Cosmic Candy [2020, SciFi London 2020]

“You must not do the things I do…”


Cosmic Candy almost didn’t happen due to budget constraints but I’m so glad it did. This film – a first time feature film for director Rinio Dragasaki – follows protagonist Anna. She works in a supermarket which stocks a product called ‘Cosmic Candy’ which is “a potent version of Space Dust/Pop Rocks that sends its user into a dreamlike, hallucinogenic state”. In real life, Anna’s world is drab and seems to be orderly which is illustrated beautifully through the almost militarily organised shelves at the shop and the shelves in her home, but behind the curtain Anna is spiralling. She cannot function in real life without some sort of drug.

One day her whole world is turned upside down by a young girl called Persa who has been abandoned by her father. He has supposedly told her he will be back for her. Anna is faced with caring for this child who pulls her more and more to reality and brings to the light her idiosyncrasies.

I really liked Anna’s character. She was a pretty complicated, dysfunctional person who just wasn’t capable of dealing with normality and had this childlike personality. You could imagine that she was a teenager and not a 30-something year old but she is also capable of change, and that’s what is so refreshing about her character. I noticed that as the film progressed you see that the shelves and the tidiness around Anna gets more chaotic as she unravels, and I really liked that device.

The visuals for this film are really really good. It’s trippy and vibrant and shows you the inner workings of Anna’s mind while she is on Cosmic Candy. However, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. There’s this repeated paranoia element within the trippyness, which if you have taken drugs and had a bad trip you will probably recognise. There are multiple moments in the film where Anna is at the centre of a larger audience’s ridicule, i.e. pointing, laughing and so on, but it seems like it’s probably all in her mind. It’s definitely the stuff that nightmares are made of, and seems to stem from this thing of wanting to be accepted when in reality she is kind of a loner (though some of that may be of her own choosing).

I liked the inclusion of (I think???) Debussy’s music through these weird celestial keyboard sounds which perfectly matches the trippy vibe of the movie. I also enjoyed the mix of ethereal, theramin sounds, and then also the very quaint, fun pop and electro songs, like the one about french toast, or computer song with its lyrics “I program my feelings away”. Computer humour snarf! 🙂 I see what you did there!!!

I noticed what might be an Easter Egg but I wasn’t able to ask the Director this. There is one scene where Anna is at her home. This is after she starts to spiral. I noticed a spinning tractricoid toy, like the ones in the film Inception. In Inception, the device is used so that protagonists can determine whether they are in reality or if they are in a dream (within a dream within a dream). If the toy doesn’t fall like gravity dictates, they know they are in a dream state and indeed in Cosmic Candy, you don’t see it fall, so I felt like that was a device to illustrate the dreamlike state that Anna was in. Its inclusion whether intentional or not made me really second guess if any of it was real as the story progressed. Maybe Anna was in a dream the whole time? Maybe the girl wasn’t real? Maybe the girl… dun dun daaaa WAS HERSELF?!

The film cascades with the ending sequence where Persa is due to act in a school play. The play is about Manto Mavrogenous, who was a revolutionary Greek commander and a woman (yeehar!!) so there are definite Feminist messages in the film. For those who don’t know, Manto was part of a secret society called Filiki Eteria which was a movement attempting to overrun the Ottoman empire which massacred the Greeks. I was really psyched to see this featured in the movie for my own personal reasons. My dad is Black (half Trinidadian/half Chinese) but my mum is actually Greek. Her heritage is of the Pontic Greeks who emigrated from the mainland to a mountainous region to the North of what is now Turkey called Pontus. Over many centuries of the Ottoman rule, Greeks were forced to leave Pontus to neighbouring countries for safety and things came to a head in the first world war where Pontic Greeks were taken from Pontus and ritually massacred or forced to take part in something called a ‘Death March’, which is where you are made to walk to concentration camps and those who have died along the way are left. My own great grandmother and grandmother (and her siblings) were actually caught in the middle of this but managed to escape from what would have been certain death, apparently into a forest and from there into mainland Greece (and similarly my great grandfather and grandfather escaped eastward to Georgia). So the strength that they sing of about the fierceness of Greek women in this story is something that I feel very strongly in my own family history, and Anna definitely channels that strength for herself. Brava! Anyways, I digress.

