The Power of Falun Gong: a timid presentation of a dangerous and deranged fascist cult

“The Power of Falun Gong” (Foreign Correspondent, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 21 July 2020)

Purporting to be an expose of Falun Gong’s activities as a secretive religious organisation with very disturbing cult-like tendencies, and its promotion of current US President Donald Trump during the 2020 US Presidential election year, this episode of Foreign Correspondent ends up flogging the organisation with a light feather. A very brief sketchy survey of how the cult arose in China in the early 1990s starts the program, with very little information about how the cult’s founder Li Hongzhi began the organisation or about his background prior to becoming a government clerk. The program claims that Li’s ability to rally thousands of Chinese to his cult, using a mix of Buddhist and Daoist ideas that include taijiquan exercises and meditation practice along with Scientology-style beliefs about aliens coming to Earth and conservative politics, was what led the Chinese government to outlaw Falun Gong and persuade Li Hongzhi to flee to the United States. (Another source I read says the Chinese government shut down Falun Gong for persuading its followers to abstain from medical therapies and rely entirely on meditation and conforming to Li’s teachings to recover from illness. This is backed up at this blog here.)

Skipping from interviewing a young defector from the Falun Gong cult, whose mother raised her in its beliefs, to a family who lost their grandmother to the cult whose teachings on shunning medicine led to the grandmother’s death, the program presents some very heart-rending stories in a superficial way. We do not learn how the defector managed to make her own way in the world after leaving the cult and her mother. Reporter Eric Campbell meets two activists living in upstate New York, where the cult has built a huge compound that continues to grow and devour local properties, who are campaigning against Falun Gong’s greed to acquire more land and build more structures that violate local environmental laws and building safety codes; but even the activists’ story is dealt with in a vague way. We never learn if they and their followers have ever won a lawsuit against Falun Gong or managed to have much influence on their own communities and others beyond their area.

The last and most interesting part of the documentary concerns Falun Gong’s media empire, known as The Epoch Media Group, centred around flagship newspaper The Epoch Times and its increasing forays into social media platforms and advertising on Facebook. The report looks at how Falun Gong companies and websites create false social media identities and accounts on Facebook, often for the purpose of astroturfing (running fake grassroots campaigns with support from fake accounts). Unfortunately the program fails to ask where the money comes from to finance The Epoch Media Group and other media and entertainment-related groups such as the Shen Yun Dance Company, and other activities. At least the source I referred to earlier comes to my rescue with the revelation that Falun Gong’s media empire and other operations, including its compound in New York state, are funded by the US government and its agencies (possibly including the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy) which use the cult as a de facto attack-dog propaganda outlet.

Foreign Correspondent significantly fails to connect Falun Gong’s support for Donald Trump with its worldview which believes the End Times are close by and that Trump is a divinely inspired warrior committed to ending Communism in China. How the program could have missed this damning aspect of a cult says much about its mealy-mouthed and timid approach in covering the organisation, such that Falun Gong comes over as an eccentric cult with a reclusive leader, instead of the dangerous and deranged fascist front for the US government it actually is. At the end of the day, the producers of Foreign Correspondent and the reporters who work for the program must ask whether flaying a dangerous cult like Falun Gong, which happens to be anti-Communist, lightly with a feather is more moral than lambasting China for having a style of government and a particular political ideology that its people want but which the West fears and resents.

The False Tale of Killing Osama bin Laden: duping the public with fake news for political gain

Carlton Meyer, “The False Tale of Killing Osama bin Laden” (Tales of the American Empire, 13 February 2020)

This short documentary makes a succinct case for the assassination of Saudi militant / founder and leader of global terrorist organisation Al Qa’eda Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in April 2011 as a staged stunt designed and timed to boost US President Barack Obama’s re-election prospects in the 2012 US Presidential election year. It notes that the official US government account of how a bunch of helicopters ferrying US Navy Seals members to the secret compound where bin Laden and his wives supposedly lived is full of holes. The video points out that two of the helicopters used in the raid would have been vulnerable to being shot down by people using MANPADs while the prospective assassins were rappelling down their ropes into the compound. The video notes that the compound would have been guarded by dogs that the American raiders would have had to kill to get inside. Neighbours waking up at the noise would have called police and the Pakistani police would have brought in the military. Indeed, since Pakistan was also after bin Laden, why was Pakistan completely left in the dark about the raid, and why was a joint US-Pakistani operation to arrest bin Laden and bring him to justice never organised?

