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Denis Villeneuve’s 1994 Short Film Debut ‘REW-FFWD’ is a Memory Puzzle Worth Solving — Watch

Before he became the Oscar-nominated filmmaker of "Arrival" and "Blade Runner 2049," Denis Villeneuve directed this short film 23 years ago.



Denis Villeneuve has been on the rise with hits like “Prisoners,” “Sicario,” and “Arrival,” which earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Director earlier this year, but everyone is going to remember his name after “Blade Runner 2049.”

The sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 science-fiction film, “2049” already has critics raving, with early reactions calling the movie a “mind-blowing masterpiece” that’s “better than the original.” All of this praise is going to skyrocket Villenueve’s career, so it couldn’t be a better time to look back at where it all started for the French-Canadian film director.

Villeneuve partnered with the National Film Board of Canada for his official short film debut in 1994, and the result was an audacious 30-minute hybrid between narrative and documentary filmmaking titled “REW-FFWD.” The director has proven himself to be a master of cerebral filmmaking in “Prisoners,” “Enemy,” and “Arrival,” and you’ll find his obsessions with the mind and memory are thriving in his 1994 debut.

“REW-FFWD” is told from the perspective of the narrator’s “black box,” which is basically a camera version of the human mind. The viewer watches the events of the movie through the box, with the narrator fast-forwarding and rewinding to different parts of the story so that the overall narrative resembles a memory puzzle. The narrator is a nameless photojournalist who is looking back at the time he was sent to Jamaica for a story. The fictional narrative device gives way to what feels ultimately like a documentary, with academics and musicians waxing poetic on Jamaican culture.

You can watch Villeneuve’s short film debut in its entirety below, courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada. The director returns to the big screen with “Blade Runner 2049” on October 6.

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