Not all of the women in these new sci-fi and fantasy shorts — be they astronauts, fighter pilots, ambitious office workers, criminals, or just regular folks dealing with complicated emotions and surreal situations — are heroes. But isn’t life more interesting that way?
1) Rendezvous With Mars
Divya More and Mayukh Goswami created this animated film (shared online by Dust) about a woman whose mind drifts back to her childhood in Bombay — including a mind-blowing visit to a planetarium with her parents — as she’s realising her long-held ambition of blasting off into outer space.
Another tale of a space-minded woman, this gorgeously shot Vimeo Staff Pick from Nuotama Frances Bodomo explores the very real Zambia Space Academy and its late-1960s goal of sending an astronaut (and a pair of cats) to the moon. Though Afronauts is styled as an experimental film, many of the facts it incorporates — like that Zambia’s chosen explorer was a teenage girl (played here by the stunning Diandra Forrest) — are absolutely true, and fascinating.
3) Alpha Squadron
This Short of the Week selection was sent to Gizmodo by filmmaker Michael Lukk Litwak, whose work we’ve featured before. Of all the films in this list, it’s the most (but not totally) dude-centric, but it’s so well-done we didn’t want to leave it out.
It transforms the simple sci-fi set-up of space pilots chatting over the radio into a poignant but funny reflection on the loneliness that comes after friendships drift apart — as well as the importance of being open to making unexpected new connections.
4) Nature Planet: Staffer Duel
Filmmaker Michael Sime shared this two-minute short that’s styled as, in his words, an “animated nature mockumentary about a herd of people in desk chairs, two of which take each other on for the role of Boss.” The deadpan narration is spot-on, as is its depiction of passive-aggressive (until it’s time to get aggressive-aggressive) office politics.
Dust called our attention to this short about a futuristic prison — where criminals serve time in simulations that aim to rehabilitate them — from writer-director Nicholas Tucker. Alice, who’s doing time for armed robbery, seems to be a lost-cause sociopath; in fact, if anything she’s gotten worse. But her lonely “parole technician” can’t get her out of his head, in real life or his own virtual-reality pursuits.
6) Lucy’s Tale
Filmmaker Chelsea Lupkin describes Lucy’s Tale as “a female-led story about a teen coming into her womanhood while simultaneously coming into her villainhood” — and indeed, it’s kind of reminiscent of a modern-day Carrie (complete with social-media bullying), but with a quirky fantasy element and some truly unsettling practical effects.
A few years ago, we shared Cidney Hue’s short Odessa, about an astronaut who spends a strange yet lovely night on Earth shortly before departing for deep space. Hue’s latest, Ovum, is far more eerie in tone, offering a near-future scenario in which invasive technology is forced upon a woman facing a major life decision.
8) In Full Bloom
From writer-director Maegan Houang (via Short of the Week), this live-action and animated fantasy takes place in the plant-stuffed home of a recent widow, whose grief transforms her life in strange ways — especially after she introduces some very unusual worms into her potted plants.