There is a trend in contemporary films, such as Triangle of Sadness and The Menu, to critique the rich and their capitalistic greed. In the short film Day9 written by Damion Stephens and directed by Dastan Khalili, Charles Maze plays an aging millionaire named J.D. Dorboth who hires four people (played by Will Lupardus, Eric McIntire, Kelcey Watson, and Johanna Watts in taut performances) to dig for buried treasure in the sweltering desert. Dorboth promises to reward his laborers no matter the outcome, but he pushes them to the edge of their sanity by giving them little to eat or drink and cruelly insulting them.
Khalili frequently uses split diopter shots, pushing the characters’ faces close to the screen to convey the immense pressure they feel. The desert backdrop is vast and beautiful, but it’s filmed with a pallid color and offbeat images that amplify the uncomfortable intensity of the situation.
The pulse-pounding final confrontation is shot in such a way that it puts you right in the middle of the action. These dynamic visuals combined with the suspenseful story make Day9 a biting short that is well worth watching. Khalili masterfully builds the tension to a shocking ending.