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FUTURESTATES – a World Not So Far Away

April 4, 2010

When I tell people that I love sci-fi movies, the reaction is usually some semblance of either of the two following:

1) Are you like…a trekkie?

2) Oh…I loved “Armagaddon” too!!

Now, I hold no grudges against Armagaddon. God help me that I did enjoyed it, being 15 years old and starry eyed at the time. That Aerosmith theme song! Liv Tyler’s hand holding onto her father’s face on the screen! A throwback to the Titanic blockbuster just a year prior! It was all so glossily epic, and like a sugar rush it overwhelmed me. I liked Deep Impact more, actually, but then let’s not pick between apples and oranges.

But that, my friends, like a teenage crush, was not true love. It was merely a fleeting sensation that left all too soon as I departed the realm of its occupation, the movie theatre. I remember sleeping like a baby the night post-Armagaddon, the end of the world evidently failed to stir my soul in the least.

Then I saw “Contact”, and everything changed. I remember staring at the screen, mouth slightly agape, as the final credits rolled. That night, I didn’t sleep. The next day, I started looking into astrophysics programs at university.

Years later, the astronaut dream has been put on hold, but my love for sci-fi films have only skyrocketed. I love everything about them – the thought-provoking themes, the futuristic extrapolations, the visualization of our dreams, the curiosity of our humanity. It culminates into an exploration of the core of our existence: Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going?

So it was with absolute pleasure that I discovered FUTURESTATES, a series of 11 short films by renowned and up-and-coming filmmakers who challenge the grim realities of today through visions of what possibly holds in the not-so-distant future.

I started watching one, and then another, and then another, and there was no stopping me. Each one provoked, prodded, and engaged me. Through each, I saw pieces of the present, and the future.

You can watch all the episodes on Youtube or the website. It was difficult to pick favorites, but a few stood out for me personally:


In a world where time is precious and pregnancy optional — physically optional — for those who can afford it, emerges a new occupation for the financially desperate females: accelerated birth surrogates. Like the fastfood workers of today, these surrogates are mostly composed of those with little choices in the shadows of economic prosperity. Probably immigrants and people who have fallen through the cracks in life. Probably people who recently lost their jobs. Like fastfood workers of today, they provide a fast solution to the financially secure ones who don’t have time to dedicate to the quality, natural processes of life. Like fastfood workers of today, they cater to the need of a generation who have become accustomed to pay for efficiency and artificiality.

Except, there are consequences to such cold, soulless solutions. Today, it is obesity. Tomorrow, it is sterileness. Women who undergo three accelerated births become sterile and lose the chance to ever bear their own children.

So, it comes down to sacrifice – a most intimate, human, sacrifice. The source of all our biological drives. The source of so much potential joys. It is a sacrifice that is impossible to measure in monetary terms, and yet in that world, it has been.

Silver Sling spoke to me as a woman, as an immigrant, and as a young individual with large amounts of student debt. How far away is this world? It seems so real, so close. Too real, too close. I loved the lack of CGI. In the “Genesis” description, director Chun speaks about purposely minimizing the presence of future technology and the “futuristic-ness” of production design so as not to date the film. A great choice, in my opinion. This film can occur five years from now or fifty. Chun is right that sci-fi is not about the future but about the present. It is about the struggle of humanity against the currents of time, and therefore it will always come down to human struggles and human emotions in the framework of challenges posed by science and technology. Any deviance from that focus will lose the empathy and fears of us, the human audience.

PLAY by David Kaplan and Eric Zimmerman

“And there is always some task to do, and there’s never enough time. Someone is always keeping score…why?” A woman asks. “What do we do with all these points? What do we win?

Such is an apt description of this short film, which is about a world where video games have nestled into the fabric of human experience so deeply that it becomes impossible to distinguish the real from the virtual. One game leads to another, and each opens a brand new world of no real significance or consequences. Options are all that matters. Points are important. The goal is getting to the next level.

Does that sound eerily familiar? Look inside your wallet, how many plastic cards do you have? How many points do those magnetic stripes carry? How many points will get you to that next level of platinum, gold, diamond status? How many points does it take to trade for that prize pack or discount? What’s that in your hand? Oh, an iPhone? What’s that you are listening to? Oh, an iTouch? Who are you talking to? Oh, it’s just a screen…on your iPad.

As our world becomes increasingly more digital, it seems that technology has only aided us to revel in ourselves – the “i” that precedes it all. I am a willing consumer just as much as everyone else and to avoid being a hypocrite, I readily admit that without technology, my experience of this world would be drastically different — my connections to other individuals less extensive, the spread of my thoughts less instantaneous, the reach of my footprints restricted, and the growth of my knowledge slowed. At the same time, I wonder what would my life be without technology? Would I be sitting by candlelight, reading Great Expectations instead of writing this? Would I be next door, chatting with my neighbor, pondering the mysteries of life instead of curled up in bed, watching others’ visions of the future on a small, glowing screen? What would I be? Who would I become?

I’m afraid of not knowing who I am.” The woman says. “I mean, who am I really? Who are you really? How does it all end?

That really is the question of it all. Isn’t it?

