SXSW FILM 2011
By Don Simpson | March 13, 2011
Directors: Nisha Ganatra, Barry Jenkins, Kimi Takesue, Robby Henson, Bennett Cohen, A. Sayeeda Clarke
One of the biggest surprises for me during SXSW 2010 was the Futurestates: Season 1 program. In my opinion, the Futurestates: Season 1 shorts are the epitome of great science fiction — inventive, futuristic narratives with strong social-political messages concerning our modern world — so it is with much excitement that I report that SXSW 2011 will feature six episodes from Futurestates: Season 2. Similar to season one, this year’s selection of Futurestates shorts visualize various possible futures for American society which include one or a combination of the following: environmental degradation, political polarization (and apathetic masses), over-reliance on new technologies, and globalization.
Director Nisha Ganatra’s America exists within “safe” and “perfect” bubble of the socially conservative gated community Red Estates. Sasha (Jessica Pare) and her husband, Bobby (Rupak Ginn), are in the middle of a genetically engineered pregnancy. Unfortunately, the fetus is diagnosed with the homosexual gene and must be inoculated. Sasha is hesitant to have the inoculation, but Bobby is running for political office and will not make any compromises. What is outside the pearly gates of — to quote Bobby — “the real America”? Where are all of the non-conservative Americans? Are they really living in “slums”?
Director Barry Jenkins brings us a future in which San Francisco has become entirely upper-class and the lower classes have all been exiled. As any intelligent person would predict, San Francisco finds itself with a working class void — there is no one to do the grunt work that the upper-class does not want to do: public works, manual labor, etc. San Francisco commences a program
to bring working-class families back into the city, promising to provide them with jobs to fit their training (or provide them with training to perform a specific role). Kaya (Russel Hornsby), Helen (Paola Mendoza) and their sick daughter, Naomi (Avelina Salazar), are among the first recruits but they are quite skeptical of the same government that declared them to be redundant in the not so distant past.
The globe has officially warmed in Director A. Sayeeda Clarke’s film. It is another 120-degree December day in New York City and Bato (Elvis Nolasco) must race against time to scrounge up enough funds for his wife Gina (Zabryna Guevara) to deliver their rapidly approaching baby in a clinic. With an Altmanesque knack for the use of billboards and posters, Clarke provides us with glimpses of the ridiculous government propaganda (and denial) that got the world into this hot mess. It is also worth noting that the world’s demographics seem to have shifted according to skin color as people try to realign themselves to fight the sun’s ever encroaching rays. “Together we can survive the sun.”
In director Robby Henson’s Asparagus, climate change has rendered the earth’s landscape useless. Dekard (Ryan Sandberg) grows asparagus in an isolated underground bubble designed specifically to protect the asparagus from unauthorized organic lifeforms. Elena (Tara Shayne) tends to arrive late for her daily fertilizer deliveries to Dekard’s greenhouse; but she is cute and Dekard is crushing on her, so all is fine. One thing leads to another, and Dekard and Elane find themselves taking a dating cohabitation test. When the continuation of their relationship is determined to be “not recommended”, they must decide if they want to abide by their pre-ordained fate or make their own future.
Similar in setting to Asparagus, director Bennett Cohen introduces us to another world fallen barren by a devastatingly toxic environment. Global warming, flooding, malnutrition…you get the picture; environmental collapse is near and a group of archaeologists led by Dixon (Melanie Merkosky) and Montes (Dominic Bogart) are digging in a toxic desert wasteland hoping to unearth clues of a lost civilization who encountered similar circumstances. They find a menagerie of seemingly purposeless religious icons — symbols of a sense of faith that the world no longer recognizes.
That Which Once Was
Director Kimi Takesue’s That Which Once Was takes place in a not so distant future (2032), where global warming has caused a mass reshuffling of the world’s population, so much so that an 8-year-old Caribbean boy (Vicente Otero) and an Inuk ice carver (Natar Ungalaq) find themselves coexisting side by side.
Following the SXSW premiere of the aforementioned six shorts, full episodes of all ten episodes of Futurestates: Season 2 will be available on www.futurestates.tv, with subsequent distribution on www.pbs.org.