Born into a world where numerical rank determines one’s status, Zero is unfortunately ranked as his name would suggest. If being a 5 is to be mediocre, then to be brandished with a 0 across the chest is to be less than existent, and this is how Zero is forced to live his life, inconsequential and meaningless to those who would be of a better social standing than he. Spending his life being persecuted against due to the unfortunate number sprawled upon his exterior, Zero is heartbroken and alone, but after a chance encounter with an equal, he finds a real shot at love and happiness in a world that has been nothing but unforgiving to him.
Written and directed by Christopher Kezelos with his wife Christine Kezelos acting as producer, Zero is a stop motion animation short that takes a very classic approached to a children’s morality tale. With each character in this world being represented numerically and having that number state where they stand in life speaks to many issues that have been, and always will be, faced in humanity. The numbers that represent them are either proudly or – in the case of Zero and his new companion – shamefully worn on the front of their bodies for everyone to see, and these numbers being the basis for social standing calls to issues such as elitism, classism and, most significantly, racism.
It’s pure judgment of someone’s exterior by those that believe they are better due to something that they themselves did not actually determine. What does determine who someone is is by the actions that they take and the people that they come to be, and in the case of those that populate the world of Zero, they are truly the ones that are sad with their shallow appraisal of others. And while they can judge, reject and even tyrannize Zero and his newfound companion for being, well, “zeros,” it is their inner strength and love that shines through the chaos of living in such oppression.
All of these themes are typical of classic, morality based children’s storytelling, and the seriousness in which Zero is taken is mixed with a visual aesthetic that calls to the young (and old) viewer like the most delicious of sugary treats. With some of the most impressive stop motion I have ever seen, Zero is absolutely gorgeous. The adorable and wonderfully detailed yarn characters are soft and almost cuddly to the eye, which makes them very attractive to children. It’s accessible visually, but like the finest fairytales and children’s stories, the dark themes are as present as the visual splendor.
Zero is a film and a character that both kids and adults can relate to for a number of reasons, and any film or story that can speak to the deep seeded human emotions that are present in this varying age demographic is one that is always welcoming. Especially in a time when this sort of challenging storytelling is somewhat rare. Nowadays, kids are simply no more than numbers for marketing teams and crutches for the media that has conditioned parents to be over protective of their kids, instead of simply letting them grow and learn for themselves.
For all the background goodies pertaining to Zero and the filmmakers, check out www.zeroshortfilm.com.