Robert Jabbaz’s debut feature film, The Sadness, takes place in the midst of a pandemic. In particular, it takes place during a point in a pandemic where people have stopped worrying about mutations and have largely gone back to their normal day-to-days. Against this backdrop, young couple Kat (Regina Lei) and Jim (Berant Zhu) have planned a vacation. They begin the movie arguing over Jim needing to take on a job during the same week Kat has taken time off of work. Given where this film eventually goes, it is a somewhat banal place to begin the film.
“To what extent is the computer a presence in itself?” Filmmaker Alice Lenay asks this near the midpoint of her documentary, Dear Hacker. She is on a webcam, interviewing people she knows (in some cases, it seems, people she knows solely from web-based interactions) about the possibility of a hacker hijacking her webcam. The film begins with her describing the blinking of the LED indicator light next to the webcam, which has made her fear that someone might be watching her. Although, fear may not be the most accurate word. More curious than afraid.
James Preble (Kentucker Audley, who also co-directs) is a tax worker, but what he audits is out of the ordinary. In the near future of Strawberry Mansion, the state audits people’s dreams, taxing the objects which manifest within the sleeping unconscious. Preble finds himself working a job on a remote estate owned by an elderly artist, Bella Isadora (Penny Fuller).