Blurring the line between human and AI: Why A Robot’s Dream is one of the most ‘powerful’ films at St Kilda Film Festival
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22.05.2024

Blurring the line between human and AI: Why A Robot’s Dream is one of the most ‘powerful’ films at St Kilda Film Festival

A Robot's Dream
Words by Juliette Salom

It’s not every day that fans of Australia’s largest and longest-running short film festival find their own name in its exceptionally curated program. But for Morteza Halimi, a dream of his is about to become an exciting reality.

Halimi’s short animation film A Robot’s Dream is set to be screened at this year’s St Kilda Film Festival in their 40th year as part of Australia’s Top Short Film Competition. Running from June 6 to June 16, with over 150 films to be screened across 54 sessions at venues across St Kilda and South Melbourne, Halimi says that as “a big admirer” of the festival, having attended every year that he could, “it’s such a joy to be part” of it.

A bold and daring film that reckons with the growing presence of artificial intelligence as it becomes intermeshed within our lives, A Robot’s Dream is an immaculately created animation short that explores the fragility of human existence and the power of interpersonal connection. “The idea originated from my curiosity about how and why we, humans, ache for connections to each other,” Halimi says. “One aspect that fascinates me the most about AI, and I have tried to explore it in my film, is when the line between what is AI and what is human blurs.”

A Robot’s Dream

  • St Kilda Film Festival
  • June 6 to June 16
  • You can get tickets to screenings of the film here

Find Melbourne’s latest film, TV, literature and gaming news here.

Citing Richard Linklater – creator of the popular Before trilogy films – as a major influence, some may find it curious that a day-in-the-life movie set in Vienna featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (Before Midnight) would be such a major source of inspiration for Halimi. But what it comes down to for the filmmaker is what is at the very crux of the Before films, the catalyst for A Robot’s Dream: human connection.

“I believe Richard’s films are, at their core, about two humans making a connection, and I found it very powerful because I was taking the journey with the fictional characters,” Halimi says. “I wanted to see if the same can be done in a film with two non-human creatures, in this case two AI entities, and if we can see parts of ourselves in their journey looking for a place where they can find a connection, where they can belong.”

A film that is brimming with delicate details in every frame, paired with a hauntingly beautiful score to suit, Halimi says he couldn’t’ve made it without relying on human connection. Whilst the film is compiled of AI image-to-image generation in which Halimi would manipulate to add detail, tone and texture – utilising the technology in question in the film to explore ideas around sentience in artificial intelligence – Halimi says the final product couldn’t be what it is without the help of the online communities he found connection in.

“I sought help from online animation communities all over the globe, as well as the Unreal Engine user’s community. I would share two-minute progress animations with them, and [then] would continue to develop the story based on its reception and feedback,” Halimi says. “I must give credit to the asset artists in the Unreal Engine community who go out of their way to provide high-quality environment scenes for game developers and filmmakers.”

An architect by day and a filmmaker by night, Halimi understands the importance of community connection when it comes to making art and realising dreams, and explores so in his short. “I believe the stories that are inspired from our personal connections can be the strongest stories,” he says. Even with a lack of dialogue in the film, Halimi is able to guide his characters through intimate interaction through ways other than talking. For him, the film showcases the power of connection through “the characters’ actions, their decisions, their shared experience of the wonderful world around them, and through, literally, sharing their memories together.”

 

A long-time attendee of the St Kilda Film Festival, the power of community only seems to be further underlined in Halimi’s film by being selected to screen at this year’s edition. “Every year, there have been many unique films and talents in the festival lineup, and I always tried to attend as many screenings as humanly possible,” he says. “I have also met a lot of my friends and collaborators through the festival events. This year, I am looking forward to doing it all over again.”

You can catch Morteza Halimi’s A Robot’s Dream screening as part of the Animation Showcase on June 10 at 3pm, Festival Mixtape at the Market on June 13 at 6.30pm, Tales of Mystery & Imagination on June 15 at 5pm, and at the Made in Vic screening on June 16 at 5pm.

You can also view the full program of the St Kilda Film Festival here.

This article was made in partnership with St Kilda Film Festival.