From steampunk disguises to cyborg enthusiasts, the movies capture our growing unease


The Sci-Fi Film Festival’s schedule includes works from all over the world and judging by the shorts and feature films available in preview, the extravagant spectacle is mostly absent – with the exception of the digital animation by Ryan Grobins. Cyan eyes, a seven-minute extravaganza featuring sky pirates battling sparkling robots in front of beautifully colored clouds.

Cyan Eyed by Ryan Grobins.

Literally plausible speculation about the future is also not a priority: for the most part, these are films that rely on ideas, performances, and the kind of makeshift ingenuity that the cosplayers of Steampunk login put in their scrap outfits and accessories.

A Victorian aesthetic captures a nostalgia for the past in Steampunk Connection.

A Victorian aesthetic captures a nostalgia for the past in Steampunk Connection.

Futuristic worlds tend to be portrayed in broad strokes, often via age-old methods such as distorted electronic sounds or sets bathed in eerily colored light. Repressive dystopias are a popular theme, with roughly equal amounts of inspiration drawn from Black Mirror, Handmaid’s Tale and real life.

Typical is Alden Peters’ short film Sophie’s friend, in which a human (Janine Hartmann) and a cyborg (Fennell Chakendra) plan to hook up despite a crackdown on “techno-sexual deviants.” Another short film, that of Kasia Kaczmarek Maeve in the dark, goes a little further in a similar principle, by associating her ill heroine (Sekela Nancy Ngamilo) with both a robot-nurse (Bailey Pilbeam) and a ghostly female hologram (Lianne Harvey) in the context of a pandemic which only affects young women.

These are films about human connection, or the desire for it, as well as the fear that this desire may be hopeless for reasons beyond an individual’s control.

Another no less “human” theme that arises through the festival is the imagination itself: the risky but exciting enterprise of creating a fantasy and stepping inside. The trick here is that much of the story can take place in an obviously mundane reality, usefully from a budget perspective. Then, at key moments, the main characters enter a heightened alternate dimension and become powerful characters playing for higher stakes.

Minyoung Go in trans.

Minyoung Go in trans.

It is a device that can take many forms. In the Brazilian teen movie Tales of tomorrow, directed by Pedro de Lima Marques, the hero (Bruno Barcelos) is a precocious hacker whose computer skills allow him to connect with the distant future. Naeri Do is not that different Trans, another teen film, this time from Korea. The title doesn’t mean what you might think, or not on the surface: rather, it refers to a quest to become “transhuman,” involving wacky experiments with electricity inspired by Nikola Tesla.

And then there is that of Victor Villanueva Lucid, in which a Filipino office worker (Alessandro de Rossi) makes up for his boring life by controlling his own dreams – a process akin to stepping into a virtual reality simulation, where anything he doesn’t like can be replaced at will.

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Not just escape, these are films about the desire to escape, a theme shared with Hollywood blockbusters such as the current one. free guy. They also deal with topics like teenage clumsiness, bullying, and wage slavery – in short, they capture the kind of everyday sense of oppression that will resonate with almost anyone.

Many subjects of Steampunk login describe themselves as outsiders who have finally found their place. Are they simply escapees who have taken refuge in a fantasy, even a consciously reactionary one?

Deniel does not insist on any conclusion on what the liners do, and especially on its political significance. And clearly, steampunk doesn’t have much to tell us directly about what the world will be like a hundred years from now. Nevertheless, the film suggests that in the search for a viable collective future, a sci-fi fantasy could be a useful tool to have on hand.


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