For every glossy and well polished science fiction vignette of a clean and glorious future, there’s another writer out there who likes their fiction black with no sugar. That’s exactly the kind of rough cut and gritty world that film maker Stu Willis paints a picture of in his short film, Payload.
I don’t generally blog about films here, and perhaps I should more often. This particular film, though, holds a certain fascination for me. I’d heard it discussed on a few science blogs before that someone was producing a short film set in the shadow of a space elevator, and the film itself is nothing short of stunning.
This film is about the people who the future has left behind. A towering space elevator – a lift to carry passengers and cargo directly to orbit – serves as the backdrop for a place full of crime, corruption, and violence. The juxtaposition of such a glittering accomplishment of human engineering, with a lifestyle where bribery, self sacrifice, and fighting are necessary purely to survive is particularly poigniant. And even while this dystopian hell is going on, all the while there’s the tantalisingly close means of escape. A way of quite literally climbing to safety.
But what might be at the top of this towering climbing rope into orbit? That question is allowed to remain open, leaving the words “she never came back” to echo in your mind. As with any good short film, Payload is like looking at a handful of someone else’s old photographs. It leaves you with a burning desire to know more about this strange little world.
Payload pulls no punches. It depicts a grim and depressing reality which makes you look again at the world around us and question how likely a dark and seedy future like this really is. Excellent and powerful viewing.
I’ve embedded the film here. If you can spare 18 minutes to watch it, I’d heartily recommend that you do!