The 20 Best Short Films of 2016

By Andrew Buckner

It has been a breakout year for both up-and-coming as well as established talent. This is especially true in the medium of the short film. From heart-wrenching and experimental dramas, to mind-bending multi-genre tales, horrifying chronicles of fear and uproarious comedies, here is the list of my twenty favorite related works in this field from 2016. Please note that the name of the director of the piece is provided after the title of the production. Enjoy!

1. “Maya” (Veemsen Lama)
2. “Araf” (Fidan Jafarova, Tofiq Rzayev)
3. “Strawberry Lane” (Jeremy Arruda, Aaron Babcock)
4. “Chyanti” (Veemsen Lama)
5. “Kinnari” (Christopher Di Nunzio)
6. “Nihan: The Last Page” (Tofiq Rzayev)
7. “Numb” (Penelope Lawson)
8. “Dirty Books” (Zachary Lapierre)
9. “Here Lies Joe” (Mark Battle)
10. “The Deja Vuers” (Chris Esper)
11. “Tastes Like Medicine” (Steven Alexander Russell)
12. “Come Together: H&M” (Wes Anderson)
13. “In a Time for Sleep” (Tofiq Rzayev)
14. “Sisyphus” (David Graziano)
15. “Trouser Snake” (Alex DiVencenzo)
16. “Mail Time” (Sebastian Carrasco)
17. “Hell-Bent” (Foster Vernon)
18. “Hand in Hand” (Haley McHatton)
19. “Menu” (Matt Shaw)
20. “Last Night” (Tal Bohbot)

“Chyanti” – (Short Film Review)


By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.

Director Veemsen Lama and screenwriter Sampada Malla’s thirty minute short (the pre-premiere, work in progress cut of which I was sent via email and base this review upon), “Chyanti” (2016), concludes with the resonant lyric: “It is the hopes that keep us alive.” This is a perfect reiteration of the overall theme of this subtle, emotionally honest and undeniably human work. Such is most perceptible in our protagonist, Ram (in an enactment by Shyam Khadka that is every bit as credible, mature and understated as Lama’s endeavor itself). He is a man who, despite the hardships placed before him, regularly reassures his wife, attributed here simply with the designation of “Mother” (an incredible, alternately wounded and strong portrayal by Babita Tamang) that their personal situation will get better next year. This is when Ram believes the regulatory landscape surrounding his kin will greatly alter in their favor.

It is this idealism amid grueling circumstances which helped make Lama’s prior masterpiece, “Maya” (2015), so endlessly relatable. The consequence of that sixteen minute affair was a harrowing reminder of the transcendence of pure cinema. It also helped make us care all the more for those Lama centered his narrative around. Such also made the overall experience gripping, heart-breaking and soul-stirring. We felt the disappointment of every low-point. In addition, our cores radiated with joy when fate appeared to be favoring the leads. The same is true of “Chyanti”. In many ways, Lama’s latest can be seen as a companion, especially in tone and in contemplation of the many of the subjects addressed, to “Maya”. This is especially accurate when noting the humanity that courses grandly through every frame of both productions.


This is largely thanks to Lama’s aesthetically breathtaking, yet remarkably intimate, behind the camera influence. It is also as much courtesy of an ingenious and genuine script that, much like the aforementioned chronicle, never wavers from its character-oriented emphasis. Malla’s penned construction, from an inspired by factual occurrences story that is credited to Lama himself, is confidently, smartly paced. It rings with authentic dialogue, proceedings and is graced with a highly unpredictable story arc. Also akin to “Maya”, Lama and Malla successfully offers charismatic, yet flawed, down to earth heroes and heroines. All of which are spectacularly realized and cut from the everyday. They are undoubtedly a representation of the reality Lama is obviously striving for throughout this stupendous exertion. Such makes the manufacture as a whole increasingly vivid, tear-jerking and entrancing.

Lama’s tale takes place during The Maoist Revolution. A commencing title card informs the viewer that such an event transpired in the South Asian country of Nepal. This was in the years spanning from 1996-2006. We also learn that this was a civil war. It was one involving the Nepalese government and the Maoist Communist Party. Such a combat left many homeless and took the lives of thousands of individuals. After a minute and a half of beautifully shot arrangements, all of which follow Ram coming home for the festival of Dashain, we witness firsthand the desperate financial situation his flesh and blood find themselves in. A distressing line of dialogue between Ram and Mother tells us that their daughter, Sani (in an exceptional depiction by Sangita Tamang), is about to begin school. Yet, Mother is unable to afford the food for dinner that night. Because of matters such as these, she cannot attain any of the niceties that the other children involved with Sani’s education faculty will be enjoying. This is when Ram and Mother look to selling Sani’s beloved goat, whose name is that of the configuration, to relieve some of this fiscal anxiety. Most of Lama’s undertaking revolves around the manner in which to do this without Sani becoming aware of what is really going on. This heads to an expertly done, sentimentally taxing sequence at twenty-five minutes in. At this point, we see the results of this difficult decision. This is through Sani’s innocent eyes. Such creates a mesmerizing conclusion to a brief photoplay where the word “unforgettable” certainly applies.


