Wednesday, August 10, 2011

RIIFF: Digital Antiquities (short)

Remember CD long boxes? Pretty soon even the disks themselves will be little more than coasters. In another twenty five years, it will be a tricky proposition to get data from such outdated storage units. However, there is a woman in off-the-beaten-path Pennsylvania who specializes in such archaic techy work in J.P. Chan’s Digital Antiquities, the best of the recent season of ITVS’s Futurestates project, which also screens conventionally this Saturday at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.
Cat’s business largely caters to an aging clientele, who still remember CDs when they were relatively new. Kai is not such a customer. He happens to be a young unemployed credit risk, but he is determined to find out what is on his father’s old disk. Still, Kai has come to the right place, if he can appeal to Cat’s better nature.

As it happens, Cat’s storefront was built over a high tech dumping ground, which she periodically scavenges (illegally, in the still over-regulated future) to fulfill her customers’ orders. Despite its limited running time (and budget, presumably), this network of tunnels through the obsolete electronic graveyard is one of the best science fiction sets seen on-screen this year, rendered quite inventively by Chan and production designer Tom Soper. Chan also shows a nice touch with the material, ultimately implying the big twist (most viewers will be guessing) rather than bluntly hammering it home.

Jo Mei, the star of several of Chan’s previous shorts, makes a great cyberpunk heroine here. (Indeed, she is also very good in Chan’s a bit too David Lynchy I Don’t Sleep I Dream, which played AAIFF two years ago.) She is convincingly smart, tough, and rather attractive in a Lisbeth Salander kind of way.

Frankly, Digital is intelligently executed in nearly every respect. It is definitely recommended viewing from the convenience of your laptop and screens the old school way this Saturday (8/13).