There is often the sentiment that short films either overstay their welcome or are too brief to make an impact. However, Gabriela Ortega’s Huella should be the poster child for a perfectly timed short feature. Huella tells a fascinating tale of overcoming grief that is experimental enough to be unique while still being narratively cohesive.
Huella follows Dani, a dispirited customer service representative who tries to avoid mourning the death of her abuella. However, Dani’s ancestors visit her and force her to progress through the five stages of grief. The way Ortega transitions through each individual stage feels like a spiritual version of “A Christmas Carol”. The stages themselves are highlighted by visually stunning interpretive dance sequences and set pieces that would be right at home at the MET.
Every element of Huella is meticulously thought out, making it evident Ortega had a firm grasp on the story she wanted to tell. While the festival is still a couple of weeks away, Gabriela Ortega is certainly one of the breakout talents of this year’s Sundance.
The Silver Lining
One Thousand Birds’ sound design and mixing in Huella may be the best out of any film (short or feature) in the last year. Even before the first actual shot, the mixing of Dani’s various family members praying for their abuela immediately sets the somber tone for the feature and make one sit up in anticipation. Later on, the melding of Dani’s ancestors chanting with a deep flamenco beat is exquisite and makes one transfixed to the screen. When Ortega gets her big feature film break (which she will), she should be sure to bring the entire team at One Thousand Birds with her.
Huella is a part of Sundance Film Festival’s 2022 Shorts Program. Purchase an Sundance Explorer Pass here to experience Huella and every other short in this year’s program.