Queen of the Andes, written and directed by Jillian Acreman, is an indie sci-fi film that tracks the story of Pilar Graham (Bhreagh MacNeil), an intelligent scientist/botanist at the top of her field.
When she is chosen to be a part of the elite Generation One, a colony to populate and inhabit Mars, the rules dictate it must remain secret. That secrecy extends to her partner Arrow, who happens to be a leader of a group opposed to Mars’ colonization. As Pilar is put through testing, she attempts to escape the program even while being hailed as a potential “poster child” for the cause.
MacNeil’s portrayal of Pilar’s descent into the realization of her situation is perfectly played throughout. We see her knowing looks, stilted sentences and genuine angst as she sneakily says goodbye to the people in her life, all while hoping for a miracle to allow her to stay where she wants.
While slow pacing weighs down some of its scenes, the film does an excellent job showing the audience just enough of what the world has become somewhere in the not so distant future. The dialogue feels like the 21st century, but every so often, there is a turn of phrase suggesting something is not right.
One of Acreman’s most significant accomplishments comes from never actually see what the worlds look like on Earth or Mars. Beyond a few artist renderings, we have no idea what the world “out there” is. With a likely minimal budget, the device works to our advantage, leaving audiences guessing, not unlike some of the best sci-fi and monster movies.
The monster, the film suggests, is us. And whether we’re willing to focus on the planet, live on or spend a great deal of money trying to inhabit a new one, the deadline to choose is coming closer each day.
Queen of the Andes screens as part of the digital offerings at this year’s FIN Atlantic International Film Festival through September 24. Visit finfestival.ca for tickets and information.