Life on Earth? is the project for an animated film, still in development, loosely based on the Chinese mythology of Chang’e, the moon deity, but takes place in a future based largely on the scientific developments of the present. The present video is an announcement trailer of the film to come.
Authors’ Statement of Intent
As technological advancements continue to embolden humankind’s vision to control their own fate, the authors of the animated film Life on Earth? fabulate a future scenario where humanity is made to face up to the consequences of eating “the forbidden fruit” of genetic engineering and colonization of Mars and beyond. The film’s protagonist, Sola, a CGI hybrid—visually a digitally modified mixed-race human of the two authors, who have never met in “real life”—ascends to Mars and resides there ever after and against her wishes, upon taking an experimental drug that promises eternal youth and immortal existence. Not only is she forever banished from Earth, but also her newly exalted status of immortality commands an ex-orbitant price that she must pay for her action. Whilst residing on Mars permanently, she watches her loved ones on Earth reincarnate into non-human beings—be they animals, plants, microbes or viruses—and is forced to adopt their individual means and manners of communication to carry on correspondence. Sola represents the contemporary human condition at the crossroads of its existence—bound by space and time, humankind has nevertheless sought to overreach itself, the latest expressions of which being gene editing and space settlement. As scientific advancements continue to promise quantum leaps of human emancipation from existing conditions on Earth, the authors question just what kind of “enlightenment” the advancements are thought to offer humanity if the protagonist is to remain isolated for eternity. Would the sacrifice of happiness and intimacy with her loved ones be worth the daring deed in the first place?
Originating in Europe, the Enlightenment project of the late 17th and 18th centuries and the subsequent Industrial Revolution beginning in the 18th century accelerated the process of the secularization of morality and society worldwide, which, along with a sense of empowerment, have led to humanity’s gradual dissociation from early mythology and religious teachings that often show humankind’s humble place in the greater cosmic order. Whilst this is not explicitly stated in the plot of the film, the authors wish to (re)awaken human respect (rooted in a fear of the unknown) for nature by lightly referencing David Attenborough’s nature documentary Life on Earth and the ancient Chinese mythology of Chang’e, the protagonist of which, like Sola, flies to an unknown space from all that is familiar. The question mark following the title Life on Earth signals a collective crisis and prompts an examination of the “solutions” being proposed today.
Sola, the film’s heroine, works for a biotech company, which is developing Agelokk, a pill that promises eternal youth and health. In an experiment one day, Sola makes a concoction using the most precious ingredients one could find on Earth. Unhappy with her daily life, Sola decides to take the experimental pill herself despite the unknown consequences. Upon taking it, Sola’s body becomes ethereal, and she finds herself—outside of her control—ascending to Mars. As a consequence, she is banished from Earth and must reside primarily on Mars from now on. From Mars, she manages to establish contact with her loved ones via satellite communication. Their humanly intelligible correspondence—whether by letter, voice or video—carries on until the inevitable deaths of her Earth-bound family and friends. Yet from Sola’s newly elevated position, she watches—from a distance—each of her loved ones pass through death and reincarnate into completely new beings, some of which are on the verge of extinction, while others are in a trajectory of rapid proliferation. Each of these reincarnations forces Sola to use new modes of communication alien to her, be they with periodical cicadas, flying fish or St. John’s wort. In her acquired state of nirvana, observing a transforming Earth is at once a lonely and enlightening business.