Akash Sherman Looks for Aliens in 'Clara,' but Finds Connection Here on Earth

Akash Sherman Looks for Aliens in 'Clara,' but Finds Connection Here on Earth
The truth is out there — and Akash Sherman is doing his part to find answers. The 23-year-old Canadian filmmaker just released his second feature, Clara, which digs deep into the science behind astronomy and the hunt for alien life.
So why make a space movie? Space is "the coolest thing there is," Sherman tells Exclaim! "It doesn't have borders. It's the one thing that we can all agree upon and look up at together and wonder about. It's a big deal for me."
This sense of wide-eyed wonderment pours off the screen in Clara. A cross between science fiction and romantic drama, it's about university professor Isaac Bruno (Patrick J. Adams) and his research assistant Clara (Troian Bellisario), who join forces to pour through NASA data in a quest to find Earth-like planets. Along the way, they mine through both scientific research and personal trauma in their search to find meaning in the universe.
"The movie is about connectivity," Sherman explains. "A lot of these questions we ask, even scientific questions — at the end of the day, we just want to connect to things. We want to connect the dots. I think showing human beings connect is easily, for me, the best to ground a story."
The film juxtaposes human elements with scientific ones. Isaac is trying to comes to terms with grief and the breakdown of his marriage, which have left him with a cynical view of life. With so little hope and love in his life, he turns his attention skyward, and the film delves into the nitty-gritty of his astronomical work. As Isaac and Clara bond over numbers, their personal attachment also grows.
In order to authentically portray the hunt for inhabitable planets, director Sherman and his co-storywriter James Ewasiuk did extensive reading about telescopes. "We really did our Google homework for about four months, and I read a bunch of academic papers," Sherman reveals. "Although I didn't really understand the math, I grasped the concepts. As a creative person who is better with words than numbers, those inspired me so much. Those four months of research I think really helped me frame and structure this story so that science is built into it."
So having done all that research into space exploration, I have to ask: does Sherman believe in aliens?
"I totally believe that they exist," he says with a smile. "And I don't think that will make us any less special. If anything, I think it makes life really cool and really valuable."