It's called The Tribe, and after winning awards at several film festivals, it was released on iTunes on Oct. 2. Now, not even a month later, it's the top-selling short film. And did I mention it's a documentary? That's important. There are only three other docs in the top 100 shorts, none higher than #39.
Directed by Tiffany Shlain and narrated by Peter Coyote, The Tribe is a very entertaining and thoughtful discussion of what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century -- and how that relates to the history of the Barbie doll. Barbie was invented (and Mattel was co-founded) by a Jewish woman, Ruthie Handler. The Tribe ties it all together and asks some interesting questions about how we humans break ourselves into "tribes," and how those tribes interact with one another.
A recent New York Times article mentions that Apple has had trouble getting studios to sell their movies on iTunes, and that consumers aren't necessarily buying them anyway. But when it comes to short films, iTunes is a huge blessing to filmmakers, and people are downloading them. Think about it: You can see feature-length movies in theaters, on TV, or on DVD. But where do you ever see short films? Even the Oscar-nominated ones are hardly seen outside of film festivals.
ITunes is rapidly changing that. Now filmmakers who once made shorts that stood little chance of being seen by a wide audience are finding mass appeal through iTunes, where thousands of people are downloading their films for $1.99. And a documentary about Barbie and Judaism reaching the #1 spot? Even two years ago, that idea would have seemed absurd.
The Tribe's website is here; the direct link to it at iTunes is here.