Plurality (2012)

US / 14 minutes / color / Traffik Dir: Dennis Liu Pr: Jonathan Hsu, Dennis Liu Scr: Ryan Condal Cine: Jon Chen Cast: Jeff Nissani, Samantha Strelitz, John Di Domenico, Wesli Spencer, Janice Marie, Scott Wallace Jr., Leah Goldman

A striking piece of science fiction neonoir, set in near-future New York City. For a couple of years now the Bentham Grid has been in place:

“The Grid takes all those things unique to you—your Social Security number, your passport, your debit and credit accounts—and links them to one thing: your DNA.”

It’s an absolute boon to the public, because no longer do you need to carry credit cards or car keys: a gentle touch will enable the Grid to take a tiny sample of your DNA, thereby identifying you with almost complete accuracy.

Samantha Strelitz as Alana Winston

Jeff Nissani as Jacob Foucault

And the Grid is a boon to law enforcement, too. There’s less crime in NYC today, Mayor Reid (Marie) boasts in an interview with journalist Alana Winston (Strelitz), than there is in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

But of course that level of safety comes at a price: New Yorkers are living in the ultimate surveillance society. It seems to be a price most of them are willing to pay.

John Di Domenico as Alan Pollard

Janice Marie as Mayor Reid

Today the Grid picks up, as she brushes against a handrail after her interview with the mayor, that Alana Winston is a plurality—i.e., that there’s more than one of her in the city. The Grid’s director, Alan Pollard (Di Domenico), sends in crack agent Jacob Foucault (Nissani), and before long both Alana Winstons, tagged Alpha and Omega, are being interrogated at HQ. Which is the “real” Alana? And which is a time-traveling visitor from the future, here to try to subvert the Grid?

Samantha Strelitz as Alpha . . .

. . . and Omega

The latter has come here because

“You’ve replaced freedom with the illusion of safety. But we’re not safe, Foucault. Neither are you.”

This seems to be a concerted effort by the future folk. As Foucault explains in voiceover,

“Alana Winston was the nineteenth plurality to be identified and captured by the Immigration Special Investigations Unit. These pluralities brought us questions rather than answers. . . . But the next plurality would change . . . everything.”

Plurality is an extraordinarily well put together short movie, and I was astonished to find that the sole accolade it has picked up has been the Audience Award as Best Short Film at the 2013 Gold Coast International Film Festival. The performances are excellent, especially from the two principals—I’ll be looking out for more work from both of them—and Jon Chen’s cinematography, giving a chilly blue cast to the outdoor scenes to convey a futurey feel to the proceedings, is a joy to behold:

Pakk Hui’s soundtrack perfectly complements the onscreen action without ever being obtrusive. All in all, Plurality is exactly what a short movie of this genre should be: a taut narrative, near perfectly rendered, that delivers its punch and then is over.

Wesli Spencer as Agent Simmel

Jeff Nissani as Jacob Foucault

Wesli Spencer offers good support as a junior member of the Immigration Special Investigations Unit, Agent Simmel, and Leah Goldman is splendid as the voice of the Grid, which she renders as a chillingly exact replica of our car’s GPS.

You can find Plurality on the excellent DUST channel on YouTube, but there’s a better copy on Vimeo.

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