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By Mark Bell | May 25, 2014

As Ben Yumkas explains to the camera, he has Asperger’s Syndrome and, in his case, that means he has trouble deciphering or picking up on emotional or social cues from the people around him. This makes him appear somewhat distant and robotic in conversation, and, to combat this, he has decided to film human interactions in an effort to learn from the tapes and, ultimately, apply his knowledge to his own interactions with people.

And thus we have The Yumkas Experiment, a short film wherein we see the young Ben Yumkas do exactly as he says he will: films people and tries to decipher their interactions in an effort to appear to be more natural in his future interactions. However, the film isn’t just footage seen through Ben’s camera, and thus the documentary feel it sets up is an artifice; a step back is a camera filming the filming, meaning the entire experience is something of a put on for our entertainment or interpretation. A film professing to seek naturalness becomes a layered project of artifice.

This coupled with the film’s dry sense of humor creates a wholly unique flavor to the entire experience. At first watch it may seem like a simple enough premise, but it’s so wrapped up in itself that it betrays its own complexities. Which, frankly, is what makes it so interesting. If it’s entertainment, what the filmmaker finds entertaining, or thinks the audience will find entertaining, is telling in itself.

Overall, I enjoyed The Yumkas Experiment, and maybe I’m putting more on the short film than is actually there, but you cannot deny the unique feel to the piece. Sure, there’s more than an element of awkward and, yes, it is indeed dry, as I’ve already mentioned, but it is also charming and disarming. And somewhat unsettling, for reasons I can’t quite pin down, which actually plays in nicely with the film’s resolution so… I’m going to chalk that one up as a positive.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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