Sci Fi London 2020 – Shorts (part 4 of 4)

SciFi London 2020 had a selection of 41 excellent short films this year. Check out my reviews for shorts 31-41.


SPACE CLEANERS

Directed by Marco Hülser, this short was about the day in a life the team responsible for clearing and monitoring space space debris! Sort of like garbage people, but in SPACE! It’s shot in a docu style, so I genuinely don’t know if this is real or not… Can someone tell me?! The docu interviews various people in the organisation in operations and films their day to day and the difficulties of clearing items that don’t send a signal back to them, pinpointing their position. It’s filmed at a real satellite base and shows them monitoring items which pose substantial risk if they were to hit earth, as well as collision avoidance manoeuvres for changing satellites courses to avoid debris. It reminds us all that this debris may not pose a massive problem now, but later down the line, this is an environmental problem over decades, one we should be aware is a problem. Really interesting to watch. I’m guessing it’s real but if not, totally valid points.

STRENGTH TEST

Directed by Liu Yixuan, Jin Lilai, Shen Leyi, this short is an adaption from a novel of the same name. It’s an animation about a robot virus, and the robots attack people in a train carriage and then store them by their necks because it’s safest… I think that this is a student film but I thought the animation will date quite badly. Also was really confused about what was actually happening, so I’m sure if the above is the wrong interpretation. I personally didn’t enjoy this film.

THE HARBOUR

Directed by Sam Ainsworth, this short follows two partners Fred and Joe doing a VR property viewing. They drink an unusual blue tea concoction which seems to drug and transport them to a different part of the country and they’re taken to view “their new lives” at Number 1 The Harbour. The architect has designed the perfect house of his dreams and talks of “adjustments” they will need to make. It is clear that the adjustments he talks of would involve them leaving their real lives to stay there (or that’s my impression). They are told they can leave at any point but once they own it, not even the Architect can touch it, but none of it is real… Joe agrees but there’s a catch. Odd film. The twist at the end, I just wonder what the consequences of them agreeing to the house is to their real human forms which isn’t explored. Otherwise strange take on virtual worlds. The soundtrack is curious and ominous.

THE IMMORTAL

Directed by Carl Firth, this short explores the topic of everlasting life. After his dad dies suddenly, the protagonist seeks the key to immortality and finds it. This film shows technology as it advances and society crumbles, the loves in his life grow old and die, but he’s still there. Eventually the sun expands, engulfing earth and he’s just out there floating in space… The ending is just really sad. I think we all think sometimes we do want to live forever, but between this and The Good Place, I think just a bit longer would be enough for me.. Amazing CGI. It’s all about the visual effects really. Just go watch it. Well acted. Really good concept. Check it out.

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH

CN: rape / Directed by April Phillips, this film is about a vaccine which eradicates birth defects. Two years late, following a massive pandemic which causes human’s bodies to attack themselves, Annie is the sole survivor broadcasting a message to others in a hope to find people out there. There’s some references in there to I am Legend with the mannequin, when she wakes up asking them “why didn’t you wake me?!” She reveals that she was visited by a disabled man named Max (he has down syndrome) who she has locked away thinking him a threat. Her message reaches a pig of a man named Carter who threatens to rape her at gunpoint and the disabled man literally saves her life from him, not that she deserves it after chaining him up. He then walks away… The message, which the woman says at the end is that “nobody’s perfect”. I have really mixed feelings about this film. It’s one of only two films in the whole festival that has a disabled person that I could see (the other being Logan Lee’s mum who is in a wheelchair) but seeing this story was kind of disappointing. One part of me is like yay the message, and yay a down syndrome actor… like how often does that happen… but the fact that this character is treated so badly, I really don’t like seeing him subjected that way. In that moment, he is a victim and I guess the end of the film that definition changes and he becomes a hero so that’s amazing. But also can disabled people just be cast in normal-ass roles where they’re not polarised as victims or a threat? Where the fact that they are disabled is not a talking point for your movie, it’s not some bigger teaching moment for able bodied people but just one part of a spectrum that makes them who they are…. This is not necessary specifically a gripe about this movie being made because it’s amazing even if I do have these mixed feelings, but it’s about the industry not writing real characters for disabled people as a whole tbh. Come on peeps. We can do better.

