Friend of Sophia
Inspired by the queer experience of the 1950s and 60s, a woman attempts a discreet encounter in a not-too-distant future where attraction to androids is considered a sickness and punished as a crime.
The film offers viewers a futuristically backwards world in which sex and love are regulated by societal norms. Sounds familiar, right?
While Sci-fi has traditionally been used as a vessel to explore contemporary societal issues such as environmental degradation (Frank Herbert’s Dune) or the rise of authoritarian regimes (George Orwell’s 1984), it’s seldom the case that the persecution of LGBTQ+ individuals has been the central focus of a film (usually it’s just lumped together with a general limitation of individual liberty). Alden Peters’ Friend of Sophia manages to do just that in the space of six minutes: the film offers viewers a futuristically backwards world in which sex and love are regulated by societal norms. Sounds familiar, right?
Acting as a glimpse into a complex universe where life-like robots live alongside humans, the film follows the protagonist Jane as she navigates the boundaries between lust and law. The scene is set in an underground queer bar, where suspicion and longing are blurred by alcohol and electric beats. Here, Jane meets Spark, a gorgeous robot that seems to have little regard for the rules that govern their sexual lives. As a robot, she is “company property,” and any advances Jane makes could be seen as illegal and a threat to the unspecified company. She could risk becoming a “sexual deviant” if caught, someone who does not have “the good of the company” at the forefront of her mind.
Although short, Friend of Sophia does a fantastic job in its world-building. Writers and directors alike will attest to the difficulties of establishing the rules of their fictitious worlds: how much should be explained and how much can be garnered from the sequence of events? Add to that the additional challenge of fitting all of this into a six-minute film, it’s truly remarkable the way in which Peters constructs this universe without foregoing the human elements of love and connection. Yet by using simple techniques such as drone-like shots to make the viewer feel small, or a white-noise kind of music to evoke feelings of discomfort, Peters creates an oppressive world reigned by technology and an invisible elite. Just as they aren’t clear to Jane, the ins and out of this society aren’t clear to the viewer; what is evident, however, is that there is always someone who could be watching. And that someone could report you for something as simple as falling in love with someone not meant for you.
If you’d like to catch Alden Peters’ film, Friend of Sophia, and others like it, make sure to tune into this year’s Wicked Queer Film Festival! The festival will be running until the end of April, so make sure not to miss it!
Watch the trailer
This article was written by:
Isidora has written for various student papers, offering articles from film reviews to opinion pieces that often had Latin American cultural events or productions as the focus of the piece.
She has just graduated from her MPhil in Comparative Literatures from the University of Cambridge, and will be going on to do her PhD in Hispanic Studies in Toronto.