a father-daughter duo as they wait for the arrival of an important package, the ShotKam MK-V image that they have ordered. The ShotKam, it seems, is a contraption with a dual trigger; it can take a picture and shoot bullets simultaneously. As such, it captures a photograph at the moment of impact.
The father and daughter praise the contraption and the artistry of the picture, but the viewer can see that even they don’t entirely believe in what they are talking about. The father vacillates between happy and angry, becoming increasingly furious as their package is further and further delayed. The daughter, on the other hand, appears both in awe of her father, anxious to leave him, and increasingly frustrated with his position as the paterfamilias.
In literature and cinema, there is a long tradition of equating the camera with a gun, from Virginia Woolf to the early days of King Kong to the contemporary global gangster film. And yet, there is something ambitious about throwing off the metaphor and entirely embracing the ideas of the literal voyeur-killer. The characters even feel it; being so used to equating photographic subject with a victim, they are obviously unnerved at being themselves placed before the camera. Eager to forestall his nerves, the father’s boastful art criticism and punchy violence make it difficult to stay with him. It’s the conjoined nervousness, pretentious pleasure, and extended time that make the film so unnerving. The film builds up the tension until it finally shows us the image from the ShotKam 5, and, when we finally see it, we are already complicit in its production.