PLASTIC BAG by Ramin Bahrani

Narration by Werner Herzog

Plastic. Bag.
One, single, plastic bag.
It drifts
Across barren lands and
clear skies,
Through water and space,
In search of its maker,
Its purpose.

My first breath,
He breathed
In wonder.
My first flight,
He glided
In joy.
He faced monsters,
Met first loves,
Explored foreign lands,
But still
He was alone,

In a world too great
For him,
He forged on,
Where was I going?
Who was I?
He faced the earth and the sun,
Seeing himself in them and
Lost in between.

He found them.
His own kind.
Millions, millions,
In the Great Vortex,
And he was born again.
Free, to wander,
in everlasting circles
Of mindless chatter.
And he grew restless
And stuck
And he thought of his purpose

No one dared to tell him,
With that first breath,
His fate was sealed.
With that first breath,
He was born into a world
That never thought
The purpose of
His first, plastic, breath.

Poetic justice. The only thing that comes to mind when it comes to this film.

It is a fable, a fairytale, an adventure story, a documentary journey, a magical warning, a clear wake-up call.

It is, to me, perfection.

And my poor words can never do it justice.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2010 2:36 AM

    This stuff is brilliant. Thanks.

  2. April 4, 2010 4:34 AM

    Thanks for bringing these to my attention. I look forward to watching them.

    I, too, love science fiction that raises questions about humanity and technology, and the point you eloquently make about the all-encompassing impact of technology on our lives is something I think about constantly. Does the constant barrage of multimedia communication we partake in via the Internet enhance our connection to each other and enrich our experience of the world, or interfere with it? (In my own life, I lean toward the former view, but it’s a slippery slope and certainly there have been some casualties.)

    I’m a great admirer of the science fiction writer William Gibson. What’s most fascinating to me is the trajectory of his work. His earlier writings were set in visionary science fiction futures where people “jacked in” to a vast network of data called the matrix, or cyberspace. But now, we essentially live in the future he always imagined, and so in his more recent books, he can explore the same kinds of issues he always has, while his characters live in the present day and use Google and iPhones. WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE! The considerations of thoughtful science fiction are important considerations for our daily lives.

    That’s not to say that every sci-fi film needs to raise the big questions. They can’t all be Contact (or Blade Runner, the pinnacle of sci-fi cinema for me). I enjoyed Armageddon, too!

  3. WonderingBill permalink
    April 5, 2010 10:19 AM

    Some days I think Sci-Fi can’t take the all-consuming inspection it seems to get. Somewhere, there, cross purposes collide. A good story gets moral guidance laid on it, then, philosophical introspection is added with spiritual leanings. An escapist meme is bent into taoist teaching. Why does Sci-Fi have to be something more ? Why can’t it be an imaginative tale, akin to older oral traditions, with hints of what can be, or could be? One wonders.

    Grace: Because it hasn’t happened yet. Because there are still possibilities. Because it can be more than a story. It can be reality.

  4. April 6, 2010 8:12 PM

    I was a few years older than you when I saw Armageddon in theaters (hard to believe, since you write with a level of maturity and control that I sometimes lack), and the only thing I remember about the film was 1.) it was loud, and 2.) I guessed most of the major plot points before they happened. Like you, however, I have learned from the experience and no longer watch such shameless sentimentality on the screen. Of course, I was wise enough to never see a Roland Emmerich movie on the big screen, even when my entire family went to go see Independence Day. Sadly, though, I did see it later.

    But I digress.

    When I have a little more free time, I will be watching those videos you linked to your website (I saw “Silver Sling”), and the other films included in the FUTURESTATES catalog, as I, too, am a huge SF and Fantasy fan. Though, if you told me you were an SF fan, Grace, I’d be more likely to ask you what you thought of the Matrix movies, and (because of your film buff-ness), I would also ask if you’re as excited about this as I am:

    Grace: I worship THE MATRIX. Seeing the first one in theater was a religious experience.

    • April 6, 2010 10:12 PM

      I’ll agree with you about the first one. The second one was pretty awesome, too. The third one, however….

  5. April 7, 2010 1:12 AM

    These look fascinating, I’ll definitely watch these when I get a chance. I saw “Plastic Bag” at the New York Film Festival last year, and it definitely works on the big screen. I think Werner Herzog should narrate every film from now on — I could listen to that guy for hours and hours.

  6. April 7, 2010 7:35 PM

    Your “poor words” may never do “Plastic Bag” justice, Grace, but it was a hell of an effort. That movie makes me want to seek out Ramin Bahrani’s full-length features even more, now. And Werner Herzog as narrator? Awesome stuff, and shows that you can use little to say much. In terms of saying a lot with a little, it reminded me of a short, silent, animated film that I saw about a robotic dog and his master (DVD is in Connecticut, of course–otherwise, I’d tell you what the title is). Hit me right in the gut.

    I’ll be sure to check out all of the FUTURESTATES movies on Youtube, as these three films have wet my appetite.

    Live long and prosper, Grace! ;-)

  7. April 1, 2011 9:16 AM

    salam kenal, senang berkunjung ksini.


  1. FUTURESTATES » Dragonize

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