Set in a version of Kolkata that has been made uninhabitable by rising water levels in a post-global warming future, Ghost studio's 2020 short is a tense 10 minutes of climate horror
Considering all the missteps, naive assumptions, and regrets expressed in its detailed making-of blog post, you'd expect climate horror short Wade to look a little rougher around the edges. Animated over the course of four years by Ghost studios, a relatively inexperienced team from India, the film features scenes that were animated without being scripted, characters that were redesigned without model sheets, and a story that ballooned from a four-minute script to a 10-minute run—and at this point, the experienced animators in the room are all collectively wincing.
Almost miraculously, none of that comes through in the finished film. Whether it's luck, talent, or sheer perseverence that makes it all work, Wade is confident and engrossing enough to have earned awards at heavy hitting festivals like Annecy and Fantasia. This isn't a film that feels like a learning experience. It's a taut thriller with a claustrophobic mood that knows how to get under your skin.
Directors Kalp Sanghvi and Upamanyu Bhattacharyya set their film in a version of Kolkata that has been made uninhabitable by rising water levels in a post-global warming future. Although the city has largely been abandoned, it isn't entirely empty, and the short follows a group of climate refugees from the nearby Sundarban islands who are looking for a place to resettle. The refugees aren't only human, though—wildlife has also been forced from the region, including a pack of tigers whose desperation for survival sets up the film's main conflict.
Wade's world is a bleak one, but it's also beautiful. Sanghvi and Bhattacharyya may have been relying on trial and error when it came to their filmmaking techniques, but they clearly have one of the most important traits a filmmaker can possess: a cinematic eye. There's hardly a shot in the film that doesn't pull triple duty as a striking image in its own right, along with advancing the plot and providing more details about the decaying world of the film's future.
It just goes to show, sometimes the determination to see a project through can be more important than a clear sense of process. Although, with the lessons they've learned along the way, it's hard to imagine that Ghost's next project won't be at least a little more impressive—and a lot less of a nightmare behind the scenes.
dir: Kalp Sanghvi and Upamanyu Bhattacharyya
syn: In a version of Kolkata, India rendered unliveable by sea-level rise, things take a dark turn when a family of climate change refugees is ambushed by a tiger on the flooded streets.