CALEB transports audiences into a not-so-distant future with a thoughtful and relevant sci-fi short that deals with the morality of ever-advancing technology and its effect on family and relationships. Filmmakers Amanda Mesaikos and Susanne Aichele explain, “We decided to explore dynamics that lie at the heart of a family and the effects of technology as it hurtles us into the future”.
Caleb (played by both James and William Hall) decides to 3D print himself in order to create a friend to help ward off bullies, which in turn creates a moral dilemma for his parents, both of whom are victims to a world of digital natives: which has ultimately created a disjointed and uncommunicative family unit. Peppered with futuristic touches, CALEB charts the evolution of handheld technology, bioengineering and fashion trends with well-poised performances that give a sense of a realistic future.
Both boys share identical memories and experiences…
Although the family has embraced the modern world, there is still an element of the traditional: Spanish language post-it notes clutter the kitchen, shuffling through papers in bed, a home cooked meal. “We wanted our film to still feel grounded in a world recognisable to us,” say Mesaikos and Aichele. The deliberate 1970’s EPA-inspired colour grade adds a touch of nostalgia: “we wanted to create this sort of hazy dream-like space between past and future. Something between a dream and a nightmare.” Current events have been thoughtfully evolved into an imagined future. Hints towards diminishing green spaces, over-development and similar realistic issues and trends are subtly interwoven within the narrative, which makes CALEB a refreshing and honest contribution to the science fiction genre.
As well as confronting issues surrounding a technology-ruled existence, this film goes even deeper, exploring society’s stereotypical view of motherhood as Caleb’s mother, Sonia (Elizabeth Healy) knows they must choose between both sons. “We do feel it’s important to challenge the way we view motherhood and fatherhood but also how, on an individual level, be it for men or women, parenthood will challenge your views and decisions,” say the filmmakers. Both boys share identical memories and experiences but are individually affected by their surroundings. This raises questions surrounding what makes us human, what makes us unique and whether both children are as human as each other due to their different reactions to the world around them.
Caleb, complete with its indirect Orwellian undertones, raises questions about the possible consequences that come with a society dominated by technology and if that is something humankind is ready for. Mesaikos and Aichele’s film sits on the fence and offers a diplomacy in its approach to technology and society. Although a world rich in advanced technology seems to be a major player in causing the character’s familial dislocation, it also becomes the very thing that brings them closer together.
CALEB will screen at the Reel Women short film event on 26 January at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse.