Writer/Director: J. Rick Castañeda
Actors: Eli Vargas, Greena Park, Luis Deveze
By Caz Armstrong
Many years ago I worked at my city’s police headquarters where part of my job was filing mugshots. There were hundreds of thousands of them in endless rows of tiny drawers in the photographics room. The chemical smell was overwhelming and it took an age to find the exact right spot amongst the thousands of Smiths.
I would not have been a good contender in the secret world of underground competitive filing in “All Sorts” (2021). This surreal workplace comedy from writer/director J. Rick Castañeda is an utter delight.
Diego (Eli Vargas) is the lonely new hire at data management company Data-Mart. What kind of data? It doesn’t matter! But it all needs to be sorted, catalogued, charted and generally dealt with.
It is the office-est of faceless offices to ever office, run by an inept and wild-eyed manager who has no clue what he’s doing. Everyone sticks to their cubicles and performs their roles with varying degrees of common sense.
Soon after his arrival, Diego uncovers a secret underground folder filing contest behind the vending machine. Competitors battle it out in a smoke-filled bunker to file with the most speed and accuracy. Frenzied office workers scream from the sidelines, waving their fists and wads of cash. Diego persuades co-worker June (Greena Park) to compete and we get dragged into this shady and absurd underworld of office life, and their growing feelings for each other.
“Spreadsheet cells that merge together, stay together.”
This crowdfunded gem is delightfully funny. With an absurdist sense of humour it pokes fun at the microcosm which is office life. In this world Payday chocolate bars are currency, stationery is toys, and everyone runs rings around the boss like mice coming out to play while the cat is asleep.
Nerdy fans of 90’s technology will love the techy throwbacks. There’s cassette tapes, clacky keyboards, and an OHP to keep score on. Who remembers fixing the CD drive with a straightened paperclip? If you squint you might see a reference to everyone’s chirpy nemesis Clippy (in unravelled physical format escaping like a worm across the desk). Even the end credits are wonderfully rendered using a Windows 95 desktop.
Or if you’re anything like me you will be cackling at the reverence to the art of organisation (squee!). Any big decision that needs to be made will be laid out on a spreadsheet and the act of filing is practically six-sigma’d to create the most efficient process possible. Yes, this made me happy, don’t judge.
“The sans-serif font craves stability.”
While some characters are more silly, the leads are played quite straight. The ridiculous premise of a secret underground filing club behind the vending machine is broached with such genuine earnestness by our competitors that we take it seriously too. This approach gives us just the right amount of salty and sweet to have us both laughing at, and believing in, the central story.
This sense of imagination and surrealism carries right the way through to the camera work and throwaway props. The use of the photocopier to ‘enhance’ an image taken on an early Nokia was particularly sweet.
This comedy is heaps of fun, especially for office workers who have ever daydreamed about office life being more interesting. With a brilliant and diverse cast “All Sorts” is imaginative, charming, and absurd. It’s a particularly good watch for any enthusiasts of all things orderly and organised.