As part of our coverage of the Phoenix Film Festival I’m taking a look at the independent sci-fi short films, which have been playing at the festival.Below is a list of the short films from both blocks of sci-fi films, their synopses, and any available web links.
Directed by Rebecca Gardiner
“Whilst on a rescue mission, Madison’s crew starts to go missing around her. She races to save herself, her crew, and the fate of mankind.”
This is your basic “standard hostile planet” theme, or at least a variation of it. Production values are very simple, but it is well acted by the cast, creating a story with characters that you find yourself caring about by the time it is over. Unfortunately it is a rather depressing short film.
IMDb: Transmisson (2018)
Directed by Augie Meleo
“Z travels to Earth to surf.”
This short film clearly shows what some aliens will do for a choice waves. It was extremely cheesy and fun, and left the story somewhat open-ended. This was an extremely original idea.
IMDb: Bombora (2019)
Directed by Boone Lavender
“Artemis has spent 15 years in a Cold War Bunker, only communicating through a CB radio. But her childhood friend, Linda, has stopped responding.”
This was a rather odd short film. Very little background detail is offered here, except that the main character, Artemis, has been living in a single room bunker for 15 years. It is unknown of there was a holocaust, except a mention as to whether or not the surface of the planet was hospitable or not. It has the potential of being a very powerful psychological character study.
IMDb: Beautiful Bunkers (2018)
Directed by Henry Boffin
“A woman must learn to let her father go in a future where eating humans has become the norm to help combat growing food shortages.”
On the surface this looks like the plague meets Soylent Green, but towards the end it digs a bit deeper and makes us question how the system treats our elderly. This woman is told to let her father go because this disease makes people brain dead, but is he? This is an excellent use of science fiction as it forces us to take a look at our own idea of humanity in a mirror.
Directed by Zaina Salameh
“A young man infatuated with the vintage phenomenon of romance is caught in an area of clinical matchmaking and engineered laws of genetic love compatibility.”
Is this the future of coupling and the building of family units? Will hi-tech matchmaking become the acceptable way, or will this young man’s belief in romance actually succeed and overthrow the cold touch of technology? This short film had some fantastic production values, but I could not help but compare it to the first episode of Jordan Peele’s Weird City.
Directed by R.J. Blake
“Follow Jon and Claudia as they use TIK TOK, the new dating app that allows people to turn back time to create the perfect moment.”
Here is another short film that deals with technology attempting to guide or engineer the perfect dating situation. This short film is completely played for laughs with the different time jumps that occur, and yet in the end they are forced to forgo such technology and try it the old-fashioned way. Do you want to guess if it works or not?
IMdb: Tik Tok (2018)
Directed by Ryan Patch
“An ambitious social worker must decide what to do when a precocious young girl refuses the government mandated, behavior-modifying patches that guarantee happiness.”
This was a powerful, if not somewhat depressing, short about the government practically demanding its citizens to be happy through the use of a this patch. What it also shows is a cold society that does not believe in the power of creativity and imagination. There could be several statements that this short film is trying to make.
IMDb: Regulation (2019)
Official Site: Regulation // A Short Film
Facebook: Regulation // A Short Film
Instagram: regulation_short film
Directed by Karl Thyselius
“In a dystopic society, the failed musician, Max, finds a device that can make him a Mozart of his time, but may cost him dearly.”
This is a very slick looking production, but extremely disjointed story. There are scenes of a corporation run government that almost feel like non-sequiturs, plus a premise of how only technology runs and manages everything except for artistic expression, which is mandated in its own way with people being forced to be artistically creative or face the consequences. Plenty of good ideas, but weak execution. It’s possible that this is a proof of concept.
IMDb: Secret Chord (2019)
Directed by Nikoloz Kevkhishvili
“A desperate mother descends deeper into the labyrinth of virtual reality, willing to sacrifice everything to rescue her son from a familiar kidnapper.”
This was a highly intellectual short film that resembles a sort of a Georgian The Matrix in a number of ways. It also asks a question that will no doubt have both scientists and philosophers asking for years to come, and that is “what is life?” Can AI be considered life? What is Virtual Reality to AI? Excellent and thought provoking.
IMDb: In Her Image (2018)
Official Site: .[Editor: Yes, that is “.” is indeed the name of the website]
Directed by Raphael Kryscek
“Matt’s co-worker, Charlie, discovers that he’s caught between two realities, and it’s up to her to save him through a new form of time travel.”
Here is a very clever and new idea on Quantum Temporal Mechanics. By employing an actual scientific discovery about sending a minute amount of data back in time (barely a quadrillionth of a nanosecond, but still measurable), writer/actor Sam Kryscek has crafted one of the most original time travel type stories yet. The short might have too much technobabble to anyone who doesn’t follow such stories, but the terminology use came off as pretty authentic to this critic. [Editor: We had the pleasure of meeting Kryscek prior to watching this film. He was very excited for us to see it.]
Directed by Anna Sobolevska
“Once upon a time in the future, humanity overcomes death by digitizing human souls. But what happened if Eternity faced with Love?”
A popular theme in science fiction is the definition of humanity and what it means to truly be alive. This short asks the difficult question that is, can you truly have love in this eternal digitized existence? Another short film that makes excellent use of science fiction to make its viewers ponder the concept of existence.
IMDb: Eternity (2018)
Directed by Simon P. Biggs
“A pampered gentleman’s orderly, automated existence is thrown into chaos when, against the advice of his robot butler, he chooses to pursue a free-spirited woman.”
Yet again we have the theme of technology vs. truly choosing to spontaneously live. As a short the animation in this was outstanding, and the story was quite humorous at times. It also has a steampunk/Victorian look at social media. This was a very artistic short film.
IMDb: Widdershins (2018)