THE RECEPTION

Directed by Sean Peter Sakamoto, this short film has some famous faces and follows the story of two men who are hiding in a bunker following a militia attack on the eve of their son’s wedding. They bond over their love for them as the bombs close in on them. Not much to this story but it’s just a story about the love of their two gay sons and just love in general. Wonderful piece. Seems like it’s a piece of theatre rather than film.

THE SECOND HEARING

Directed by Stuart Black and Nick Mather, this short is set in a futuristic prison where the prisoner Graham attends an AI hearing which re-enacts his crime and tries to determine if he would re-offend. In the process, his parole is denied. Not much to it really. Great visual effects, simple concept. It’s an okay film. I didn’t find the story that interesting tbh.

THE SNATCHER

Directed by Christopher McGill, this short film is based in a draconian dystopia. Two families are competing head to head on a TV show called The Snatcher. The questions reveal the dark state that the UK has dwindled into and the game is rigged to punish those who need help the most. It’s a pretty great social commentary in the theme of televised Hunger Games-esque, and leaves you feeling really un-satisfied, by which I mean this is intentional and a byproduct of it having been written really well.. The ending is like a kick in the stomach.

UTOPIA

Directed by Kosta Nikas, this short film is about Utopia, Australia. Police no longer exist as anyone can fine anyone else for breaking the rules by taking a picture of a crime (for a commission). There are cameras in every room and things like drinking, smoking etc is illegal or fineable. Think Demolition man when Sylvester Stalone got out of cryogenic freezing, but Aussie plus totalitarianism. Apparently bathrooms are the only free space which isn’t monitored. Nice concept. Tying in our obsession with our phones was a cool touch, and the ending was a nice twist.

WE CHOOSE TO GO

Directed by Marlene Emilia Rios, this short film centres around protagonist Angie who is woken by Nova (a spaceship’s computer) from cryogenic freezing. She is on board The Horizon which has been drifting directionless for 63 years. The remainder of her crew are not showing any vital signs, and she is the lone survivor; the odds of her survival are extremely slim. The footage is intersected with memories of the romantic partner she left behind on Earth; the project was only supposed to be for 10 years. It was an okay film. The CGI was great, I liked the look of the ship. The story was really simple. I think that Angie would have massively regretted not going if she had stayed, and probably would have resented her partner. So the fact that it’s called ‘we choose to go’ is apt. Would she have still chosen to go had she known the challenges she would face? Probably not right but I don’t feel like the shots of her partner are a sign of regret, but something bittersweet. Anyway, yeah it was an okay film. Love seeing a lead protagonist woman in space!  

ZWART

Directed by Tommie Geraedts, this short features a guy trying to buy tickets for Comicon and being subjected to security checks of a sexual nature which become intrusive pop ups. The ending reveals how little privacy society is now afforded… I’m not sure how I felt about it. Visual effects were decent. I’m just a bit bored of sexualising women in sci fi films rn after so many sex robots and all that… Sure the lead woman in the book was also reading Fifty shades of grey (which is a problematic text in the first place) but no men are visually sexualised. It’s not like he has to do a bunch of security checks of willies haha. I’m just a bit done with it, and I know I’m not the only one.

Thanks to all the creators for making and bringing these shorts to SciFi London 2020. I believe these shorts are no longer available to watch but do seek them out. My particular faves and the ones that impacted me the most from this lot were: The last man on earth and Space Cleaners (special mentions to The Immortal for its CGI and The Snatcher particularly for it’s impactful ending).

Hope you got something from these shorts reviews. I did, so many different ideas this year and lots to consider! As usual, my opinions are just that and I would never tell someone not to watch something if I don’t like it. That’s REALLY not my jam so please go watch these and please tell me what YOU thought because I want those conversations.

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