Your Future Is DUST—Speculative Short Films
Interested in seeing science fiction that you won't find in the theaters?
Last month, I canceled my Netflix subscription. A big part of it was cost—starting a new phase in life requires some extra money on hand, and every dollar counts—but I can’t deny that part of it was the boredom. The mindless searching through Netflix’s algorithm to find something good to watch, then closing the window after 30-40 minutes of fruitless wandering. My time, literally eaten up by the inability to choose.
It turns out, watching something incurs a time commitment. To fully enjoy yourself, you must submit that amount of time to watching something. If it’s a movie, it’ll be a couple of hours burned. A TV show will take anywhere from 22-48 minutes on average, depending if it’s an hour-long drama or a half-hour sitcom.
I don’t have that much free time to spend watching something. I have work, or family commitments, or household things, or whatever. As brilliant as the medium is, you can’t fully enjoy a visual story while working on something else. I can’t put on an episode of The Good Place or Modern Family while doing the dishes. The voices are comforting, but oftentimes I’ll miss out on a joke or a plot point while scrubbing at some cheese. And while I have “watched” a movie while knitting, I know that I was missing out on a lot of the nuance on the screen. Podcasts and music can be multi-tasked. Immersing yourself in a good movie or show requires your attention.
So, for that reason, when I watch 22 minutes of a TV show I didn’t end up liking, I feel bummed out in a way that is odd. Watching something unsatisfactory on Netflix or Hulu or any other streaming service just feels different from watching something bad on television. I think a big part is the choice—you chose to watch this crappy episode. There were hundreds of options, and after sifting through a couple, you actively agreed to watch this particular one in the hopes that it would maximize your happiness. When it doesn’t, it kind of feels like you’ve let down yourself.
I felt burnt out from streaming shows and movies, so I flipped to YouTube skits and sketches. Shorter videos with a lot lighter substance. The content is fine, but oftentimes it missed the real power of professionally produced media.
Then I found DUST.
DUST is a company that hosts and provides a number of short films. Most of them fall into the science fiction realm, but I’ve found a couple that fall into different or more general “speculative fiction” genres. What DUST shares varies from professional, won-several-short-film-awards kind of shorts, and some are college films created as someone’s thesis. Oftentimes, these distinctions blend into one another, as each film looks absolutely beautiful and well made.
DUST has been described by many a commenter like a variation on Black Mirror, a British science fiction anthology that has since been picked up by Netflix. In a way, they’re right—the shorts that DUST uncovers often speculate on how technology has changed or would change society. One of their originals, Bad Peter, covers gaslighting and abuse disguised as caring for one’s well being. Another film, The Masseuse, explores what makes a person a person, and if an android could ever attain that same personhood.
For the most part, each film has a clear statement to make on the current state of our society. How technology can alienate us, or bring us together, or empower some at the expense of others. Some of these shorts handle these topics better than theatrically released films. Those without budget-busting CGI often are received as well as those with impressive effects. Some are funny, others heartbreaking, and still others harrowing. Each one, in its own way, feels like an invitation for discussion and thought.
So if you find yourself with some downtime, I encourage you to check out DUST’s catalog. Immerse yourself in a simple, well-thought out story, and remember—your future is DUST.