Azdaja is a rare gem of a fantasy short film with so much allure without heavy lore dumping.
Azdaja (2016) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on March 8, 2023
Rating 4 /5
Azdaja is a short fantasy film all about summoning a dragon. Crafting such a film requires a lot of dedication to the setting and visuals, especially if the most dazzling sight is a dragon coming to life through a magical ritual. The good news is that this short film delivers hard on those most essential of traits, making for an eye-popping dose of fantasy.
In the film’s brisk 13 minutes, the atmosphere washes over the viewer with wondrous ease. After watching a woman rushing through the forest, we watch a sun graze a planet. Cut people dancing around a fire, bringing forth the Great Dragon, who will protect their village from any threat. It was quite the sight to witness the CGI dragon, bathed in fire and earth, look as remarkable as the expertly-shot live-action sequences.
The film makes excellent use of transitions to showcase the dragon’s power and the changes over time. After the dragon is summoned, the film slides into a sequence of the same dragon bordering around a ball of fire. Later, years will pass as the sun, and moon dart across the sky as the village becomes hazy with the fog of time. The dragon’s power is shown off in action-packed scenes where he attacks vicious enemies in the form of clouds. With mighty roars and fiery breaths, the dragon continues to act as a guardian for the people.
However, as the years go on, the ritual isn’t as effective, and the dragon’s power is lessened. The ritual changes, and the dragon ages, separating itself into separate forms. It’s only after the dragon fails to protect that it tears itself apart and seeks to become whole again, drawing back to the woman running in the beginning.
Without a spec of dialogue, Azdaja becomes such an engrossing fantasy film with its lore that is easy enough to read. The visual effects are vibrant and exciting, and the dragon feels incredibly unique and enticing for his many moments showcasing his magical force. The cinematography is mouth-wateringly stylish, showcasing lush hills and period-appropriate villages. Even the people and costumes have some real work put behind them, despite how little time they occupy this picture by acting more like bookends to the beautiful animation. The music is also noteworthy for carrying a folk-lore tune of progressive violins and tambourines.
Azdaja is a rare gem of a fantasy short film with so much allure without heavy lore dumping. Even the most jaded of viewers who find fantasy an exposition-heavy genre to get into will appreciate the splendor and simplicity of this gorgeous production. Much work went into the computer animation, live-action scenes, and overall tone. And all of it shines beautifully here.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.