Anders' (All the Birds in the Sky, 2016, etc.) latest short work is an absurdist, apocalyptic fable.
In a near-future and possibly alternate America that is nevertheless fairly analogous to our own, the country might be under threat by the Pan-Asiatic Ecumen—that is, if they even exist—but is certainly threatened from within due to various environmental and economic crises, a growing drug problem, and a violent young militia known as the red bandannas. In the midst of the chaos, there is high school student Rock Manning, a hyperactive class clown addicted to classic physical comedy. Rock and his best friend, Sally Hamster, make short videos that are light on plot but heavy on Rock’s insanely dangerous stunts. Once posted online, they go viral and catch the attention of Ricky Artesian, a red bandanna member and local bully who once snapped Rock’s arm but now tries to pressure Rock and Sally into making propaganda for the red bandannas. The line begins to blur between filmed violence and real-life violence, and a terrible incident creates a gulf between the two friends. While Sally refocuses her efforts on more artsy films and Rock unsuccessfully tries to forget the horrors he’s seen, the two are inevitably drawn together again to create new material even as the country teeters toward apocalypse. The emotional currents and thematic elements running through this story strongly resonate with today's sociopolitical milieu, even if our situation is not currently as dire—in particular, the tendency to try to continue with daily life even as catastrophe threatens, as well as the necessity of making art in the face of fierce opposition, feels topical. Rock's personality—easily distracted, always in motion despite being somewhat aimless—is both realistically uncomfortable to experience and sympathetic.
An astute capsule of that moment of overload when you can’t decide whether to laugh or cry.