Saturday, November 23, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Aningaaq (2013) ****

PG, 7 min.
Director/Writer: Jonás Caurón
Starring: Orto Ignatiussen
Voice: Sandra Bullock

It was a scene that stood out in a movie made up of scenes that stood out. In the midst of the stress-filled events depicted in Alfonso Caurón’s space adventure “Gravity”, where an astronaut is stranded in space when a debris shower from a satellite explosion destroys her spacecraft and fellow crewmembers, Dr. Ryan Stone places a distress call from a Russian satellite down to the Earth’s surface. A man speaking a foreign language answers that call, but doesn’t understand what Ryan is saying. The man identifies himself as Aningaaq.

Now, Warner Bros. has released a short film written and directed by Caurón’s son and co-writer on “Gravity”, Jonás, which shows us the other end of that conversation. The film was intended as an extra feature for the Warner Bros. DVD/BluRay release of “Gravity”, but has found a life of its own at various fall film festivals and is now being submitted by the film distributor for the Academy of Film Arts and Sciences’ Best Live Action Short category for the 2014 Oscars. Should it and its parent movie be selected for Live Action Short and Best Feature Film respectively, it would make Academy history by being the first time two related movies were nominated in the two categories in the same year.

Despite its connection with the Blockbuster hit, “Aningaaq” exists as its own entity. Opening in the stark frozen fjords of Greenland, we find the Inuit man setting fishing lines beneath the ice when he hears a transmission coming through on his radio. Throughout the course of seven minutes we hear the same conversation as we did in the feature film, with Stone explaining her dire situation and Aningaaq misunderstanding her name to be “Mayday.” We see the dogs in the background that were overheard in the transmission in the feature film and the man’s wife brings him the baby we also heard crying in the background.

The setting of the scene places stronger emphasis on the themes explored in the feature film while providing a reason for the short film to exist on its own right. The fjord is nearly as unforgiving an environment as space in the feature film, and yet this family lives and survives there by choice. The dangers to their existence are just as apparent as those in space. One of the dogs has gotten sick, and despite his personal connection to the beast, Aningaaq has no choice but to put it down. He discusses with Stone how this pains him, yet he has no choice.

Like the feature film, it is our free will versus our inability to control our worlds that drives the narrative here. Aningaaq’s journey at this point in time is less dire than Stone’s, but no less important to him. The two enter into a strange conversation about life and death without even knowing they were really conversing about the same things. The short serves to prove that we are all faced with the same restrictions about our existence, and we all make our choices to face those restrictions with the most freedom we can.

Watch the entire short below and buy the DVD or BluRay of "Gravity" when it is released in December.

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