The indie sci-fi short film Emotional Motor Unit recently captured the prize for Best Sci-Fi Film at the Golden Gate International Film Festival, an award added to its growing collection that includes Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director at the IndieWise Virtual Film Festival and nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Actor at London's Short Pole International Film Festival. Directed by Adam Nelson, Emotional Motor Unit tells the story of a lonely writer, played with quiet curiosity by Graham Cawte, who lives in a time where emotional expression and civil rights have been surrendered in favor of an extreme devotion to productivity and work.
"Writer" has been tasked with what is essentially an exercise for productivity only, the writing of a work of fiction that requires he possess a familiarity with what it means to be "human." To gain this familiarity, he is allowed the presence of an E.M.U., an Emotional Motor Unit, that will help him acquire material for his new work.
Emotional Motor Unit, though somewhat familiar in terms of subject matter, is enveloped in a sci-fi authenticity with a world that has been turned into what could easily be described as an even more sci-fi, sterilized version of Pleasantville minus anything, well, actually pleasant. Dagmar Scheibenreif's lensing is jarring in the way that it embraces this plainness, a plainness that only begins to gain some semblance of expression through the faces that the Writer encounters as the film progresses.
Imraan Husain's original score almost sounds like hollowed out wind chimes, an effect that is chilling with an isolative quality that reverberates throughout the film.
Francesca Burgoyne is mesmerizing as the E.M.U., an artificial presence brought vividly to artificial life in a way that is quietly vulnerable yet bathed in a tranquility and soft sensuality that compels this Writer experiencing something beyond logic for the first time. It's a difficult combination, but both Cawte and Burgoyne nicely portray the weaving together of these two worlds.
Emotional Motor Unit is a compelling film precisely because director Adam Nelson refuses to soften the impact of living in such a world and also refuses to overindulge the Writer's senses once his world begins to experience change. The result is a quieter sci-fi short, an intelligent experience about life beyond our intelligence and productivity.
For more information on the film, visit Emotional Motor Unit's Facebook page and be sure to watch for it at a film festival near you.