Redisplacement

Recently I was offered the opportunity to see some test footage from a movie still in production, called Redisplacement.  Since I’m all for new movie experiences, I immediately said yes even though I had no idea what to expect.  In this case, at least, it turns out that ‘test footage’ is a lot like ‘teaser trailer’, meaning that if you’re hoping for a lot of information about the plot you’re not going to get it.

Movie poster

But as with most teaser trailers it was intriguing to watch, not to mention an interesting challenge to try to work out more about what’s going on.  I watched it first before reading anything about the film, and guessed at once that it was something to do with not being quite sure of what’s real and what isn’t, and happily the imdb teaser summary backs me up on that.

Since I’m not in the business of spoiling plots, however, let me talk more generally about the feel of the footage.  There’s a quietly disjointed atmosphere about the scenes, and the main character certainly seems lost, in more ways than one.  There’s also a lot of shots involving water — in glasses, flowing over a dam, sitting placidly in a swimming pool — which would be appropriate.  The mind can be capricious, and trying to catch hold of a memory can be like trying to grab a fistful of water.

The important point is that as a teaser trailer it’s certainly done its job and I’m now looking forward to the finished product from writer / director Lewis Coates, who was gracious enough to invite me to see the footage.  It seems as though it should be an intriguing look at what will always be the final frontier for all of humanity.

Real Artists

Once in a while, hard work and sheer luck manage to help each other out for a change, and we might just find ourselves on the verge of realizing a long-hoped for dream.  Of course, this happens about as often as a total solar eclipse, so if you ever find yourself in this position do your best to seize your dream with both hands and try not to gloat too much as you’re scampering gleefully away.  In the short film Real Artists, Sophia (Tiffany Hines) is in exactly this enviable position, having earned an interview for her dream job at Semaphore Studios.  She longs to be an animator, and for that this is THE studio to work for.  And right now they’re developing Return to Mythos, sequel to their huge hit Mythos, so this is the perfect time to join the team.
Movie poster
Sophia’s interviewer is Anne Palladon (Tamlyn Tomita), whose work Sophia has always admired.  Even better, Anne is impressed by Sophia’s work and is anxious to get another woman on board.  This couldn’t be a more promising start, and you can almost see Sophia telling herself not to mess this up.  But there’s a lot hiding behind that non-disclosure agreement she had to sign, and the job may not be quite the sort of dream she thinks it is.
Hines is perfectly cast as the hopeful, idealistic Sophia getting her first look behind the curtain, while Tomita shines as the successful woman in a man’s world.  (Your MCND fact of the day: women hold only about 20% of animation industry jobs.)  But where the movie really hits home is in its predictions for the not too distant future of animation and movie-making, where it may just be frighteningly accurate.  The film quietly puts some unsettling notions into your mind, notions that will haunt you long after the film ends.  The real artists behind everything aren’t at all who you expect them to be.

The Nonduality of Perry Atman

Remorse is the poison of life.  I can’t take credit for that line; I’m quoting Charlotte Bronte.  But it’s very true that just a moment’s inattention can allow tragedy to happen, and after that moment lives can be ruined.  In The Nonduality of Perry Atman, for the title character (David Christopher-Turner) and his wife (Catherine Hearne), that moment leads to the death of their young daughter, Catlin (Lucy Turner) in a freak accident.

What would you give?

Three years later, Perry’s wife is muddling forward as best she can, but Perry refuses to resign himself to the facts and spends hours in their shed, which he’s converted to a workshop / research center dedicated to the study of time travel.  They need to get back to that awful moment, he reasons, and make sure they have a happy ending, so time travel is the obvious solution.  His wife is increasingly frustrated by his obsession, but Perry can’t back down, not now, when he feels he’s so close.

And one day, all his hopes are realized when he receives a message from his older self, giving detailed instructions on how to save Catlin.  Following a voice from the future is a difficult and dangerous task, however, and time travel is an unforgiving mistress.  And sending a message back is a far cry from changing the course of history.  His grand experiment may succeed — or fail — in ways he can’t even begin to imagine, but he refuses to waver.

Low-budget sci-fi can be a very mixed bag, but this short handles that aspect well, borrowing from famous tropes and giving them an offbeat twist.  The movie might have benefited from showing a little more of the building tension between husband and wife, but otherwise there’s a good balance of past and present.  And overall it’s a quietly poignant short — Perry is a gentle, thoughtful man whose otherwise sharp mind can’t face the terrible truth and takes refuge in the ridiculous — or perhaps it isn’t so ridiculous after all.  There’s also a good balance of pathos and humor — the end credits are a perfect example of the latter — that improves them both.  It’s a winning combination that might just make you believe in six impossible things before breakfast.

Written and directed by Anthony Sabanskis and available to watch on opprime.tv!

