James Snyder’s review published on Letterboxd:
EMBERS is the latest addition to Bruce Tetsuya's steadily growing filmography. Since its announcement a couple months ago, my excitement had grown with each passing teaser image/festival buzz... until I got the chance to finally see it this week. And I must say, this is Tetsuya's best short yet- as well as his most personal.
EMBERS weaves multiple themes Tetsuya has used in his past short films, but executes and presents them in a very poetic way - the "visual poem" trope is one that can sometimes feel too easily done, yet EMBERS is such a huge step forward in Tetsuya's career and such an embracement of one's own artistic voice that it stands out from the crowd in a completely different way.
Tetsuya, along with long-time collaborator Jacob Glazier, brings visuals that are as radiant as the film's gorgeous desert sunset. From somber stills to uplifting motions, the contrast of the film's locations and moods shown brilliantly through color, the signature hand close-ups... the cinematography here is excellent. What matches the visuals to a tee is the great sound design by Claudius Wick (creating a dreamy atmosphere perfect for the film's tone), the incredibly pensive and emotional score by Søren L. Schirmer (the harrowing yet absolutely beautiful strings from his violinist = chill inducing), and Catalina Garayoa’s wonderful performance (reminded of a young Ana de Armas here, with a deep, mesmerizing intelligence in her eyes).
On a more personal note, I couldn’t be more proud of Bruce and co. and how well EMBERS has been received. One of the best things about this one is that it creates a sense of inspiration and community that is very hard to replicate. Mind you, this was made during the pandemic with only a few crew members (as opposed to his other shorts with larger crews), yet it turned out magnificent. My deepest thanks to the cast and crew of EMBERS, for not only making an amazing short, but for inspiring others to go out and make something as well.
Cathartic, visually and audibly pleasing, masterfully directed - EMBERS is the sunrise of Tetsuya’s career, and I can’t wait to see what comes after the dawn.