The best science-fiction films will present new ideas; innovative technology and innovative ways of thinking. The science-fiction short film showcase at Fantasia Film Festival 2021 features short films that each bring something new to the table (but I really hope that no tech companies take any of these films as inspiration for their next designs).
MARK II [USA]
This 8 minute sci-fi short about an office worker who signs up for a life-changing futuristic procedure is as funny as it is sad. Mark wants to become a cyborg; he’ll be able to work longer hours! His wife won’t have to work overtime! Will Mark achieve his dream? Will it be everything he hoped for? This oddball short film is a fun start to this sci-fi block.
Freya is a funny look into life just a little bit in the future. Jade uses FREYA, her Google Home-esque AI to order groceries and wine; she uses an app called “Nookie Bookie” to order a partner for sex. FREYA also keeps tabs on everything Jade eats, drinks, and does. The commentary Freya makes on how society treats overweight people, women, and reproductive issues is not subtle, but it’s brilliant. Freya is only 16 minutes long, but it could easily be a full length movie (one I would love to see!).
THE GIRL ON THE MOON [AUSTRALIA]
This Australian short film about a girl born on the moon who wishes to visit Earth is one of the most visually appealing of this years Science Fiction Short Film Showcase. At only 5 minutes long, it’s mysterious and beautiful.
Updated is a short film about a woman living with dementia; her son Miilu and his fiancee are able to keep track of what she’s doing thanks to technology the woman has implanted. As the older woman’s dementia worsens, the couple debates updating her software. This film from Greenland is visually stunning, deeply emotional, and surprising.
THE OFFER [USA]
The Offer centers around two sisters, Nora and Chloe, spending a weekend together in the mountains before Nora takes a new job. This new job involves her leaving everyone and everything she knows. Who Nora is going to work for – or with – are not human. But they’re taking half a billion people with them. Will Nora be one of them? The Offer leaves us with just as many questions as answers.
RACHEL’S DON’T RUN [USA, FRANCE]
Leah works at a call center where customers can connect to AI “companions”. This is a bittersweet look at how we sometimes forget to treat people like they’re human, with a hilarious glimpse at the fragility of the male ego. Sera Barbieri gives an amazing performance as the only person we actually see in this short film.
SILLY HUMAN [USA]
Linda is a Broadway actress with a role on a 1950’s style sitcom. She’s feeling a lot of pressure from her costars already, but then her director, Charlie, is extra hard on her too. Charlie is like an unhinged HAL, and he expects perfection. This black and white short film is weird and wonderful. And a little scary.
STANDING WOMAN [UNITED KINGDOM]
“We’re making criminals do their bit for the environment”. In this darkly satirical short from the UK, rather than being sent to prison, criminals are turned into trees. While all of the sci-fi shorts in this showcase are dark, Standing Woman is extremely bleak. And I loved it.
THE RECYCLING MAN [ITALY]
This visually impressive short film is the most suspenseful of this year’s showcase. Like Freya, The Recycling Man is also concerned with the future of humanity and reproductive rights. The animated credits sequence is a great way to end this short film showcase, and was one of the most fun things to watch in the two hour short film block.
Existential questions are posed by these science-fiction shorts in a way that is so often missing from sci-fi blockbuster films. The best films of this short film showcase (Freya, Standing Woman, and Updated) ask us whether technology is helping or hurting us. If you’re a fan of the genre, or if you just really miss Black Mirror, check these out.
The Fantasia Film Festival takes place in person and online from August 5 – August 25
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