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Ulirat (Sentient)

 About the Film

HD, sci-fi drama, 10 mins., 2021

An ailing computer scientist attempts to digitally save her consciousness in a futuristic hard drive in the hope of continuing to interact with her living child.




Production Team

Dr. Aeryn Paz       Rianne Hill Soriano
Child   Phoenix Rana Jarilla
 Arlene Tolentino   Iyen Sanchez Magallanes
Director/Producer/Editor/Colorist   Rianne Hill Soriano
Director of Photography/Production Designer   Rianne Hill Soriano
Sound Engineer/Musical Scorer   Philip Arvin Jarilla



From fairy tales and children’s literature to dramatic and revenge tales in cinema, a mother’s love for her child has been expressed in countless ways through stories. This time, a mother’s love for her child finds its way in the sci-fi genre where a computer scientist on the verge of a new technological revolution has no time left to perfect her invention when her physical body is fast deteriorating and she is forced to digitally save her consciousness in a futuristic hard drive, hoping to find a means to continue communicating with her child. It’s a gamble worth a try.

Literary writer Ursula le Guinn said, “Science fiction is metaphor.” It uses certain dominants of contemporary life including science and technology, side by side the incorporation of speculative elements, to invent elaborately circumstantial lies in order to express and reveal a complex truth about humanity. This short film anchors on this idea as a mother will do everything for her child, as reflected by her will to continue to live to be with her in whatever means possible. Somehow, she finds her efforts successful as the very goal of saving her consciousness in a digital space allows her to carry on. It took a few years before the futuristic hard drive gets finally opened for her digital consciousness to be finally activated.

She is now living in a work-in-progress virtual copy of their house. Memories of her beautiful moments with her child populate her digital being. In no time, she finally sees her child who is not a baby anymore. She is now a preschooler as they meet for the first time in the virtual world – a very emotional moment for her. The film ends with the revelation that the child is lying down on a bed and wearing a futuristic virtual reality goggles connected to her mother’s futuristic hard drive – suggesting the living child interacts with her mother’s “saved consciousness” through the digital realm.

At this point, the film also intends to leave some ethical and existential questions to the audience. Is she still human? Is she still sentient? Or is she a mere digital existence of memories upgraded to an AI? In any case, the humanity in a maternal bond empowers her and her child as she finds a technical means to connect with each other in a way that never existed before. 



Production Notes

This sci-fi drama, a final film project for grad school, was produced during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite initial plans of securing actors to work on the film, the lockdown forced the filmmaker to work within the limitations of producing it with everything needed readily available inside her house. The script was adjusted to fit the availability of actors and production resources. This compelled the filmmaker to work as producer, director, cinematographer, production designer, and practically do everything on her own, while also working as the main actress of the film. This required very specific storyboarding decisions to ensure the production will flow as smoothly as possible even with the challenges of not having the usual production team to work on the project.

Another challenge was the need to finish all the sci-fi graphics and special effects before the filming of the laptop scenes. The filmmaker did everything on her own for the video post-production, while her spouse worked on the sound and music requirements of the film.


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