The video also notes that bin Laden was most likely already dead some years before the 2011 Abbottabad raid. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto told a BBC interviewer of bin Laden’s death back in 2007; sometime after that interview, Bhutto herself died in a bomb attack on her car. (There is the possibility that after blurting out news of bin Laden’s demise publicly, Bhutto made herself a target for assassination.) Even as early as 2002, the then US President George W Bush appeared unconcerned about bin Laden still at large, so it is likely that the Saudi fugitive was already dead, given his frail health and need for regular renal dialysis in a country (Afghanistan) where such treatment may be expensive and inaccessible for the majority of people, let alone a Saudi foreigner.

The video concludes by noting that US foreign policy is based on lies, propaganda and where appropriate (to its interests) denial and projecting denial onto others. A clip of former CIA director / current US State Secretary Mike Pompeo admitting publicly that the CIA regularly lies is shown. When so many US government institutions and agencies are deeply corrupt to the extent of fabricating stories, twisting facts and trusting in the ignorance of their general public audiences to advance their agendas in the dissemination of false news and disinformation, is it any wonder that people have reason to distrust this particular tale about the death of Osama bin Laden, especially when the official government account can easily be taken apart and shown for the fairy story it is?

Azarkant: a good-looking sci-fi piece short on plot and character

Andrey Klimov, “Azarkant” (2013)

Made as a proof-of-concept piece for a film, “Azarkant” understandably is short on plot and character to the extent that it plays like a generic sci-fi piece in which all the old “hard science” stereotypes appear. A group of cosmonauts on a 10-year voyage in space, their mission being to find planets capable of supporting life, come across an abandoned spaceship and investigate. One of the cosmonauts finds naught but human remains, even an old astronaut’s uniform, suggesting that this spaceship indeed has been floating in space for decades if not hundreds of years. The cosmonaut is ambushed by a robot whose last order is to kill every living being it finds. After a hard fight in which the cosmonaut finally disposes of the robot, he descends to a lower level of the abandoned spaceship where he finds a human body stored in liquid in an incubator.

There’s really no plot to speak of, and the film is remarkable mainly for creating a distinct sinister atmosphere in emphasising shadows, darkness and the barest hints that something dreadful occurred on the abandoned spaceship long ago. The cosmonaut shines his torch onto the surfaces of the spaceship’s interiors to partly reveal skeletal remains and a dead astronaut slumped against a wall. Tension slowly builds through the film as the cosmonaut investigates further, only for him to be suddenly sidelined by the creaky robot. The fight is massive though brief – but the tension itself starts to build again when the cosmonaut resumes his mission and falls through a floor into a deeper level.

The animation is very good, appearing three-dimensional, and seems almost realistic. There is little dialogue and the cosmonaut and robot express their characters through their movements. The cosmonaut seems hesitant, nervous at first, but bravely carries out his mission. The film’s conclusion may be open-ended; it seems that the cosmonaut is approaching a new, more sinister and powerful enemy posing as a human, or the body’s reaction to his presence may be nothing more than reflexive and instinctive.

At least the film looks good and has much visual technical detail, as there is not much more one can say in its favour.

Protecting the American Opium Empire: opium as a tool and fuel for US imperialism

Carlton Meyer, “Protecting the American Opium Empire” (Tales of the American Empire, 9 July 2020)

For an 11-minute video, this is perhaps a little too far-ranging both in time and space, and viewers might need to watch it once or even twice again for everything to sink in. The video starts way back in the 1700s when the British are encroaching upon Imperial China and opium addiction is starting to become a major public health menace in that empire. The British find that selling opium to the Chinese is profitable business and nets them the silver they need to buy Chinese manufactures. The Qing empire attempts to outlaw the sale of opium in its territories and as a result Britain and China fight two major opium wars, both of which China loses and which weaken the empire to the extent that Chinese territories are ripe for takeover by Britain and other European powers.

France and the United States also become involved in opium production and selling in China and Southeast Asia. The Corsican underworld is heavily involved in opium production in Laos. Two American families – the Forbes and the Delanos (the latter being the ancestors of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) – become wealthy from producing and selling opium in China. For the first half of the 20th century while China is unstable and wracked by civil war, and then invasion by Japan, the opium business is doing well – but after the Communist victory in October 2019, China shuts down opium production and weans its people off opium. The opium production business moves south to Burma, Thailand and Laos, into an area spanning the northern parts of these countries that becomes known as the Golden Triangle.

