Published Mar 21, 2013Much like low-budget Sci-fi mash-ups Zonad and Top of the Food Chain, J. Anderson Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker's charming genre hybrid, The History of Future Folk focuses on the idiosyncrasy and humanity of otherworldly events rather than the visual component. It's a playful mixture of small scale alien invasion, love story, comedy and musical performance, which, as a grouping of film styles, might very well be a first.
In its opening, Bill, or General Trius (Nils D'Aulaire) plays bluegrass at mostly empty, trendy urban club in an outfit reminiscent of Devo's "Whip it." His blending of futuristic styles in a modern context with an older sound is in itself, peculiar; giving a sense of performance art to what is ostensibly a story about the many beautiful things the world has to offer.
Bill, an alien sent from the planet Hondo to wipe out Earth, decided to assimilate to the human race after discovering the wonder of music in a Wal-Mart. Having married the comely Holly (Julie Ann Emery) and had a child, his life, beyond the performance of banjo music, is about maintaining the guise of normalcy, lying about his job and identity even though his daughter is starting to see through the cracks of his facade.
Inevitably, a fellow alien with a pail for a hat (Jay Klaitz) shows up on the planet, creating conflict and legality issues that leads to marital conflicts between Bill and Holly, which, despite the overriding story about protecting Earth from alien destruction, is where the heart of Future Folk lies. As Bill tries to balance his galactic defender role with that of loving husband, his corpulent fellow alien woos police officer Carmen (April L. Hernandez) and struggles to obey social customs and rules—to comic effect.
While the sheer ingenuity of plot and inherent sweetness of the story is delightful, this mishmash of genres always feels slightly incoherent. The tone vacillates frequently, which is in part because of an overall tendency to jump between storylines and concepts without a great deal of fluidity. The likability factor compensates slightly, but there's an amateurish, almost cable TV gag, aspect to it all that makes it difficult to take seriously as a legitimate film. This is exacerbated by an overall lack of vision and style to gel it all together beyond the musical performance trajectory.
Still, despite the humble aspirations and overall awkwardness, the ideas and assemblage is quite creative and brave, which is particularly commendable considering the limited budget and resources. The History of Future Folk is the sort of niche film that is more respected and appreciated than it is loved and enjoyed.
The History of Future Folk screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of Canadian Music Week on Friday, March 22nd, 2013 at 9:15pm. It is one of many dynamic films screening at the festival, offering an alternative, or solid accompaniment, to the many musical acts in town. (Maida Vale Films)