Kickstarter is filled with science fiction and fantasy film projects that all seem to feel the same. A writer or producer has always been a fan of their particular favorite genre, and now they are seeking funds to create their epic saga or sci-fi alien shoot ‘em up movie. It is then rare and refreshing then when a project comes along with a different approach to the genre.
Juniper, a film project by the University of North Texas Short Film Club, stands out as that rare, refreshing change.
Juniper takes place 50 years in the future, when the Earth’s population has swelled to over 11 billion people. As a means of population control, the government conducts inspections on the elderly to determine if those over a certain age are still productive members of society. Elderly who fail the inspections are euthanized.
The story revolves around a young woman, Juniper, who learns that her grandmother, the person who raised her, will be inspected soon. Juniper knows that her grandmother, who is already showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, will likely be executed by the government, and Juniper attempts to beat the odds by coaching her grandmother to pass the inspection.
What makes this film stand out from others in the genre is that Juniper places an emphasis on the conflict of the characters before their futuristic world and fictional technology. Producer and co-screenwriter Jordan Marie Wright explains, “if we were to focus on the futuristic world itself in this specific situation, the audience might have felt displaced from the environment and characters and would be more susceptible to be caught up in the fiction of the story. By focusing more on how these two characters experience the future and what it holds in store for them, it becomes a personal and intimate story and connects people to the characters.”
Wright, along with co-writer Arianna Berry, has carefully chosen the science fiction genre to create a more impactful story. “The inclusion of sci-fi factors draws a parallel, we hope, to say that if the presence of advanced technology is a possibility for the future, so are changes, such as a need for and attempt at solving population control,” says Wright.
Juniper’s Kickstarter video shows some of the futuristic technology used in the film, highlighting the 3D animation and editing for the film. However, Wright is quick to point out that the focus is on the characters and the story and not the technology. “There will always be an underlying human spirit among technology,” she says. “You see that complex in movies all the time. Although there is advanced technology in this film, the people, Juniper, and Grandma Ruby are that underlying spirit. The problems are outrunning technology’s ability to help, if it could.”
While Juniper may not have action-packed space battles or encounters with sexy aliens, there is a definite appeal to a more dramatic and emotional movie within the sci-fi genre. “Juniper explores a very universal story of Juniper and Grandma Ruby both trying to do what is best for one another, but by doing so, they put each other in painful and difficult situations,” Wright says. “The experience or the fear of experiencing separation is really what is being explored through this film, and that, I believe, is something almost everyone can relate to.”
For those science fiction movie fans looking for a more mature and dramatic change of pace, Juniper might be worth checking out. The film will be available online May 5th, but those near the University of North Texas can catch a free screening of the movie May 3rd.