Techish – Futuristic Films / Sundance 2022

Technology. Artificial Intelligence. Science. Futurism. Cosmos.
Here are the best movies and XR experiences we saw at Sundance Festival 2022 on these topics.
New visions about the possible future surfaced such as living together with AIs as our company and friends, DIY-robot, that turns out to be an AI-as-a-SpoiledKid with classy British humor; fantastic dancing creatures or mind-blowing AfroFuturist visions.
Get these movies on your radar and put them on your Must-See List.

#1 AFTER YANG

©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

When his young daughter’s beloved companion — an android named Yang — malfunctions, Jake (Colin Farrell) searches for a way to repair him. In the process, Jake discovers the life that has been passing in front of him, reconnecting with his wife (Jodie Turner-Smith) and daughter across a distance he didn’t know was there.
The story is set in a distant future when Human Beings and Techno Beings powered by AI live alongside, and there is even such a museum.
Technology is so present and embedded in everyday life, but in the same time invisible, seamless, in a general atmosphere of tranquility, almost like a meditation.
The future that unfolds in front of our eyes, is definitely one where technology and nature are reconciled.
Inevitably the movie puts you in the position to question our humanity – what is human-specific? – when robots, androids, clones and other beings would be our day-to-day companion?
And it also touches on the topic of emotional bonds that we form towards robots, even if we don’t understand them.

*In theaters and streaming on Showtime on March 4

©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

“I was challenged by the inherent expectation of the extraordinary in the sci-fi genre, which often reveal mind-bending truths beyond the now,” Kogonada says.

“I admittedly prefer truths that reside in the ordinary. It’s no doubt what drew me to the short story by Alexander Weinstein.”

Director and screenwriter: Kogonada
Principal Cast: Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Haley Lu Richardson ©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

#2 NEPTUNE FROST

Neptune Frost, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, is the stunning, explosively inventive first collaborative feature by Anisia Uzeyman and slam poet Saul Williams (who made his Sundance debut appearing in 1998’s Slam) that hacks the conventions of moviemaking to give us this musical science fiction hybrid set in Rwanda about a transcending connection between an intersex runaway, Neptune (played by both Cheryl Isheja and Elvis Ngabo “Bobo”), and a grieving coltan miner (Bertrand Ninteretse “Kaya Free”).


During the journey, Neptune discovers different worlds that have its own aesthetic, story and visual – from miners, gardeners, hackers. The aesthetic of the environments is formed by re-used elements of the motherboard, and this is like an invisible line that unites all the worlds. Technology. Moreover the astonishing costumes, combine futuristic elements with recycled technology, in amazing forms. The choice of this aesthetic, it is like an interrogation of the interlinks between technology, poverty and capitalistic vision and where it might lead in the future. And of course can we change that through the power of community, love and value of individuals?

Director Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams
Principal Cast: Cheryl Isheja, Elvis Ngabo “Bobo”, Bertrand Ninteretse “Kaya Free”, Eliane Umuhire, Rebecca Muciyo, Trésor Niyongabo
©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

It blends musical, visual poetry, theatrical performance, techno-philosophy forming an algorithm of a my(s)thical future. An exceptional bold creative vision, Neptune Frost might just become the next cult movie that will be analyzed, dissected and talked about for years. Warning: You will want to watch it and re-watch it.

#3 BRIAN AND CHARLES

©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

A welcomed comedy on the topic of Artificial Intelligence, about a low-cost, DIY robot who eats cabbage.
Somebody had to diffuse the tensions around the hot-topic “AI will destroy us”, and British humor came just in time to create the AI-as-a-SpoiledKid.
Brian who lives in a rural area, somewhere in the Welsh valley, used to invent pointless things such as ‘fishing nets for shoes’ Till now, when he sets up a Robot out of discarded mannequin heads and a washing machine as a body.
Please meet Charles Petrescu…
From the start Charlie is special, comes to life unexpectedly, and just like a child does exactly the opposite that he is told, try out things from the house (he makes for himself a funny costume out of paper) and of course like a GenZ he wants to discover the world. Extremely tall, ridiculous, clumsy, Charlie, inevitable conquer your heart.
The film also touches on the issue of how humans might react towards robots, reverting somehow the narrative that ‘only robots are bad’ – there are some villagers who want to kill Charlie. And humanity does have a track record of terrible behavior toward Others.
But, definitely, Brian and Charlie definitely raise questions in a graceful manner.

