Films chosen by the curation team for a Staff Pick Premiere excel in areas of storytelling, craft, and originality. Often, a Premiere short is one we’ve found on the festival trail that we can’t wait to share with the Staff Picks audience and beyond. Today’s Staff Pick Premiere is a prime example of a short with a perfectly executed story that doesn’t overstay its welcome, approaches the theater of world politics past and present, and simultaneously delighted and horrified us with its series of clever and unpredictable twists.

All citizens of Earth will recognize its set up: two seemingly benign men representing opposing parties or regions, about to engage in a yawn-worthy handshake signifying peace and agreement. What happens next represents the underlying complexities behind such a simple gesture, relating to ego, human error, and silly red tape. “Hand in Hand” is a smart commentary on governments around the world that will make you laugh at its absurdity and cringe at the fact that this grotesque body horror comedy isn’t too far off from reality.

We spoke to directly Ennio Ruschetti about why and how he created this A+ short film using minimal VFX and a lifetime of disappointment in the suits who run the world. Read on to learn more:

On inspiration: 

“Like many others I had to watch the most powerful individuals on earth engage in childish handshake related shenanigans. I immediately saw the image of a Cronenberg-esque monster emerging from the handshake and attacking everyone around it in front of me.

To capture the mixture of amusement and dread that I felt when I first saw the real handshakes I wanted to include comedy and horror elements. This was one of the key-guidelines from writing to the final export.”

On the symbolism of each politician’s representative color: 

“I wanted colors that evoked the feeling of old and well-established power. It was also important to avoid associations with existing political parties or rivalries. For example, red and blue would have immediately made it an American story, which I did not want.”

On creating the hellish moment of entanglement:

“The moment of entanglement was a very fun challenge and one of my favorite parts of making the short. Up until the point where we see the finished monster, there is actually only one VFX shot: the two-shot of the politicians with the many hands where they realize what is happening. 

We just placed a bunch of people behind them and they all entangled their hands. Then we removed the people. After the supernatural amount of hands was established in the first shot, we just filmed a lot of hands strangling the politicians in close-ups. It worked and looked great and it is all in camera. In-camera is always preferable because you can work and refine it live on set. It is also easier for the actors when they are actually drowning in hands.

Another major part was the sound design by Oscar van Hoogevest. He is incredibly talented and it was a lot of fun working with him on the soundscapes. In the end, a combination of a steadily rising, overwhelming sound carpet combined with hard cuts in some of the sound elements worked for us to make it feel suffocating and hectic at the same time.”

On challenges faced while making the film: 

“The biggest challenge was to balance everything. I knew that I didn’t want the film to be very long. I wanted to keep it short and concise. To still go through the range of emotions, have the genre-jump and make everything feel seamless was quite a challenge that took longer in the edit booth than I expected.”

On his ideal response from audiences:

“I don’t want to pretend that ‘Hand in Hand’ has a deep secondary meaning. My main takeaway is that while it can be entertaining to watch our elected leaders engage in childish scraps, it can quickly escalate and spell doom for all of us. Politics have become too much of a reality tv show recently.”

His advice to aspiring filmmakers:

“Get a job! Most good filmmakers I know started as editors or in other jobs within the film industry. It keeps you engaged with the craft, different ideas, and people. You can learn from the pros and fine people to collaborate with. Of course this does not apply to everyone. But I think that for a lot of people it is a good plan of action. It certainly was and is for me.”

On what’s next: 

“I have a backlog of Ideas that I want to further develop and hope to start in 2022. I used the last two COVID years to focus on our VFX company. ‘Das Alte Lager.’ The planned projects are all shorts, commercials or Motion-Design pieces.”

Check out more Staff Pick Premieres