Jack Chen's 'Beyond Existence' to Appear at Oxford International Film Festival

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By Perrin Grauer

Posted on March 16, 2020 | Updated March 16, 2020, 9:45AM

The student short film imagines a distant future in which humanity has been transformed into something almost unrecognizable, and yet strangely familiar.

The fourth-year student film by filmmaker Zikang (Jack) Chen (BFA 2019) has been selected for inclusion in the 2020 Oxford International Film Festival.

The short film, called “Beyond Existence,” peers billions and trillions of years into an imagined future, in which human consciousnesses can be uploaded to austere white pods, where they are granted a kind of grim immortality.

The melancholy work meditates on themes of pain, longing, detachment, and the consequences of pursuing a legacy when that pursuit requires sacrificing the very thing that may make a person human.

The narrative follows an interaction between one of these uploaded consciousnesses and a computer mainframe. The pair speak as a spaceship they both reside on — which may be some kind of cosmic life raft — circles silently in a starry void.

The name of this ghostly spacecraft is, perhaps fittingly, the Charon. In Greek mythology, Charon — or Kharon — is the the ferryman who serves King Hades. He carries the souls of the deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron. According to the myth, these rivers divide the world of the living from the world of the dead. In exchange for his service, Charon receives the coin which has been placed in the mouth of the deceased during burial.

But don't let those ancient references fool you. Seen through the lens of current events, the final minutes of Jack's film offer a fairly piercing perspective on the contorted rationalizations many people make in order to deal with living in an atmosphere of heightened and unrelenting alarm over vaguely apocalyptic events such as climate change, nuclear conflict and globe-trotting viruses.

You can watch “Beyond Existence” — as well as view Jack’s other works — on Jack’s website: