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WE’RE ALL THE SAME IN THE SHORT TERM

If you live in a large city, perhaps even one not so big, you most likely have a homeless population living amongst you. Even the label itself “homeless” is something that the majority of us unconsciously use to place a label on these individuals to see them as “others” and not as individuals at all. In truth, every single one of us is only steps away from being in the same situation. No person is immune to bad luck or tragedy which might place them in a dire and almost irreversible circumstance. Short Term is a film which hopes to lesson our disconnect with such people by presenting two different main characters of vast differences who find themselves faced with the same challenges. More than an exploration of obstacles, this film allows for the exploration of the humanity of its main characters, displaying them as people not defined by their circumstance but dealing with it while seeking a way out.

Short Term director Aijia Li with Dp Ilya Chegodar

The story was inspired by a social experiment. Strangers were secretly videotaped to record their reaction to a homeless child sitting on the sidewalk in the cold with no coat and no food. Three hours of tape showed not even a single person stopping to ask this young boy if he was alright, if he needed help, or how he came to be in this situation. Eventually, it was a homeless man who came to the youth and offered his own coat for the child’s warmth. This real life test gave credence to the notion that it is often those who have less that choose to give more.

Short Term reinterprets this social experiment in an exploration of what family truly is. Is your father the man who takes care of you or the person who partakes in the seminal act? Tommy is a twelve-year old boy who is abandoned on the streets by his mother. Lacking the skills to provide for himself at such a young age, he suffers. John, a thirty-five-year-old homeless man takes pity on the boy and allows him to stay with him in his dilapidated truck. Tommy is aware that without an education he will likely be trapped in his current circumstances forever and is solely focused on returning to school. Recognizing that Tommy has the potential to elevate his life, John pursues getting a paying job in the hopes of renting a physical address (required by the school for a student’s attendance). When the police are alerted that an adult black man is living with an adolescent white boy, they misinterpret the situation. In the course of the confrontation, John is shot dead by the police.


Director, writer, and editor Aijia Li received numerous accolades for this film and its appearances at the 5th Women’s Independent Film Festival, the 20th International Family Film Festival, the 8th Lady Filmmakers Festival, and many others; cementing her as a prominent, influential, and respected member of the film community. The story was deeply meaningful for her to tell. One of the most impressive aspects of Short Term is that Li was able to augment the drama with high points of comedy. This combination excels in creating three-dimensional characters which the viewer can relate to and thus sympathize/connect with as a fellow human being. She reveals, “It was difficult to edit the film from the director’s perspective. my cast and crew did such an amazing job. It felt like the scenes carried such weight. There were a couple of jib shots that I had to cut which almost left me in tears. I think what comes through in the story is exactly what I intended; I wanted the film to show that no matter where we are in our lives, what makes us better as individuals and as a society is our willingness to help others. It elevates us all. My hope with Short Term is that it also inspires this outlook in others.”

Author: Kelly King

WE’RE ALL THE SAME IN THE SHORT TERM Reviewed by JaamZIN on 7:12:00 AM Rating: 5
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