WATCH MORE SHORTS: “Expo” is a Thoroughly Human Sci-Fi Tale

on May 20 | in Film, Frontpage | by | with No Comments

As someone who self-professes himself as a massive dork both often and loudly, it’s a safe bet to assume that I have few qualms in scarfing down genre fiction by the bucket-load. It’s no surprise then that we feature science fiction stories here on Watch More Shorts quite a lot. Like, for real: A lot a lot a lot. Although, that shouldn’t be a shocker either, even if I wasn’t such a dweeb: The speculative, open-field nature of SF grants filmmakers the ability to tell as expansive or as narrow a tale as best fits the characters and situations they’ve created. You can be isolated to the sick, twisted confines of a single tortured mind, or blow up entire galaxies with the flip of a switch. That kind of wide berth is what makes the genre both so titillating and so intimidating to both creators and audiences alike.

But if there’s one thing that hardcore sci-fi fans like myself will tell you about all of the most powerful science fiction films, books and shows, it’s this: They use fantastical, futuristic technology and situations to facilitate the telling of real, human stories, not the other way around.

Unfortunately, it can be all too easy these days, with increasingly-realistic special effects becoming more prevalent and more accessible than ever, to fall into the trappings of style-over-substance in sci-fi. Don’t get me wrong: Laser swords and light-speed dogfights are real neat and all. But all flash and no soul does not a timeless vision of our future make.

Joe Sill‘s Expo does not suffer this problem. Far, far from it, in fact. It taunts the genre’s lesser, more basally-gratifying offers with it’s slickly-produced outer-shell combined with an uncompromising touch of heart, style and ultimately, brains. It also kind of rips your goddamn soul out of your chest for a good clean cry, while it’s at it.


Because even if you don’t sploosh over anti-matter hyperdrives, quantum fluctuations and intergalactic political discourse like I do, you’ll still relate to this piece. I actually have a hard time classifying Expo as a purely science fiction short, because aside from the fact that its primary setting is a mining operation on the lunar surface with all the gadgetry and space-age wonder we expect therein, nothing about this story couldn’t have been told just as effectively on the surface of our home rock. A mother with a dying child must employ herself in a far-away, dangerous, but well-paying line of work to pay for her daughter’s expensive medical bills, and when the worst tragedy imaginable strikes, she must make an impossible to comprehend but inevitable decision to save the life of another.

Nothing about this is exclusive to a space-faring people. Nothing about this is even about space in the first place. Our protagonist’s tale could’ve just as easily, just as effectively been told from the perspective of an Alaskan ice-trucker, or a technician aboard an off-shore oil-rig. The fact that she’s on the moon and interacting with the technology of our dreams is nothing more than visual, thematic candy. Sweet, beautiful candy that doesn’t at all distract from the phenomenally more important human element, but instead enhances it by reminding us that we are still people, with love and fear and heartache, no matter how far we go and how much we accomplish in this universe. The fantastically composited, soul-crushing opening track-shot is a testament to how well Expo blends these elements together for the duration of the show.

Oh, and did we mention that Expo passes the apparently too-fucking-progressive-for-Hollywood Bechdel Test with flying, radiant colors? Because holy shit does it ever. Applauding a film for simply including a scene where two or more female characters talk about something other than men might seem kind of…sad. Probably because it is sad. Probably because we shouldn’t have to applaude media that doesn’t treat women like props for the patriarchal center-stage to get that sort of quality to be the norm. But we must, because it’s not, and its films like Expo, with incredibly capable female leads taking the reigns, that are helping change that.

When you combine all of that with the fact that this was a student film produced for the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, I’d say that you could make a pretty damn good argument that Mr. Sill and crew are gonna make their collective marks in the medium as uncompromising visual story-tellers very soon, if they haven’t already with this film. We’re super stoked for their next film – of which OH HEY LOOKY HERE.


You betcha. It manages to pull on heartstrings without aid of punches, swearing, nudity, sex or on-screen explosions, and while we like all of those things, it’s nice to see it can be done without.


Just under 12 minutes.

How many short films do you typically watch a year? Our guess is that number’s probably really, really small proportional to the number of times you’ve seen Gangham Style or variations on the Harlem Shake. We aim to fix that. This is Watch More Shorts, where every weekday morning, we post a great short film that you can quickly watch before the hullabaloo of the work day starts!

Got a cool short you know of or made yourself that you’d like to see featured on the next Watch More Shorts? Send us a message via this contact page, or tell us in the comments below!

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