Fantasia International Film Festival - In the last few decades, we have seen technology ramp up at an incredible rate. With this maddening pace of mechanization, we have reaped its benefits such as smartphones, high speed computers, faster Internet, and endless robotic entities. With the constant reliance on tech, the masses may come to the realization that it won’t be others that replace us, but something more bionic.
Double Helix, a short offering by Director Qiu Sheng, and an Official Selection in the 2021 Fantasia Fest, provides us an overture into a future dystopia where humans and cyborgs collide.
Yun and her brother Yuan are stowaways in the luggage compartment of a bus. They reach their destination which consists of a neglected and dilapidated schoolhouse. Yuan asks Yun what this place is, Yun replies, “This is a school. I used to study here...a long time ago.” As they walk around the empty schoolroom, Yun finds a seat and “turns herself off”. We then realize that Yun and Yuan are not human, and their robotic personas have roamed this land for decades.
Through a flashback, we understand how they have arrived in such a desolate place. Yun awakes from her sleep in her home when she hears music coming from a piano. Yun witnesses her “mother” Quingyun screaming and running around in the music room while Yuan continues to play the piano. When Quingyun blames herself for her immolation, her aggrieved husband Zhaoren attempts to punish Yuan. Yun, witnessing this strife, attempts to shield Yuan from her “father’s” discipline. While the punishment continues, it is revealed that Zhaoren is the creator of Yuan and Yun. When Yuan is turned off and brought to the lab by Zhaoren’s assistant Freiyu, he shows Yun the surveillance footage around the house. Through this footage, Freiyu reveals how Yuan was able to set fire to Quingyun. Yun, faced with the consequences of losing Yuan, must find a way to keep him “alive”.
Qiu Sheng paints gorgeous frames within a dysfunctional landscape of two robots and their attempts to co-exist and conform. It is a touching story of how two “siblings” struggle in a human world only to discover that they only have each other to love and care for.
The performances are outstanding with wonderful chemistry between Yun and Yuan as an artificial brother and sister as they grow closer with every interaction and adverse reaction. Zharoen is well drawn as the beleaguered father/creator figure.
With a short running time of about 26 minutes, it is a Sci-Fi short that eschews a linear structure and shows us many lurid scenes within its futuristic framework. If you are a maven of offbeat stories of robots versus humans in an apocalyptic landscape, then enter this brief venture.
Watch Double Helix and access other great films at the Fantasia International Film Festival here which runs through August 25, 2021.
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