Billed as 'science fiction from the heart,' Robot Stories employs robots for contrast to tell quintessentially human stories about birth, loss, love and death in four short-film vignettes.
Like the best films in its genre, the science-fiction elements of Robot Stories are backdrops to the human players and their interactions; Pak's gift is showcasing genuine moments in the lives of imperfect, sometimes-dysfuctional people as they wrestle with issues of estrangement, desire and mortality.
While I found something powerfully touching from all of Robot Stories' four chapters, 'Clay' inspired the most visceral resonance with me; in it, we are introduced an aging sculptor in a future world where the dying can scan their conciousness into a computer and thus acheive digital immortality.
Yet to a sculptor, whose life-work is so intensely tactile, an eternity where he cannot physically touch anything again feels more like a prison than the liberation that everybody else believes. Wrapped with his sense that he does not deserve his wife (already digitalized, and with whom he exchanges heartfelt late-night conversations about their son and his impending demise) and the happiness she brought him, he fights his family for the right to remain mortal, the right to struggle and the right to die on his own terms.
Like many independent films, Robot Stories' limited distribution means it will be playing in a week-long run while it is in the Bay Area, from April 16 to April 22. Fans of powerful storytelling and moving independent cinema owe it to yourselves to view the cinematic magic of Robot Stories while you can.
Tamlyn Tomita, Greg Pak, Some Internet Dork
Opera Plaza Theatre, 601 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, (415) 267-4893
Friday-Sunday, 2:15, 4:45, 7:30, 9:50
Monday - Thursday, 3:00, 5:30, 8:00
Act I & II, 2128 Center Street, just east of Shattuck, Berkeley, (510) 464-5980
Saturday - Sunday, 1:30, 3:30, 5:30, 7:30, 9:30
Monday - Thursday, 7:30, 9:30