The video links the Vietnam War, and the US involvement in it, to opium production in Southeast Asia and in particular the CIA’s reliance on opium production for profits to be used in undertaking clandestine operations around the world – operations that among other things include overthrowing governments not to the liking of US corporations and those US politicians the corporations fund during Presidential and Congressional election times. After 1975, when Communism spreads to the whole of Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia become Communist as well, the CIA focuses on Afghanistan as its major de facto opium factory. To that end, the agency helps to finance and supply the warlords (with the help of Saudi engineer Osama bin Laden) with guns, ammunition and soldiers to fight the Soviet-backed government and Soviet forces through the 1980s. After the Soviet withdrawal, instability in Afghanistan contributes to the rise of the Taliban to power in 1996. The Taliban gets rid of opium production and for its pains is overthrown by US invasion in late 2001, ostensibly because the Taliban was the culprit behind the World Trade Center Twin Towers attacks in September that year. Of course, the Taliban never was. The video brings viewers up to date in describing how continued US military occupation in Afghanistan serves not only to keep that country unstable and poor, but also protects the opium crop even though US soldiers see no point in staying in a country whose people resent the US presence.

As an introduction to the history of opium production and its usefulness to the CIA as a ready source of profits to fund its various activities around the globe, the video can be a real eye-opener, tying together different and parallel narratives in different parts of the world. The Oliver Stone interview which concludes the video, and in which the film director is asked about what he thinks of US President Barack Obama’s turnaround from promising to get US troops out of Afghanistan to keeping them there, and Stone replies that he believes Obama knows much more than the President and the White House are prepared to admit, seems rather out of place in a video that has concentrated on showing maps and pictures and delineating how opium has a McGuffin role in a network in which some players seek to dominate the world and steal its resources by forcing farmers to grow a drug that creates misery, crime and poverty, and through addiction enables governments to control people’s bodies and minds; and at the same time use the profits from producing, distributing and selling that drug to remake the world according to their own depraved vision.

When one considers that the West is in thrall to the fentanyl (synthetic heroin) pandemic, and Britain and the US in particular are badly affected by fentanyl addiction, the fact that much of that fentanyl is made in China might appear to be some sort of cosmic justice. But the reality is that poor people in the US and UK who have been denied a share in their nations’ wealth are the ones suffering from fentanyl and other addictions, and some of those who profit from the new addictions may well be the same people who in the past profited from past mass opium and heroin addictions around the world.

The Secret Armada: North Korean ghost ship phenomenon covered in a superficial way

“The Secret Armada” (Foreign Correspondent, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 14 July 2020)

Despite the spine-tingling thrill of the episode title, this piece on apparent North Korean fishing vessels washing up on Russian or Japanese shores in derelict condition and with dead crews was hardly informative. It came across very much as an excuse for its reporter to travel to Vladivostok and Dandong (China), presumably with most expenses paid, to sneak a peek at North Koreans across the Russian or Chinese border. The correspondent talks to local people about what they know of these North Korean fishing boats; they don’t appear to know a great deal apart from what they observe of the degraded condition of the vessels and the fact that the crews tend to be very dead. The odd thing about what the Russian interviewees say is that neither the Russian nor the North Korean government seems very interested in repatriating these degraded ships and the corpses they contain back to the DPRK. One would think Pyongyang would be very keen to get these ships and bodies back, at least to save face internationally and to make sure the vessels were not carrying information of a classified nature. Come to think of it, no government officials, whether in Russia, Japan, South Korea or (even) North Korea, feature in the program at all to deliver even just a PR statement on the North Korean ghost ship phenomenon.

There seems to have been no attempt on the Australian reporter’s part to find out just how old the ships are, how long they might have been floating in the Sea of Japan, or even whether they actually are North Korean ships and not South Korean ships. The program doesn’t seem to rely on any mainstream news media sources, let alone alternative news media, for information as to what these ghost ships are or might be. A Russian man tells the reporter he has buried two North Korean bodies found on one stranded ship; tellingly, the report admits no DNA tests had been done on the bodies so the viewer is expected to assume that these bodies are those of North Korean people.

No context is offered as to why North Koreans should be so desperate as to launch rickety fishing boats and sail to other nations’ maritime territories to fish illegally for seafood, some of which is sold to Chinese seafood sellers in Dandong. There is little mention of the crippling sanctions imposed by the US on North Korea since the 1950s, which have had the effect among others of denying North Korea agricultural technology and tools that would be effective in helping the country raise better and bigger crops of rice and other plant foods, and forcing the country to retain a large agricultural workforce that also doubles as a national army reserve. The constant references in the program to the North Korean army claiming first dibs on food produce ignore the fact that the army of the DPRK is a people’s army and that most people who serve in the army are conscripts from the agricultural sector.

