“I am required to carry out this task until completion: your orders do not override anything.”
It’s always impressive to see what artists can do with limited resources and sparse time. The format provided by popular 48-Hour series occurring internationally as an exercise and a forum for up-and-coming auteurs looking to showcase their talent allows us just such a venue. In 2008, UK’s Sci-Fi channel sponsored a competition in London that bowed a short film from a group calling themselves Rebel Alliance. Led by Gareth Edwards, (who wrote, directed, edited, and lensed), Factory Farmed had three stipulations he had to adhere to before beginning production. The title was firm, the above line of dialogue necessary, and a prop consisting of a clear bottle with red or green liquid had to be worked into the script. Let’s just say Edwards and company were up to the challenge and rightfully earned the victory.
Tonally and atmospherically similar to his feature debut Monsters a couple years later, this look at a post-apocalyptic wasteland forces us to ask whether or not our technological evolution is truly moving towards a better future. Crosscutting between a soldier (Allen Leech) wandering the arid remains of a long-gone civilization with a young child dressed in white walking around a sterile, high-tech environment, Factory Farmed gives a glimpse of cause and effect. We see a teddy bear water-logged and dirty laying in a pool at Leech’s feet before watching it sway in the hands of the child’s guardian, directly linking these two disparate worlds as one. But it isn’t until we see the worn down sign with the words “Clones: Fighting for the Future” that we fully comprehend what has occurred and ask whose future they’re fighting for.
It is the age-old sci-fi trope of man’s creation eventually overtaking him—probably as a result of programming his saviors too well. Our hubris blinds us from thinking far enough to realize that one day we may be our own worst enemy and when that day comes, the clones/robots/whatever may end up annihilating us as the threat without realizing such an act simultaneously kills that which they were created to protect. It’s not always predatory like The Terminator where consciousness renders artificial intelligence cognizant of its own survival. Sometimes the task simply continues to be performed despite changing climates and circumstances. And by the time anyone realizes the error, that future we had hoped to sustain becomes nothing more than an empty planet ripe with extinction by our own hands.
Such an insight is my personal interpretation with yours—or Edwards’ for that matter—possibly being completely different, but that opaqueness is exactly what successful sci-fi possesses. The film becomes less about easy answers or linear plot and more about the essence of emotional and psychological connection to engage us as participants rather than voyeurs. So we soak up the details Edwards sprinkles throughout from the data stream of fatalities (0 humans, 366,842 clones) to the differing locales to the reveal of our survivor’s search. We ask whether we’re building a world for the things we leave behind or ourselves. Mankind’s quest for immortality conversely uncovers the quickest path to our eradication as our frailty deteriorates in direct proportion to the speed at which our creations grow stronger.