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Robbie

The incredible story of a robot, made using only NASA's archival footage.

2012 | 5 - 10 | Australia | Found Footage | Outer Space | Sci-Fi

The use of found footage is quite common in contemporary cinema. A recurring device in horror and science fiction, it’s now considered as a sub-genre in its own right. Although it dates back to 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust, it’s from the 90s, with the large success of the Blair Witch Project, that many directors have systematically  featured alleged video recordings  found by chance, and the success of films such as The Ring, Cloverfield and Rec  led the way for a large numbers of similar works.

Robbie also features pre- existing video material, but there are a few substantial differences from it’s usual usage. First, the images seen here are not just a screenplay gimmick: the recordings become the whole movie. None of what we see was filmed for the short, these eight minutes are the result of a long editing process that Neil Harvey made from more than 10 hours of NASA footage. This is the other big difference with the “found footage” films: everything we see is real, there are no sets or professional actors. The director used  open-source videos from the NASA online archive to build a narrative fiction. As Harvey himself says, the U.S. space agency uses the most advanced cameras in existence,  so why not take advantage of this resource?

Robbie is a robot that was built on Earth in the early 2000s. This video is sort of a last will in which he tells his story, as  its battery is running low. He tells us that in 2032, thanks to an upgrade of its operating system, he was able to develop its own consciousness. Later sent into space, he maintained a close contact with the Earth and his friends for many years, until, in 2045 , he lost all contact with the outside world. The robot has then spent 6000 years alone in space, during which time he built an imaginary world, where is the king of the universe. This fantasy world, however, is not enough: his thoughts always bring him back to Earth.

Sad and cathartic at the same time, also thanks to the soundtrack and the undeniable emotional impact of the Space images, this short is really unique. The director, in constructing the story, mixed real and imaginary elements, such as the friendship with flutist and flight engineer Catherine “Cady” Coleman, and pictures of the Pope, who seems to interact with the astronauts ( the robot itself says that among the various religions of the world, he decided to become Catholic) . He also managed to integrate some animated part, using NASA renderings, justified by the fact that the robot isn’t really able to see, but receives the digital images of the environment  around him. It ‘s almost absurd, used as we are to seeing all sorts of altered reality in science fiction films , to think that everything we see here is real, even ” Robbie” himself, which was made using images of NASA’s Robonaut 2 .

Flavia Ferrucci

Flavia Ferrucci

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