Lama peers unafraid to inquire endlessly into complex issues of morality with this riveting endeavor. But, the cornerstone is Lama’s unflinching glimpses into what one man would do to provide for his loved ones. Such focus only heightens the quietly contemplative nature unveiled herein. It captivates us with its daring sensibilities. Lama has, in turn, provided an impeccable blend of intelligence, craftsmanship and sincerity. These are all ingredients Lama fluently distributes to his spectators. What is all the more amazing is that the opus doesn’t weigh itself down in the political aspects of the undertaking.
“Chyanti” is just as dazzling from a technical angle. Ben Winwood musically evokes the low-key demeanor of the presentation. This is with often gentle, but always ear-pleasing and appropriate, orchestration. Arran Green delivers gorgeous cinematography. Uhjwal Dhakal and Eriks Mickevics’ editing is terrific. Michael Ling’s sound is sharp and impressive. Babita Tamang, Khadka and Malla’s costume design is superb. Kaushal Pandit is tremendous. He leaves a lasting imprint with his short-lived turn as a goat seller. Ben Allinson’s visual effects fare just as wondrously. These meticulously erected elements all come together both seamlessly and authentically.

The Javiya Films and 360 Degree Mountain Films release is another confirmation of Lama’s intense talent. His knack for optical storytelling is ever-abundant. The effort is luminously framed throughout. This is in a fashion which infinitely amplifies the exquisiteness at hand. We see this in the jaw-dropping lensing of the natural surroundings of the account. Such is also accurate of the allure inherent in the various layers of the saga itself. This is an astonishingly accomplished demonstration. It is one of the increasingly rare creations that satisfies on all levels. Lama has amended a triumph of invention and honesty. “Chyanti” will undoubtedly please wide-audiences. It just as assuredly continues to establish him as a modern major of the moving picture art form. Because of the sheer magnitude of these achievements, “Chyanti” easily stands among the best featurettes of the year!


*All pictures included herein are the copyright of Javiya Films.

An Interview With “Maya” Director Veemsen Lama

Lama pic 3

By Andrew Buckner

Today I have the honor of talking to filmmaker Veemsen Lama! Welcome! Can you tell us about yourself?

I was born in Nepal and moved to the UK when I was 18. I am a storyteller, a filmmaker, and a YouTuber. I make a new video and upload it onto YouTube every week ( – they include short films, music videos, vlogs, etc.
When I was in Nepal and still a kid, we used to watch many Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Van Damme films, which have had a huge influence on me and made me want to tell my own stories. Once in the UK, I had the opportunities to both study film and start making short films.

You taught yourself how to be a filmmaker through YouTube videos and tutorials and similarly themed books while in the British Armed Forces. Later, you studied Digital Film Production at Ravensbourne in London. What was this process of education like for you?

When I was learning from the Internet and books, it was not formal education. Joining Ravensbourne gave me more confidence, more opportunities to network with other filmmakers. Filmmaking is all about teamwork and collaboration.

Film school also gave me the opportunity to use more kits such as good cameras, lighting kit, studios, sound gears etc.

How do you feel your work in The British Armed Forces helped shape the types of tales you tell as well as the narratives you choose to evoke through the medium of the screen?

I think my experience and journey in the military helped me to create and relate many stories. Filmmaking is all about teamwork and collaboration and I learnt exactly the same thing whilst I was in the army. Filmmaking and military exercises are similar in that sense. Also, neither is easy! I think a good director is a good leader because many people rely on his idea, and if he fails with his vision, then the whole film fails and so will the whole team. This is how we learn to complete a mission in the army – with good leadership, good planning, and good preparation, we achieve our aims and it is exactly the same in the filmmaking process.

Lama Maya pic

What brought you to create your wonderful 2015 short, “Maya”?

A couple of years ago, when I went to Nepal, I took a picture of some street kids sleeping next to dogs. I spoke to them on one of the following days and they told me they were homeless, but they still had those dreams, those hopes of being happy, of having a good life. And after that day, I told myself I wanted to make a film about street children, who -despite their horrible situation- still had simple and beautiful hopes and dreams.

There is obviously a theme of love and optimism amid darkness and danger in “Maya” that makes it all the more emotionally stirring. This is also a common theme in your catalogue. What draws you to these topics?

I just want to tell simple stories, stories of those who are poor, those who are suffering and those who keep dreaming no matter what, those who fight and are hopeful in their everyday lives. I like to tell stories people will be able to relate to easily and get involved emotionally with too.

