Sci-Fi Shorts: Out There

The Survivor of The Hippocampus (Le rescapé de l'hippocampe)

Space. The final frontier. To boldly go where no short filmmaker has gone before…I was looking forward to this collection of sci-fi shorts for two reasons. First was to see the sort of kitschy retro-camp stuff where the effects and costumes are crappy on purpose. But secondly, I wanted to see if some of these directors could use the limitations of the short film format to explore some idea about the future in an interesting way. I’m happy that this programme came through on both fronts.

  • Die Schneider Krankheit (11 minutes, Spain, Director: Javier Chillon): I had higher hopes for this film, a mock 50s short filmed in propagandistic style. A spaceship crashes in West Germany with a chimpanzee astronaut aboard. He quickly infects the whole country with a strange virus, which changes life for everyone. The fact that it’s made to look like a German film though actually made by Spaniards may have diffused some of the impact, as we heard the Spanish narrator dubbing the German soundtrack, with English subtitles as well. Some great visuals, though (and not a frame of archival footage, though it all looks archival). (Official site with trailer, poster and even lobby cards.) (7/10)
  • Civilian (4 minutes, USA, Director: Seaton Lin): Based on real interviews with a woman who claimed to be abducted by aliens, this short film focuses too much on portraying the act of hypnotizing her and not enough on what she claims to have seen. Far too short to be memorable, even with such compelling subject matter. (See the whole film here.) (6/10)
  • Marooned? (15 minutes, USA, Director: Ryan Nagata): Filmed in Death Valley, Marooned? got quite a few laughs with its story about a live-action roleplaying game that goes very wrong. Michael McCafferty is well-cast as the middle-aged sci-fi nerd who hires a couple of guys to play in the desert with him before a knock on the head has him wondering if he really is stranded on an alien planet. (Official site) (8/10)
  • Star Games (3 minutes, UK, Director: Jasmin Jodry): Stunningly choreographed gymnasts and divers are combined with archival footage of zeppelins and Art Deco New York to create a gorgeous narrative of athletes becoming literal stars. (Watch the whole film here.) (9/10)
  • The Attack of The Robots From Nebula-5 (El ataque de los robots de nebulosa-5) (7 minutes, Spain, Director: Chema García Ibarra): A mentally disturbed man believes that a robot invasion is imminent. His attempts to warn his family are futile, mostly because his drawings of the invaders are so childish. A great mixture of sweetness and menace, with great deadpan narration from the misunderstood messenger of doom. (Official site) (8/10)
  • The Survivor of The Hippocampus (Le rescapé de l’hippocampe) (13 minutes, France, Director: Julien Lecat): French chanteuse Juliette Noureddine (above, left) is brilliantly cast as a madam who enters her friend’s brain on his request to delete the memory of his brother. Wildly inventive on a tiny budget and extremely short production schedule (the film was created for a contest). (Official site) (9/10)
  • 2000: A Documentary Science Fiction (7 minutes, Bulgaria, Director: Andrey Paounov): From the director of quirky doc The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories comes this pseudo-doc, supposedly made in 1973 by the members of a metalworks’ cinema club in Communist Bulgaria. Its view of the year 2000 is charmingly off-kilter, featuring intermarriage between humans and robots, and families of space explorers. Certainly loses something outside of Eastern Europe, where its satire would feel sharper. (7/10)
  • Cold and Dry (Tørt og kjølig) (12 minutes, Norway, Director: Kristoffer Joner): Essentially a thought exercise: what would happen if we could freeze-dry people and revive them in the future? Scientist Torstein thinks he’s helping society by freezing the criminally insane, the sick and the old, reasoning that surely society will be able to help these people in the future. But soon, freezing begins to appeal to anyone with a problem that can be solved in the future; that is, everyone. Smart and lean. (9/10)
  • Postman Returns (3 minutes, Netherlands, Director: Mischa Rozema): So short as to be essentially plotless and characterless, this animated short nevertheless pushes the boundaries of whatever type of 3-D rendering software was used to create it. (Watch the whole film here.) (8/10)
  • Captain Coulier (Space Explorer) (13 minutes, Canada, Director: Lyndon Casey): Inspired, according to the director, by Canadian winters, this campy space sitcom felt like being trapped in a van with four of your friends driving across the prairies. The humour is as spontaneous as the sniping is inevitable, but it’s all hilarious. Purposely cheesy art direction serves the overall goal of portraying an inadequate spaceship crew whose captain struggles with his own, um, inadequacy. (Official site) (9/10)
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