Director : Jim Archer
Screenwriters: David Earl, Chris Hayward
Principal Cast: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, Jamie Michie, Lowri Izzard, Mari Izzard ©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

#4 DUAL

©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

A terminally ill woman orders a clone of herself to comfort her family – it turns out not just that her family prefers that clone, but she has to fight it.
Satirical and absurd, it makes you question every minute “is this really happening?”.
The film presents a dark-comedy scenario where the people are left alone, unprotected. The outrageous situations unfold one after another, framed in a worrying ‘normality’ where nobody seems to have anymore the known human-values.
The mother doesn’t care if the clone replaces her daughter, to destroy your clone you have to fight it till the death in a show, it is ok that mistakes made by healthcare have no consequences, judges have no idea who is human anymore.
It is a description of an advanced society, where clones can be made in a few hours, but a society is left without any value, ethics or compassion.

Director &Screenwriter: Riley Stearns
Principal Cast: Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale ©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

And indeed it makes you ask: what can happen in a society that values only technological innovation and scientific advances, forgetting about…values?

#5 COSMOGONY

©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

A live digital performance that features dancers captured in Geneva and projected into 3D space in real time.
The dancers’ that embody different avatars will guide you through different spaces – from empty cities till the universe.
An exceptional contemporary dance performance, that blends technology, concept, electrifying music and colorful garments.

Director : Gilles Jobin
Principal Cast: Susana Panadès Diaz, Rudi van der Merwe, Jozsef Trefeli
©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Read Our dialogue with Gilles Jobin, the director and choreographer of Cosmogony, to discuss the process behind the performance, impact of the pandemic, the advantages and disadvantages of technology, but also about….what he expects in 300-400 years 🙂


LINK

#6 SEVEN GRAMS

©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

A former war correspondent and photojournalist, Karim Ben Khelifa has been experimenting with new ways of practicing journalism, using emerging media as a way to engage audiences.

After the success of VR experience The Enemy, Karim Ben Khelifa teams up once again with Lucid Reality’s executive producer Chloé Jarry. This time, using AR, you can witness the human cost that goes into producing smartphones in five chapters – 3 AR and 2 video materials.

©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The AR phone is remarkably smashed, so you can see each component. And each component is carefully analyzed.
Users will find out why each component is important from
(1) a technical point of view when they use the phone,
(2)what rare minerals contain and ways these minerals are obtained;
(3) And the human cost of it: abuse and human exploitation linked to mineral extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It highlights how the perfect scheme work: fancy advanced phones for the world, and Congo remains without minerals, but with poverty.
Besides the technical and cold-analysis carried out, you will have in the end also personal stories highlighted.
A ineffaceable experience, all chapters are a balanced blend between cold-rigorous analysis specific to investigative journalism and emotional storytelling, highlighting the personal aspect of systematic abuse.

Lead Artist and creator : Karim Ben Khelifa
Principal Cast: Corentin Fila, TK Russell

©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

And knowing all these, interestingly enough, the director chose to present the whole story… on the sc(re)ene of the crime – directly on your mobile phone. As if while you are watching, it would ‘force’ you to admit… ‘even, right now, we are all part of it’.

#7 WE MET IN VIRTUAL REALITY

It is the first documentary filmed inside VR, explores social VR, specifically VRChat, a universe where people interact and embody avatars.

Director and Creator: Joe Hunting
Featuring: Jenny VR, DustBunny VR, Toaster VR, IsYourBoi VR, DragonHeart VR
©Photo credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Directed, filmed, edited and written by Joe Hunting, the story examines new forms of human engagement, offering an array of relatable experiences and discussions about identity, love, gender, disability, or trauma.
Read our review here

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