We here at Motherboard are thrilled to present the debut of Connected, a short film directed by Luke Gilford, starring Pamela Anderson and Dree Hemingway, and narrated by Jane Fonda.
Set in a stark, occasionally ominous near-future, Connected marks a major departure for the world's most famous sex symbol: Anderson turns in a raw, brave performance as a beauty queen who's aging under the harsh glow of her screens and feeds, drifting from her followers, friends, and family, and desperately seeking, yes, connection.
She plays Jackie, an AuraCycle workout instructor who performs for an online audience and listens to self-help podcasts (voiced by Fonda) that promise eternal life in a fast-approaching new world. Jackie heads to a wellness retreat that's both cultishly out-there and eerily verisimilar to improve her connectivity, where—okay, just watch it yourself.
It's short, but fully-imagined, skeptically speculative, and finely textured. It's a future you can feel in your gut, which is exactly the kind we like to traffic in, both in video, in editorial, and on Terraform, our ongoing speculative fiction venture. After Luke screened the film for me last year, I immediately felt it'd be a perfect fit. So, after we helped premiere the film IRL at a packed screening at Milk in Hollywood last week, we're launching Connected onto the web.
Gilford, who at 29 is already an acclaimed fashion photographer, packs an awful lot into his 10-minute short, which was produced by Cadence Films. Most scenes are ensconced in sleek blues, greens, and whites, an aesthetic that conjures a vision of chilly, isolated future. And Anderson is front and center throughout, often the only figure on screen, melancholy and cracking at the seams.
Luke calls his short a "portrait of a woman grappling with aging, self-perception and transformation in a technologically optimized world." In the only scene when Anderson, now 48, does bare her flesh, she does so to take stock of it, and, apparently, its ephemerality. It makes for a powerful scene that Anderson said she was terrified to shoot. During a Q+A at the screening moderated by Motherboard's own Claire Evans, Anderson said that above all, for her, the film was about creating empathy for women in Jackie's situation.
Then there's the title. "Connected" is one of the most generic, but most loaded, buzzwords still in circulation, and for a reason. The notion that information technology is increasingly connecting our lives, for better and worse, is a rudiment of the web 1.0—and the term remains coded with both utopian and dystopian tones. Connectivity promises closeness and efficiency, yet threatens to render us vulnerable and superficial. We see both potentialities playing out, at once, in Gilford's film.
Like most good science fiction, the film uses the future as a mirror to refract the present: Today, given the never-ending cascade of new social media apps and the centrality of the old ones, connectedness is like an assumption everything else is built on. Which may be why we're seeing a new wave of fictions that explore the future trajectories of this trend; Channel 4's surprise hit series Black Mirror is mostly obsessed with the question of connection, and how technology accelerates and warps the way we relate to each other. Spike Jones' Her wonders how connected we can become to software.
Gilford's short film, I think, belongs in this conversation. It's a cunningly ambivalent, powerfully open-ended statement. It might also just be the beginning; he keeps telling me that the plan was to develop Connected into a feature-length film. I, for one, would keep watching.