I did my thesis on the science-fiction films of Andrei Tarkovsky. If that’s not a film nerd badge of honor, I don’t know what is. For those who don’t know Tarkovsky’s work, he was a filmmaker working in Soviet Russia in the 1960s through the 1980s. He made the original Solaris, which Steven Soderberg remade in the early aughts with George Clooney. He also made Stalker, which was recently turned into a video game (I’m not kidding). For all you filmmakers who think that getting notes from producers is painful, imagine getting them from the Communist Russia censor board.
Tarkovsky taught me a couple things about science fiction. Firstly, don’t dwell on the technology. Tarkovsky supposedly hated 2001: A Space Odyssey and made Solaris as a response, but he did take a page from Kubrick’s set design. As a result, Solaris is filled with flashing switchboards, computer ticker tape, and ’60s sleek hallways, something that probably seemed futuristic at the time, but now dates the film. You half expect Don Draper to walk in at any moment holding a martini and tell the switchboard girl to connect him to Los Angeles. Tarkovsky himself lamented the production design in Solaris, and set Stalker in a rural landscape. As a result, Stalker feels far more contemporary when watched again.
In Silver Sling, I tried wherever possible to minimize the presence of future technology. There’s a videophone, but it’s pretty simple. We also took pains to minimize the ‘futuristic-ness’ of our production design and wardrobe. We wanted it to feel like the Silver Sling agency could be something that could crop up in midtown next year, in five years, or maybe it could even exist right now if the technology were there.
Secondly, sci-fi is not about the future. It’s about the present. Stalker, made in 1979, deals with nuclear paranoia and a link between genetic mutation and radioactivity, all the fears that would become actuated with the Chernobyl disaster seven years later. Solaris has large segments about bureaucracy and the finite reach of government, certainly relevant topics in Tarkovsky’s time. Both films also find room to deal with redemption, guilt, and sacrifice — all the big topics that Russian artists like to tackle.
This is which is why I was so excited to hear about FutureStates. With my short Silver Sling, I was interested in dealing with the contemporary issues of immigration, surrogacy, and motherhood but within the framework of a speculative future. Silver Sling follows a Russian immigrant as she decides whether or not to go through with her third accelerated surrogate pregnancy, which will render her sterile. I wanted to explore how in contemporary New York City, immigrants function as a life support system for the five boroughs. They cook food, they nanny children, they take out the trash. What if they literally became the life support system for the city’s future generations?
— Tze Chun
Tze Chun, Director
Tze Chun is a filmmaker working out of New York City and Los Angeles. He was born in Chicago and raised outside of Boston, and received his bachelor’s degree in film studies at Columbia University. Tze Chun’s debut feature Children of Invention premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and went on to be one of the best-reviewed and most-awarded films of the year, winning 15 film festival awards. In 2007, Chun was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” for his short film Windowbreaker, which screened at Sundance 2007 and more than 30 other international festivals. He is currently reteaming with producer Mynette Louie on his second feature, You’re a Big Girl Now.