I AM(2020) is a Sci-fi short film written by Florens Huhn, directed by Jerry Hoffmann and produced by Stella Flicker.
The short is based on a person-vs-machine story, it portrays a special relationship between a human being and a robot, interpreted by two black women.
This black female-led drama has been premiered at Cinequest Film Festival, has just been nominated for a Student Academy Award, and has just won the HBOmax Best Short Film Award at the St. Martha‘s Vineyard African American Film Festival.
The sci-fi vision should be a visual and emotional experience set in the near German future. I AM strived to evoke a realistic and contemporary representation of our diverse society while leaving behind outdated clichés and stereotypes.
According to the words of the director: “I AM focuses on the issues and relationships between a woman and an AI female discovering her heart at a remote location.”
I AM supports a German future in which black female leads are common normality. The main characters are Noé (interpreted by Sheri Hagen) and Ela, played by Melodie Wakivuamina.
In the shadow, there is also Andreas Grötzinger who plays the role of the ‘man’ – a character from whom you don’t even see his face and hardly any physics.
The director underlined the importance of telling this story, first of all, to give black actresses more exposure, in the framework of the European film that actually lacks a diverse female cast, and also for the Germany scenario, where a sci-fi story with two black female leads has not been produced yet.
I AM questions the public discourse on robot ethics and raises questions for which there are no answers (yet)
Two themes emerge from this short about diversity and subconsciously the relationship between the sexes.
I AM is devoted to uncover political and social disparities and bring them to a wider audience. It gives a dystopic vision of the world where increasingly advanced robots technology might go so far as to copy the human personality.
As a matter of fact, most technical sciences are still dominated by (white) men. The first humanoid robots on this planet were white female androids built by white male scientists, so the intention was to focus on these two women, and in general on female empowerment.
The amount of outdated female gender roles created by white men in AI is obvious and from our point of view very problematic. Therefore inclusivity was one of the main forces to tell this story, considering that the two black female leads are not talking about their skin color or race-related identity struggles.
I AM: THE STORY
One day, A woman named Noé, who lives alone in the forest, came across the body of a strange female android while she is out walking. Noé brings her home, in hopes of finding out what she was doing out there.
Intrigued by the nature of this being, She tries to enquire more as to where she comes from. She asks her existential questions like “who built you?” and “what is your purpose?”, but the android reply right back asking her the same question.
Ela is both evasive and curious and it complicates the way Noé understood the nature of robots. The storyline alternates moments of humor and charm, like when the characters start dancing together, and eerie scenes starting being increasingly creepy.
Noé might be the first female and the first black being that Ela has ever met in her life. And Noé has a natural interest in machines and technology. It takes time for her to see this machine as a living being that you can talk to and even dance with.
As Noé lost her sister, she finds another black female being entering her life now, Ela, the android. This might be easily interpreted as a mother-daughter relationship as well as a sibling relationship.
Despite her motionless and robotic nature, Ela over time starts adapting, changing, and becoming more life-like until beginning to emulate Noé‘s personality. Ela cuts her hair, changes clothes, and does everything she can to look like Noé. Obviously, Noe noticed this change in her attitude and starts to get scared of her.
In the end, you can’t tell the difference between her and a human being. Ela is not a simple and empty robot, it seems she has a brain, emotions, and feelings. From that point, the film’s tension builds up over time leading to a mysterious and sad ending.
There is the intention to leave the floor to the spectator. Who watches I AM must actively participate in the co-interpretation of the story and with the feelings it might evoke in you.
I AM is centered around the question of how we will be able to interact with these robots guaranteeing safe and dignified relations on both sides.
I AM takes science fiction away from not only the casts we usually see, but also away from typical plotlines, bringing us into bold new territory as the film asks us questions about technology, relationships, and what it means to be a human.
Ela wants to be seen as a being and a living character, not an empty robot. In fact, I AM shows Ela’s transition from a useless doll to an actual person by giving the audience the opportunity to get to know her at the same time as Noé.
That this short film manages to capture so many different moods and bring the viewer right along with them for the experience. A weel as different shades of their relationship, unfolding and developing over time, as it evolves from interest, fascination, trust, and sisterhood to awkwardness, fear, and even pain.