“Maya” is still doing well in film festivals. Congratulations! How vital are these types of gatherings to a filmmaker? Why?

Thank you so much. Stories and films are like our babies. We spend a lot of time in pre-production, production and post-production. We – as filmmakers and storytellers – give our hard work, our sweat, our time and our everything in order to bring our characters to life.

The filmmaking journey itself is an emotional one that is connected to our life, our family and our dreams. It feels relaxing and pleasurable when you know your hard work is appreciated.

I think, as an independent filmmaker, I need this sort of recognition to encourage me to do more, always work harder, and simply keep going.

You have a new short coming out called “Chyanti”. It is currently in post-production and is scheduled to be coming out in the summer. What else can you tell us about this project?

“Chyanti” tells the story of Ram, a guerrilla fighter, a father and a husband who – in the midst of the Maoist revolution – returns home to celebrate the festival of Dashain, only to realize that if he is to feed his family and send his daughter to school, he must sell Chyanti, the family goat, so beloved by his daughter, Sani.

“Chyanti” was really hard to shoot and became a very expensive short film too. I wanted to capture the beautiful mountainous landscape because landscape is one of the characters of the film.

We had to travel to a remote Nepalese village, which was a 10-hour drive from Kathmandu. Furthermore, there were no proper Internet connection, phone signals and electricity. Those really were the main challenges! And then, all of the sudden, the crew started to get altitude sickness too and had to be evacuated by rescue helicopter.

But it was worth it – despite of all those problems, we completed the shoot and returned to Kathmandu safely.

Lama Chyanti poster

Also, you have your own production company. It is called Javiya Films. How did this come about?

I’ve always wanted to have my own production company and when I was in film school it just kind of happened and I created my own brand, which I named after my daughter, Javiya. She is my lucky charm.

You also have a feature length film in the works. What can you tell us about this?

We are in pre-production of some horror projects at the moment and planning for drama films.

What words of advice would you give those who are trying to get started in filmmaking and don’t know where to start?

Technology has made our life much easier, allowing anyone to tell stories, whenever and wherever. So my advice would be: Don’t make excuses if you really want to make films – just tell your stories! Find the best story that’ll get your audience connected and involved. If the story is poor, it doesn’t matter how good the actors are or what cameras you have used, it will fail. Finally, don’t talk about it, just do it. Take action and action creates results.

You have sixteen shorts under your belt. Your earliest was in 2013. It was called “Neema”. How do you think you have grown as an artist in the three years since this project was released?

In 3-4 years, I think I have learnt a lot. All the short filmmaking was part of the learning process. I feel more grown up, more mature in storytelling. I used to focus on cameras and gears but now I mainly care for the quality of the story and the best way to tell it.

Let me give you an example- A film is like a bus and the director is like the driver. All the passengers are like your audience. Once they are on the bus, they care about the journey from A to B. They forget about whether they are standing or sitting when the bus starts. As the driver of the bus, I have to make sure my passengers feel comfortable throughout the journey. Making a film is all about the journey and if the journey (story) is bad, then you’ll have a disappointed audience. It’s as simple as that.

Once your audience is connected and involved in the story, they can forget everything else. Nobody will care what camera you have used or what lighting you have used if the story is good. So the story is –in my opinion- the very first priority.

veemsen pic 2

You are also a screenwriter, cinematographer, producer, actor, assistant director and camera operator. What draws you to these particular facets of moviemaking?

As an independent filmmaker, you should be able to do a bit of everything, I guess. Sometimes, you might have to act as one army man and if you are lucky then you will have a team of 20-100 people, who will make your life easier and help you turn your vision into a potential blockbuster. It is always good to put yourself in other people’s shoes in filmmaking, but I’d say directing is my bag.

I actually started filmmaking as a cinematographer and I think a cinematographer is the eye of a film; he or she is the one responsible for the visual elements of a film. And I personally like the visual side of filmmaking better than the storytelling. I think I can show more. Which is why it is easy for me to communicate with my cinematographer about what kind of shots I want.

Also, I normally create my own story so that it is easier to envision a film. I am a good screenwriter but I am still learning to write. And if I can write a great screenplay then I won’t have to explain each and every element of my vision to the screenwriter, which would speed up the process.

I don’t like producing because I don’t really enjoy logistics, paperwork, finding funds, etc. I love to be creative and I like that creative process! However, should there be no producer, I’d know how to do the job as I have done that job before.

I played in a few films too when I was at film school and we couldn’t find actors, but I am not really a great actor.

lama pic 6

What modern artists (may it be writers, fellow directors, actors etc.) are you most inspired by? Why? Do you see yourself collaborating with any of these individuals in the future?