At least the scenes of derelict ships rotting on remote beaches, surrounded by green countryside, clear blue waters and distant mountains rising from over the horizon are visually very moving and unforgettable. Apart from these lovely scenes, there really is very little useful information about what the ghost ship phenomenon actually is and what it might say about the state of the North Korean economy and society.

The Silver Brumby: a subdued and unexciting film of human greed and obsession

John Tatoulis, “The Silver Brumby” (1993)

Notable mainly for featuring a very young Russell Crowe near the beginning of his acting career, this film is framed as a story within a story about the relationship between Australian writer Elyne Mitchell (Caroline Goodall) and her daughter Indi (Amiel Daemion), and how Indi learns through listening to Mum and reading her work about the natural world they live in – the world of the Snowy Mountains in the New South Wales / Victorian border region – and the animals that live there and which must contend with the encroachment of humans into their territory. The animals that dominate Elyne Mitchell’s writing are brumbies (feral horses) and in particular, one brumby called Thowra, the eponymous silver brumby who through the series of children’s books, starting with “The Silver Brumby”, founds a dynasty of wild silver horses who become the envy and targets of obsession of the humans living and working in the Snowy Mountains area. What initially starts as an entirely fictional work – the life of Thowra and the pursuit of this silver stallion by someone known only as The Man (Russell Crowe) – takes on a more realistic edge for Indi as she discovers that The Man is based on people she and her Mum know. From then on, as The Man recruits another to assist him to chase down and capture Thowra, Indi and her mother share the same fears that Thowra will lose his freedom, independence and most of all his spirit if his cunning, knowledge and experience of the bush, speed and endurance cannot save him from capture. Inevitably though, the horse ends up being cornered by the humans pursuing him and must risk his life to avoid capture.

The film adopts a subdued approach which highlights the beauty and mystery of the natural environment but does no favours to the original book on which it is based. The significant events of Thowra’s life – his early upbringing, the defeat and death of his sire by upstart stallion The Brolga, and his own challenge to the Brolga when he is full-grown – are dealt with almost as incidental to Thowra’s eventual confrontation with The Man. There is not a great deal about how Thowra gathers together the mares that make up his harem and how he defends them from other stallions and the humans that hunt the Snowy Mountain brumbies. Equally, there is not a lot about how writing “The Silver Brumby” and sharing the story with Indi allow Elyne Mitchell and her daughter to forge a deeper relationship with each other than they might otherwise have had, and how Indi matures and learns about how human greed and obsession not only destroy individual animals and Nature generally, but also diminish humans, isolate them from their roots in Nature and end up destroying them.

The scenery is beautiful and poetic but that is all that can be really said for the film. While the actors do their best, their characters are very underdeveloped and Crowe is given some very laughably poor lines to deliver. The horses used in the film are very good-looking and well-groomed – real brumbies would be scrawny creatures and have a raw edge to them – and perform quite adequately but the sense of grit and living on the edge in a difficult environment (for humans and horses, be they both tame or wild) is absent. This viewer has the impression that the original intentions behind the film were very ambitious but, unlike Thowra who gives everything he has and risks everything – even his life – to preserve his freedom and spirit, the film definitely pulls its punches. What we have is a film that fails to generate much excitement or a sense of danger, and which also does little to suggest that the humans in the film could live with brumbies and Australian fauna and flora in the Snowy Mountains region instead of trying to master and dominate them all.

Lab Rat: an investigation into what it means to be human

Nour Wazzi, “Lab Rat” (2019)

Initially the plot seems familiar to the point of banality: three scientists working for a robotics firm are suddenly trapped in the office, all entry and exit points locked by remote control, and forced to figure out by the firm’s CEO which one of them is actually an android. One of these scientists, Johnny (Matt Harris), has reason to feel irate at the CEO since she, Dr Edwards (Abeo Jackson), happens to be the mother of his girlfriend Alika (Kirsty Sturgess) with whom he’s passionately in love. Wanting desperately to go home, stuck in the dark and just having heard news about rioting in the street over the introduction of AI in offices and factories, with people fearing the loss of their jobs to robots and AI generally, the three scientists turn on one another like cats while in Dr Edwards’ office, the CEO gloats at how quickly educated and supposedly rational people turn bestial and murderous. Alika, distressed, watches the other two scientists Ellie (Sian Hill) and Marvin (Max Williams) pile on and beat Johnny and start strangling him. The daughter can bear Johnny’s treatment no more and rushes out to save him – but the mystery of which of the characters in the film is the android remains.