So all in all, I really enjoyed this film. I wasn’t sure at first what made it sci fi but then any world which would legalise hallucinogenics must be an alternate reality (lol). It’s such a compelling story, with this underlying unease like something is very wrong and the visuals blew my MIND. Check it out!

You can watch Cosmic Candy here, but you will need to buy a film or festival pass.

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Mirror Human [2020, SciFi London 2020]

“Please remember me…”


There is a LOT going on in this film and I feel like I didn’t do it justice watching it (my concentration wasn’t 100% in it), so I think I need to re-watch this.

This film follows three different interlocking stories around genetically modified replicas/androids called Transcendants. Their lives are tragically short and it explores their complicated stories. From the offset we find out that the world is quite barren and that these androids have been created with excellent genes for a variety of reasons, but at some point they become unacceptable to human society and the Mirror project (which is what they are called) is suspended.

There’s this evident sense of otherness for the Transcendants compared to humans. At one point someone says that they are “the epitome of the human condition”, that they are “not like us” and they are not capable of loving in the way that humans do. However, we see very quickly that they definitely are, for instance through Xiao-Sun (the Boxer) and Tien’s relationship which is so endearing. The interesting thing about Xiao-Sun as well is that as the android, he is totally being used by the system/the man as a form of entertainment for the masses. You see him being physically beaten for others’ financial gain and it’s obvious from this that Transcendants are considered the lowest of the low. Like they’re disposable.

The film explores what it is to be human. There’s one part of the film where one of the androids says “once you have a name, you can call yourself human” (the androids are assigned numbers) and that sentence really made me think is that the only thing that sets us apart? Perhaps it’s the self awareness of our identities? I was reading recently about why we can’t remember the first years of our lives (don’t ask me why, I just was!) and that our earliest memories don’t start to form until approximately three onwards. I believe it’s the New Zealand Maori who have the earliest record of childhood memories which is something like from 2.5 years old onwards, and that’s simply because their culture places importance on indigenous and family history. There’s this theory in all of this that our memories only form when we have the language to do so, that memories are connected to language and not feelings/emotions and so when I heard them say the sentence about humanity and your name, it reminded me of that theory. Because having a name is more than about identity, it’s about connection to memories and history and kin and collectivity. This is the rabbit hole I went down having watched this film…

Liang (who calls himself the delivery driver) and his best friend Jay who is an android have a great dynamic which I enjoyed. Jay says that he has perfect genes yet he cannot beat Liang in a race, and Liang says that fear of death is what pushes him to drive faster. I feel like this is something that you see in sports people a lot. In order to compete at the highest level, to run your fastest, swim your farthest and so on, you have to feel like you are putting everything of yourself into it. Like you are pushing your body to the absolute limit so that idea definitely resonated. Perhaps androids aren’t capable of doing that, or perhaps it’s that the Transcendants sole desire is to live so why would they push that far (to the point of imminent death)? Also, such a cute little Star Wars reference (BB8) through the little robot friend of Liang’s.

I enjoyed the soundtrack which was lead by very elegant piano bits and it swung between very whimsical and then super determined sounding.

There was one bit of the film which I didn’t quite understand, which was that at parts people were wearing breathing masks. When the Boxer died, they all turned to face the camera with these masks on and it was acknowledged that he was no longer alive. I might have missed that but I wasn’t sure what the ecological reason was behind that. Who were the people with the masks? Was the earth unlivable, or was it a specific area? And there was an unspeaking, smiling girl with pigtails handing out masks. Was she a Transcendant? What I got from that was that she was, and that her purpose was to sit in an area that would be harmful to breathe if you were human, but because she’s like this disposable android her job is to do just that and hand out masks. I might totally have my wires crossed about that though… I really wish that there was a Q&A for this film because I would have liked to question this.

So all in all, this film definitely gave me some things to think about but I’m not sure how I feel about the film. Nice soundtrack. I liked the concept. I found it a little too complicated for a single watching, so I’ll definitely need to watch it again. I liked the dynamics between the characters and I know I will be thinking about this film for a long while. Really polished film, seemed like it had high production values and I really felt the tragic nature of the android’s lives. If you have any thoughts, would love to hear from you readers!

Check out Mirror Human here. To watch it, you’ll need to buy a film or festival pass.

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