• Country: United Arab Emirates
  • Initial release: August 6, 2017 (United Arab Emirates)
  • Film Director: Peter Edlund
  • Running Time: 12 Minutes
  • IMDB Grade: 7.0

In the world of sports, referees often find themselves in the middle of intense competition and high emotions. Such is the case in the short film “The Ref,” directed by Peter Edlund. This twelve-minute gem takes us on a rollercoaster ride of laughter and heartfelt moments as a young referee struggles to maintain control over a second-grade basketball game. Combining elements of comedy, drama, and even a touch of thriller, “The Ref” offers a unique and engaging viewing experience.

The Inspiration Behind “The Ref”

Ian Edlund, co-writer of “The Ref” and brother of director Peter Edlund, shares the inspiration behind the film. He recalls a moment when he saw an image of a frustrated referee slamming a basketball to the ground. This image took him back to his childhood, where he witnessed the sometimes abominable behavior of overzealous parents during his brother’s youth basketball games. With this spark of inspiration, the Edlund brothers set out to create a story that explores the balance between over-the-top laughs and character-driven emotions.

The Story and Characters

“The Ref” centers around the character of Drew, played brilliantly by Ian Edlund himself. Drew is a young man on the cusp of adulthood, dealing with personal hardships while trying to navigate the pressures of being a referee in a children’s basketball game. The film delves into the vulnerability and honesty of Drew’s character, highlighting the power dynamics and authority issues he faces.

As the game progresses, chaos ensues, with rambunctious kids, overzealous coaches, and unruly parents all contributing to the mayhem. Drew finds himself pushed to his limits, trying to maintain control while dealing with his own emotional turmoil. The film masterfully balances the escalating tension and the absurdity of the situation, providing both humorous moments and a heartfelt exploration of loss and resilience.

The Delicate Juggling of Tones

“The Ref” is a testament to the filmmakers’ ability to juggle different tones seamlessly. On one hand, we have the mounting chaos of the basketball game, which provides ample opportunities for comedic moments. The audience can’t help but find the absurdity of the situation amusing. On the other hand, we have Drew’s personal journey and the emotional weight he carries. The film successfully intertwines these two aspects, allowing us to laugh while also empathizing with Drew and the challenges he faces.

Ian Edlund’s Performance

Ian Edlund’s performance as Drew is nothing short of remarkable. With minimal dialogue, Edlund relies on his expressive eyes to convey the character’s emotions. He effortlessly transitions between comedic moments and moments of quiet introspection, capturing the audience’s attention and evoking genuine empathy. Edlund’s portrayal of Drew adds depth and authenticity to the film, making it all the more engaging and relatable.

Peter Edlund’s Direction

Peter Edlund’s direction in “The Ref” immerses the audience in the chaotic and confined space of the basketball gym. Through quick cuts, rapid camera movements, and a clever use of sound design, Edlund effectively conveys Drew’s perspective and the overwhelming nature of his experience. The audience feels the irritation, frustration, and anxiety that Drew experiences, creating a sense of connection and investment in his journey.

Festival Success and Future Projects

“The Ref” premiered at the 2021 edition of Short Shorts in Tokyo, followed by its stateside premiere at the Palm Springs ShortFest. The film has garnered praise for its comedic moments, heartfelt storytelling, and the exceptional performances of its cast. The Edlund brothers are currently developing a feature adaptation of their acclaimed short film “Mixtape Marauders,” with support from the Sundance Institute and The Gotham.

1 Film Review

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  • “The Ref” is a must-watch short film that combines humor, emotion, and expert storytelling. With its relatable characters, hilarious moments, and poignant exploration of loss and resilience, it leaves a lasting impression on its audience. Peter Edlund’s direction and Ian Edlund’s performance elevate the film to another level, making it a standout piece in the world of short films. Whether you’re a fan of sports or simply appreciate well-crafted storytelling, “The Ref” is sure to entertain and touch your heart.