Alejandro Inarritu, James Wan, Christopher Nolan have always been massive inspirations. These storytellers have different styles of storytelling. Alejandro Inarritu’s Babel and 21 Grams are so unique in the sense that he connects many stories in one. James Wan style of horror has always inspired me and made me want to make horror films. The way he uses the camera slowly and smoothly, rather than making a lot of cuts, creates scary situations that make people scared and affect them psychologically. Christopher Nolan’s Inception is mind blowing. That will stay in my mind for the rest of my life. I want to make a film like that, one that people will never forget.

You have worked in the genres of romance, action, horror and drama. Is there any other categories you see yourself branching out into? Why?

I am a big fan of horror and drama films. So I will probably start with the horror genre and move to drama and why not become an actor later. Horrors can be done with a smaller budget, so it might be a good way to start.

Do you have any other upcoming projects you would like to discuss?

We are working on some horror features at the moment and plan to shoot next summer. I can’t disclose further information though.

Do you have any final thoughts for us?

Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to share my story and my thoughts. Cheers to you guys for supporting and helping independent filmmakers!

Thank you for your time! I look forward to checking out your upcoming projects!

Lama selfie

*The pictures utilized throughout are credited to ©Javiya Films (


“Maya” – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Director Veemsen Lama paints with the entire spectrum of the human experience in his tender and tragic sixteen minute short, “Maya” (2015). At times painful and others loving, optimistic, genuine and poetic, this work is undoubtedly full-bodied and alive. Lama, courtesy of a beautifully written and endearing screenplay by Tayo Odesanya, offers a stunning behind the camera bravura throughout. It is one which makes its more gentle moments all the more tearfully stirring. Likewise, it assists grandly in making the far more intense, dramatic instances all the more riveting.

The pace is just as masterful. In the tradition of the best brief compositions of this ilk, we walk away from the exertion impressing upon ourselves that we have been amended a feature length story. Yet, one that never feels condensed in any manner to fit into its fleeting span. Much of this has to do with Odesanya’s filler-free script. Every sequence directly continues the gripping narrative expertly. The believably wrought dialogue follows suit. Yet, the piece never feels rushed. Everything comes to us with an apparently natural progression. Such is just one of the many incredible feats this ground-breaking artistic construction conveys.

Lama tells the tale of three young children. Their names are Bikram (Suraj Tamang), Kancha (Aakash Malla) and the title heroine, Maya (Ashmita Tamang). The incredibly likable trio are seen escaping a seller in the immediately attention-garnering opening minute. These commencing seconds are smartly edited by Biki Gurung. Such is issued in an assortment of quick cuts. The decision to do so only increases the power, confusion and intrigue of what we are viewing. After this daring undertaking, they find themselves in the center of Kathmandu (Bagmati, Nepal). From this point, they are forced to steal food and other items necessary to ensure their survival. All the while, they occasionally labor at construction sites. This is while dreaming of, and slowly building, a home that the three of them can live in. Such becomes a testament to their will to endure. We, the audience, notice this all the more as such aspirations meet impossible to conquer obstacles at practically every turn.

Suraj and Ashmita Tamang, as well as Malla, are exceptional in their undeniably courageous roles. The Javiya Films production sports a small secondary cast which is just as impressive. Ben Winwood’s music captures the alternately fearful and inspirational tone of the undertaking. This is erected with simple beauty and maturity. Arran Green’s cinematography frames the entirety in a visual splendor. It is one where the same sentiments certainly apply. Shyam Khadka’s set decoration and costume design, Hannah Barnett’s vocals and Michael Ling’s sound carry on these attributes further. Everyone involved does marvelously in their respective technical arenas. The result is accessible in every achingly gorgeous, emotionally rousing sight we encounter herein.

Lama punctuates the account with a finish that is as enthralling as everything that came before it. Such a climax evokes the perfect concluding note. It is a send-off that impeccably captures the heart-tugging gambit of all that arrived prior. Such only highlights the topic of love, hope and innocence amid the harsh, adult landscape these youthful individuals find themselves in. This makes the ultimate culmination all the more effective. It escalates and underlines the impact of the theme of the stalwart nature of valor and virtue, and its ability to carry those instilled with it through an unapologetic environment, vastly. It also adds layers of potential allegory beneath the visage of its rather straight-forward approach.

The strength at hand is greatly heightened when we realize Maya, Bikram and Kancha are an extension of many of us. Such are those who try to abide by an unspoken code of kindness and mutual affection for those around us despite abundantly negative circumstances. In this sense, as well as uncountable others, “Maya” is irrefutably relatable. It is also meditative, gentle, striking and quietly authoritative. Lama has created a cinematic endeavor, full of well-developed protagonists, which demands deliberation and respect. This is an opus which lingers in the psyche long after its fittingly underplayed closing credits have ran their course. Lama’s sincere, well-rounded portrait is an absolute masterpiece; searing, challenging and ingenious all the way.

maya short film poster