FLIP **** New Zealand 2019 Dir: Jessica Grace Smith. 13 mins
Funded by the New Zealand Film Commission through its “Fresh Shorts” program, this Wellington-shot film unfolds fifty years in the future where prisoners are barcoded and subjected to retinal scans and a mother named Flip (played by writer-director Jessica Grace Smith) and daughter named Plug (Mia Van Oyen) are imprisoned in what amounts to a large storage box in a refugee compound in the desert. The young girl is “transitioning” and a growling, monstrous figure nicknamed The Helmet (Shane Rangi) pays regular visits to feed on Flip’s blood, violating her while her daughter looks on. A grim, dystopian riff on ROOM, this throws us into the bleak daily routine for a sympathetic parent and child duo, complete with a child who talks of the “big wide blue” of the outside world. Mum and daughter are empathetically played by Smith and Oyen, who convey an unforced intimacy leading en route to an act of violent defiance that proves the film’s key turning point. It’s a vivid depiction of a horribly convincing future society, albeit one not entirely devoid of hope, and it has both clever use of visual FX and a dynamic score by Steve Toulmin that adds further production value.
Review by Steven West