With real-world origins.

“Based on an unfortunate true story.”

This is the tagline for Joe Talbot’s American Paradise, a short film based on a real-life incident from 2010 in which a white man wore an incredibly elaborate mask that made him look like a black man to rob three banks and a pharmacy on the same afternoon. Talbot has taken the basic premise here and transformed it into an absurdist character study that bleeds palpable emotion and will haunt you for days after you’ve seen it, but in the best possible way.

A synopsis: “While fishing, an older man tells his two younger companions this true “tall-tale,” about solitary sad sack, Albert (Sky Elobar, The Greasy Strangle), a man who has long forgotten what it’s like to make love to a woman as he overlooks the literal pile of shit that’s his front yard. Inspired by a mask-filled window display, Albert decides to hide his identity and rob a bank, busting himself out of his dull life. Though the results are hardly as he anticipated…”

Though American Paradise is certainly hilarious, it’s more powerful than that, posing as a comedy to communicate themes of racial bias, social ignorance, 21st century emotional isolation, and the ever-changing definition of the American Dream.

American Paradise has been an official selection of a dozen or more film festivals including SXSW and Sundance, and it made its way online as a Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere just last week. There is zero questions that Talbot – whose previous short The Last Black Man in San Francisco is currently being developed into a feature – will be a household name to film fans within the next decade, so you should do yourself the favor of getting in on the ground floor of his career; it’s going to be a remarkable one.