Written and directed by Barak Shpiez, Vax is a drama short film that stars Cade Carradine, Ricco Ross and Marguerite Wheatly. With a run time of twelve minutes, the film sees two medical employees tussle for a moral way forward after they inadvertently discover the vaccine to malaria.
When two lab technicians find out that they have accidentally created a cure for malaria, they find how greedy and uncompromising the world of medical research really is. As the dilemma of saving millions of lives versus billions in profits takes hold, one employee will resort to desperate measures to ensure that the vaccine sees the light of day. Hopeful yet naive, he might be in for a rude awakening about how the world really works.
We have all heard about how medical conglomerates skew research and advances to better suit their profits. What Barak Shpiez’s film does really well is it dives right into this controversial practice. There is no beating around the bush, Shpiez takes the ills and sins of the industry head on. We know who these players are in the real world and how ruthless they can be when it comes to protecting their bottom line.
Shpiez weaves a story of discovery and betrayal as two protagonists who are poles apart try to make sense of the treasure that has just fallen into their laps. As one salivates over the potential riches they would make, the other has not lost sight of the bigger picture. Shpiez underlines the danger and illusions of this murky world and his story is inspired by countless instances of real life situations that bear an eerie similarity to his fictional tale.
In the acting department, Cade Carradine, Ricco Ross and Marguerite Wheatly are all outstanding. Cade Carradine is believable and earnest while Marguerite Wheatly as his supportive wife also excels. In contrast, Ricco Ross proves to be a worthy antagonist. The actors know exactly what to do and elevate the script through their performances. Shpiez plays up the emotional beats of the story and uses the complex chessboard of performances, nuance, emotions and plot to ensure that the central theme does not get lost. For a twelve minute film, Vax feels more morally complex than it lets off. A tug of war between a corporation and a person trying to do the right thing, the film frames this conflict really well.
Analysing the direction of the film, we can safely say that Barak Shpiez has knocked it out of the park. He takes a basic story, fills it with thematic and visual gimmicks and makes a film that manages to succeed in conveying its central idea well. A fantastic insight into the world of medical capitalism, Vax is everything a film of this idea should be. It presents a story that is moving, interesting and powerful. The direction is fantastic, the acting sublime and it all comes together (in its own way) at the very end. Resultantly, the film feels like a win on all counts.
In the technical department, the cinematography of the film is stunning. Playing up both the shadows and the light, the film looks beautiful. The sets are exquisitely designed and the film looks great. Equally impressive is the sound design that ratchets up the tension as the story goes on. Accurately capturing the tense moments inside the lab, the sound editors behind the film have created a nerve rattling story, one that resonates extremely well.
At the centre of the film lies a moral dilemma. Should medical research organisations value profits or the sheer number of lives they would save? Capitalists would argue that since the companies have invested billions into the research, they deserve to make something back. But should they make something back at the expense of the lives of millions? This is a question that people shy away from and it is this exact question that is at the heart of this film.
Packing a significant moral punch, Vax is the kind of film that will only become more relevant with time. With capitalist greed and altruism fighting it out in every avenue of today’s world, the film is a potent reminder of how corporations will always pursue cutthroat economic policies that will eventually harm mankind. Well made, meaningful and poignant, Vax is a great short film that succeeds in more ways than one.