As it turns out, the fight between Johnny and the other two scientists is not really the test. When Johnny finds out who really is the AI cat among the human pigeons, he is absolutely gutted. Dr Edwards is full of smug satisfaction that her creation has performed as she had hoped – if the AI is to pass as a human, then the AI must exhibit the full range of human emotions, including anger and love, and be as fallible and prone to making mistakes and bad decisions as humans – and her final words are chilling as she orders more replicas of the prototype model to be made, with each model retailing for several million each. The fate of all those poor replica models is to be bought and sold like so many slaves or trafficked prostitutes.

All the actors – even those playing Ellie and Marvin, though those are minor characters – put in good performances and Jackson and Sturgess turn in excellent performances as sociopathic mother and innocent daughter respectively. Once again, a sci-fi film presents androids as being capable of more humanity than humans themselves: the twist here is that the human is the mother of the android, and in most societies who is usually tasked by custom and tradition to teach young humans how to behave and to become “human”?

Aside from addressing (in a rather superficial way) the issue of robotics making humans redundant, the film considers the possibility of giving robots not only human intelligence but also human emotions and the ability to feel empathy and compassion – with what that implies for how humans should treat robots ethically and whether robots are entitled to the same human rights, privileges and responsibilities as humans – and through this strategy, investigates the nature of what it means to be human. The result is that the most human of all the characters in the film, the most compassionate and least brutal and violent of them all, turns out to be the robot.

A strong character-driven short, “Lab Rat” shows that science fiction films need not rely on special effects at all, with all the science contained within the plot and the characters’ dialogue. Good acting is called for to make such a film successful and it is to director Wazzi’s credit that she found excellent actors to fill all the roles in this film.

Eve: choosing between freedom, compassion and responsibility makes an android more human than humans

Josh Bowman, “Eve” (2019)

A character-driven sci-fi story with good acting and a strong visual look with a desert setting doesn’t need a fancy budget or whizz-bang special effects as this 14-minute piece demonstrates. Android A6609 (played by Sianad Gregory) is on the run from unknown authorities, racing for her very existence in the Californian desert. Her companion is shot down by lone human hermit Jackson (Matt Russell). When Android A6609 collapses in the desert, Jackson revives her using jump cables attached to his utility van. Coming back to life, the machine resists Jackson and his explanations about why he has been cast adrift in the desert but when he offers to remove the tracking device in her spine so she can continue on her way to freedom, she relents. While he removes the tracker, she tells him that her name is Eve – and that she named herself, presumably after the Biblical character. She spots a photograph of Jackson’s son and asks after the boy; Jackson replies that his son is being held hostage by the authorities and he does not know if he will ever see him again.

Eve wants to flee to a place she has heard of but Jackson attempts to dissuade her – because, as he is later forced to admit, he has implanted the idea into her neurological networks. The brief friendship between Eve and Jackson quickly disappears when Eve discovers that Jackson is negotiating with the authorities for the return of his son if he finds and surrenders Eve. She leaves him in a huff, taking his van, but after driving some distance and seeing the photograph of Jackson’s son, she pauses to decide what to do next. At that point, the film ends.

This character study is an intriguing investigation into the nature of freedom and into how much free choice we humans have and whether what we might call free choice is really a result of deterministic forces in our lives. Are we really free or are we really slaves to our instincts and our cultural conditioning? Connected to the issue of freedom and free choice in the film is acceptance of responsibility – Eve has to choose between pursuing physical freedom and striving to reach a place that might not exist, and giving up that freedom so that Jackson might be reunited with his son. At the point where she stops the van to ponder that choice, she is freer than Jackson will ever be: she can choose flight or she can choose surrendering flight so that a father can be reunited with his child. There is no suggestion though that Jackson will become a free man once he is reunited with his son.

The plot is sketchy enough that it lends itself to quite subversive interpretations about what is at stake for Eve. How do we know that Eve’s “escape” was not originally planned by Jackson and the authorities? What are they actually testing in allowing Eve to run away and to present her with a choice between continuing to run to freedom and surrendering it so that Jackson and his son can be together again? Is Eve’s desire for freedom also something that has been implanted into her neural networks? Is Jackson really telling the truth when he says his son is a hostage? What if the boy in the photograph is not really Jackson’s son?