The Bestowal

We’ve all had times when the world seems impossible to deal with and all we can think of is how terrible everything is.  Going to work is pointless at best, people are generally awful and getting worse, and the day just isn’t worth facing anymore.  As The Bestowal begins, that’s largely how Steven (Sam Brittan) is feeling, except he’s decided that he doesn’t want to face the entire rest of his life.  But as he’s trying to work up the nerve to end it all, a beautiful young woman (Sharmita Bhattacharya) appears from nowhere and begins trying to convince him that life is worth living after all.

You never know when Death might drop in for a chat.

Given her mission, it’s rather startling when she introduces herself as Death, though she’s more correctly an interdimensional being rather than a personification of human mortality.  As far as she’s concerned, though, suicide is a dreadful thing because it’s a death that happens before its proper time, not to mention a death that leaves a soul wandering, lost in torment.  She apparently can’t help such souls, so instead she visits the suicidal before they act, trying to persuade them to carry on. Borrowing from Plato — or maybe Plato borrowed from her, considering how fluid time is in this film — she tells Steven that caring about the happiness of others is what gives us our own happiness.  Though doubtful, Steven agrees, because it’s hard to imagine anyone not being consumed with curiosity over whether or not Death gives good advice.  She promises to come back in twenty years to see how he’s doing.

And Steven doesn’t seem to have aged a day when Death returns, something they attribute to his journey towards enlightenment.  During this journey, he’s made amazing strides in helping humanity, but the world is still becoming a darker place all the time.  Even Death herself is finding it harder to travel between dimensions because of this.  Is life as we know it about to come to an end?  Or can Death still do something against these vast and powerful forces?  Even a lowly human like Steven might still have a part to play.

This is an engaging example of cerebral sci-fi, with writer / director Andrew de Burgh mentioning influences such as 2001.  As with that classic, the pacing of this film is very slow, and if you aren’t prepared to ponder some deeply philosophical concepts, this isn’t the movie for you.  Of necessity, the film tells rather than shows — even a massive Hollywood budget could only go so far in showing the almost unimaginable beings and bizarre dimensions Death speaks of — and the movie blames most of mankind’s ills on technology, which seems a little harsh to me.  How else am I supposed to get my reviews read if not online?  And at first, Steven’s character is not as sympathetic as he probably should be, though he does soon become more relatable.

The good news is that the slow pace generally works well, giving the audience time to grasp the concepts discussed, and something about the actors held my interest despite the fact that there’s nothing here that could be called action.  So while it’s a mixed bag, overall it’s a successful experiment, creating a sci-fi realm in which the effects are in the viewers’s own imagination, which is the best sort of CGI anyway.  Bhattacharya is particularly well-cast, with a genuine quality about her that helps her move beyond the ‘Death as a beautiful woman’ trope.  It’s a promising and intriguing feature film debut for de Burgh, proving that satisfying science-fiction isn’t limited to the big studios.

Interested in finding out more?  Check out this interview with Andrew de Burgh!

Partitioned_Heart

Sometimes technology can be just as frightening as it is amazing.  For one thing, it can raise all kinds of thorny legal and ethical questions, and if you really want to freak yourself out, try doing an image search sometime for “uncanny valley”.  There’s a good reason why such questions have become a staple of science-fiction — just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should, but the temptation to go ahead regardless can be very hard to resist.  And sometimes the technology does things without human intervention, as seems to be the case in Partitioned_Heart.

Rob (Travis Mitchell) is a father who’s lost his only child, Daniel (Malik Uhuru).  When you’ve lost a loved one, often you’d give nearly anything for one last chance to sit and talk with that person.  Rob has simply stumbled into that miraculous opportunity, as a mysterious program on his son’s computer has allowed him to talk to Daniel, now a literal ghost in the machine.  But this miracle comes with a high price.  When Daniel asks his father to do something Rob simply can’t face, will he be able to honor his son’s pleas?

A partition is a computer term for a way of dividing a hard drive into sections, which is something you might do if you want to be able to run two different operating systems on the same computer, for instance.  Here it’s also a metaphor for the warring impulses in Rob as he’s faced with an unimaginable decision to make alone.  As a short, the film inevitably asks more questions than it answers, but that only makes it more gripping and the anguish on both sides of the screen is simple and crushing.  Mitchell and Uhuru are both utterly convincing as the equally pained father and son, and their performances pull the viewer in.  Sometimes the most uniquely human dilemmas can spring from the most advanced technology.

Quality Control

Auditor 451 and 36. You never know when someone's watching you.

The trouble with waiting rooms is that you’re so often waiting for something bad. Maybe you’re there to see a dentist, to have a serious talk with your child’s teacher, or going on a job interview — which could potentially be good but is definitely going to be stressful. The people in the waiting room at the start of Quality Control have it even worse, though. They’re waiting to see if they’ll get to survive the day.

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