Written and directed by Ben Stahl, The Sorting Room is set in the future, where world peace has been achieved. The only downside is the global population has grown beyond sustainable resources. To help control this, the government has instated the annual Sort, an event geared towards providing male members of society a chance to sacrifice their lives in an effort to help save the rest of humanity. Two men enter a room and have to make a unanimous decision as to which of them should live. Who will walk out of this room today? Starring: Wesley Cianchette and David Nenner.
This short film is one of those that has an aesthetic where you know it’s in the future but it mysteriously will not reveal how far, leaving you to wonder how possible this is in the coming years? Like one might ponder with something like The Handmaid’s Tale, is this a far off or remote time? However that is quickly pushed to one side as when these events occur is not the focus, it’s the slow reveal of the life-changing and life-ending matter at hand. The film’s opening plays delightfully on your sense of curiosity, beginning with the quote from Sir Francis Bacon “The only really interesting thing is what happens between two people in a room.”. A sincere lack of context makes what Cianchette and Nenner’s characters are walking into all the more intriguing.
The Sorting Room plays on the age-old question of how selfless people really are when their lives are on the line, will we sacrifice for the greater good or will we do whatever it takes to stay alive? Well you’ll have to watch to find out which these two choose.
With the leap forward in mobile technology our phones have become mini film-making machines, with the release of Tangerine and more recently Unsane, the independent spirit has reached the big screen via iPhones. This film is another example of that resourcefulness, while Unsane proved that it is possible to make a successful cinema release via that medium, it also proved that Soderbergh’s choice was unnecessary and added little of value, The Sorting Room proves that creative independent filmmakers out there have what they need right in their hands and should just go for it. The result is something that doesn’t feel cheap or shaky, it feels intimate and pulls you into the story as close as Stahl undoubtedly was while filming.
The film plays on a fascinating, infinite question and does so in a way that’s simple without feeling shallow or lacking, it shows you purely what you need for an interesting experience and nothing superfluous. That choice is one that should be very respected, it’s always satisfying to see a director not allowing artistic license to take them off on tangents or throw in endless unnecessary effects and plot points but to simply make choices that benefit the audience and keeps the air of mystery intact. It may indeed be interesting to go further back in these characters’ stories and find out more about them but it’s far from necessary.
The Sorting Room is a great example of what can be achieved with the resources that are at your fingertips. It’s interesting, intriguing and more than worth 5 minutes of your time, give it a watch for free right now below!