The film can be considered to be complete in itself, even with its vague plot and its halt right at the point when Eve has to decide whether to give up her freedom or to continue on, or as a pilot for a full-length movie.

Satori [Awakening]: post-apocalypse film very much asleep under character stereotypes and a boring plot

Adam K Batchelor, “Satori [Awakening]” (2020)

An original and ambitious idea of an Earth re-engineered by Artificial Intelligence to reverse environmental degradation, combined perhaps with genetic engineering of most plant life-forms, and that experiment going awry with the result that AI covers the planet in sentient jungles hostile to the remaining human beings who must adapt to and live in new environments that endanger them, is brought low by tired character stereotypes and an equally hackneyed plot privileging violence over thoughts, behaviours and actions rooted in the logic of the new world. A mixed group of soldiers and scientists, so far sheltered in an underground facility, ventures to the surface in a reconnaissance ship. The ship crashes and just two survivors, scientist Daisy Evans (Jane Perry) and military leader Warren Rodgers (Mark Holden), emerge from the wreckage. The two must try to find any other survivors while trying to make their way through the new world.

The film tries to present as a pilot for a film or television series and as a character study of Evans and Rodgers. Unfortunately both characters descend into gender and vocation-based stereotypes: Evans is presented as compassionate as well as knowledgeable, simply because she’s a mature-aged woman as well as a scientist; and Rodgers is a bone-headed macho military idiot who needs the biggest futuristic Uzi alive to show the plants who’s Boss. His actions make no sense at all, apart from angering the plants so much that they show off their special powers, which perhaps is really what the film is all about: generating a new movie trend of genetically engineered terror plants that menace humans. For much of the film’s running time, Evans doesn’t do much at all that would warrant her presence as a female scientist with particular knowledge and personality type.

The two tramp around in the dense jungle without making much meaningful conversation, let alone a conversation in which both could argue about the right thing to do, whether to find the survivors or resume the original mission without survivors. Disappointingly the film ends when at last some semblance of a real plot with real action appears as Evans and Rodgers make contact with a group of humans who actually have been living peacefully with the plants for yonks. Which of course means that Evans’ character was never needed anyway.

At least the film looks good and the ridiculous-looking plants shoot some nifty electric bolts.

End of Decay: pulpy body-horror adaptation of Frankenstein story

Christopher Todd, “End of Decay” (2017)

A pulpy body-horror update on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus” novel, this short film has the sketchy and hasty look of a pilot for a sci-fi horror film that might have once done David Cronenberg proud. Ambitious freelancing pharmaceutical researcher Orin (Brian Villalobos) is pursuing a project using stem cells to regenerate body parts and organs in his garage. From this research, he hopes to discover a method by which degenerative diseases and conditions such as cancer can be cured or prevented, and he himself, being wheelchair-bound, can regain the use of his legs. His collaborator, disgusted at Orin’s resort to sourcing stem cells on the black market, and suspecting that the research is Orin’s vanity project, leaves him. After obtaining the stem cells, which have come from God-only-knows-where, Orin injects them into his spine through a machine set-up guaranteed to inflict maximum pain on him (three times, no less!) and hysterical heebee-jeebees on the viewer at the sight of all the vomit.

At first everything seems to have gone well, and Orin does regain the use of his legs – but as with all experiments where the researcher uses himself or herself as the first guinea pig, unusual side-effects can be expected. To his consternation Orin discovers an ectopic pregnancy growing in the right-hand side of his abdomen. Unwisely perhaps, he does not consult his local neighbourhood family-planning clinic who might have urged him to agree to a properly done Caesarean appendectomy …

The film is more notable for its themes which admittedly are not original. Pursuit of scientific knowledge needs to be moderated with ethics or else experiments will generate invalid or dangerous results. Orin narrowly cheats death at least twice but whether he can handle the responsibilities of parenting a fast-growing child who is destined for a poor quality of life as a freak of nature, and what threats and dangers that might pose for both Orin and his creation, is another question. Orin may laugh at his former collaborator for not wanting to share in his discovery but he may eventually rue his decision to inject himself with treated stem cells of dubious origins and nature.

The plot depends a great deal on viewers’ knowledge of Shelley’s “Frankenstein …” to make sense of the breaks in the narrative, corresponding to the passage of time from one scene to the next. Obviously this short film is intended in the space of less than 15 minutes to pitch a plot for a movie or even a mini-series that brings “Frankenstein …” into a contemporary era of DIY freelancing biological research, organ-trafficking and stem-cell technologies.