Being a kid is tough. Being yourself is even harder.
Overweight, shy and introverted, Ari wants nothing more than to fit in. He develops a crush on his fellow student, Jess, and attempts to lose weight and become more outgoing in his quest to belong.
But his efforts only cause him more humiliation and pain, making him feel even lonelier and sadder. Finally, he makes a public declaration of his own self-acceptance — and discovers his own value.
This touching coming-of-age short touches on universal themes and common experiences that have been mined before, but director Alex Murawski offers a fresh, engaging take on the genre, capturing Ari’s story with beautifully precise camerawork and well-honed performances. They bring to life a well-crafted script that underplays the emotions without ever undercutting them, and the result is a film that is still sensitive and avoids melodrama.
“Ari” immerses the viewer in the main character’s inner life, truly allowing audiences to inhabit his existence and open up a wellspring of compassion. Self-acceptance and the courage to be yourself are universal themes, but Ari’s final actions in the film are surprisingly thought-provoking and heartwarming — and will have you smiling to yourself at the end.
Q&A with Alex Murawski
OMELETO: What made you want to tell this story or make this film? Why is it important to you?
ALEX MURAWSKI: I was thinking about self-loathing at the time. About how we wish we were different in order to end our loneliness and to belong. My own experience with this is that trying to change myself was (and still is) a humiliating process. It only increases our sense of isolation and loneliness. I was also thinking of the (Western) cultural imperative towards extroverted behaviour and ideals of self. Western culture is all about putting yourself out there and that if you’re not doing this then you’re cheating yourself somehow, not having a “full” experience or missing out. But this is just an idea, it has no more inherent worth than quietly reading a book by yourself in a library. Some of us aren’t built in this way and there is worth in being who we are. I wanted to show that there is more than one way to express our truth than some supposed right way.
OMELETO: What lessons did you learn while making this film (or any others) that had a positive effect on you or the project? How did that lesson happen?
ALEX MURAWSKI: There’s always so many lessons with each film! It’s nearly impossible to list them. I think with this film the biggest lesson came from expressing something in my own personal, odd way and my own surprise that it found such acceptance with people. I guess it’s a bit like Ari!
OMELETO: How did you become interested in filmmaking? What drew you to film specifically?
ALEX MURAWSKI: I’ve loved watching movies since I was a young child so I guess that was there initially. I then became interested in filmmaking because my feelings translate themselves into moving images. At one stage I tried to video what I saw by making movies in my garage with my reluctant friends as actors and slowly, very slowly, made small steps forward in terms of the size and scope of the films.
OMELETO: What makes a film or story good or interesting to you?
ALEX MURAWSKI: Different things at different times interest me. Overall though I really love character, images and atmosphere. The story is often just a coat hanger to put these things on.
OMELETO: How do you find your inspiration — or keep inspired when the process of getting a film made gets difficult or your energy or creativity feel sapped?
ALEX MURAWSKI: Good questions! Inspiration comes from… I don’t know, but most often its the feeling of something I guess. And I want to give expression to it. I think its that feeling that I keep coming back to when I’m feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. I just focus on that one kernel of feeling that sparked the project and let that lead the way.
OMELETO: What films or stories have been most inspiring or influential to you, and why?
ALEX MURAWSKI: So many. I think of all the different stages of watching films in my life, kicking off with Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, moving onto action flicks of the ’90s, then to the dramas of the ’90s as I got older, into Scorsese, Coppola and 70s American cinema. Then watching foreign films and learning about the many forms a film can take. And I’m still learning and still being inspired by people’s individuality in their film work. The individuality is what inspires me most. To keep trying to find my own way, my own truth in film.
OMELETO: What do you want audiences to take away from your body of work?
ALEX MURAWSKI: I don’t know if I have a body of work yet? Give it some time perhaps. I hope one exists in the future.