10:00 am in the morning, and already a drove of people collect in front of the Alamo Ritz in downtown Austin, Texas. That’s pretty impressive, considering it’s Saturday- and a beautifully sunny Saturday at that -but SXSW has that magnetic effect on folks. My fellow viewers, a patchwork of characters from all countries and all ages, chatter excitedly in anticipation as the doors swing open, and we officially are ushered into our first screening of the day: a feature-length drama called Creative Control.
Written/Directed by Ben Dickinson (First Winter) and co-written by Micah Bloomberg, Creative Control is a cynical, darkly humorous satire that, according to Dickinson, represents a “compelling and sometimes shocking view of the future”. Delving into themes of capitalism, hypocrisy, and the potential (be it good or not so good) of modern technology, the movie follows advertising executive David (played by Dickinson) and his developing obsession with Augmenta, a prototype brand of augmented reality glasses that not only provide him a seamless interface…but also a way to have an affair with his best friend’s girl. Or…really, his best friend’s girl’s avatar.
It all gets very complicated after that, and we get first row seats as David’s professional, romantic, and mental well-being crumble as he strains to maintain control of his own reality. Creative Control is aware of itself and its ironies, introducing a parade of near-absurd characters (all performed admirably by a cast including Nora Zehetner, Reggie Watts, and Dan Gill) tangled up in their own isolated and selfish bubbles while simultaneously preaching on human connection, intimacy, authenticity. Like I said, it gets complicated.
Dickinson and his cinematographer, Adam Newport-Berra, paint a muted portrait of a man who is both disgusted by and addicted to this indulgent and drugged lifestyle; the filmmakers, however, manage to keep the mood sarcastically droll throughout, adding just enough lightheartedness to swallow the concept of such a twisted future. Creative Control is a drama that challenges its audience to question the nature of technology as a tool versus a toy, but it is equally a comedy that mocks the society that we have the exceptional potential to become.
Stay tuned for my exclusive interview with writer/director Ben Dickinson, coming soon!