Zach Kaplan’s Nativity jumps headlong into its futuristic premise—people in America in 2092 can now have custom-made babies ordered, on their preferred date to boot. The question of America for Americans is at the centre of the narrative, with unflattering questions that the film does not allow one to shirk and gloss over.
The sterile white backdrop sans any element of design whatsoever is a persistent visual reminder that we are not only way into the future but also that the future is joyless. It is the theatre of the future(-present).
The year is 2092. Nativity has emerged as essentially a Build-a-baby. Eugenics is their top priority. The future does not allow any mistakes. Dr Jager (Jennifer Titus), the doctor and Nativity representative, assists Braxton and Alice Harper, a married couple who are considering possible options to best ‘manufacture’ their baby. With subtle satire, the rampant class divide that has made its way into the future as well is addressed. Everything can be custom-built, from the eye colour to the height as long as you are paying for the platinum package, that is.
Braxton (Brandon J. Somerville) begins to have a change of heart during the appointment over the manufacturing nature of the process, grappling with the ethical and emotional questions that he clearly has not seriously considered until now. The film poses its questions through the argument between the couple. Humanity, technology, and America blend into disagreements over parenthood.
Patricia Galvez as Alice is quietly fierce as she charges her husband back. Why would he give more importance to upholding tradition than sparing his wife the physical discomfort of having to carry the baby, especially when there’s a ‘better’ alternative available? The film unabashedly reflects on how easy it is for the man in this equation to pose philosophical questions about human existence and what it means on moral or ethical grounds, but it is the woman who has to bear the brunt for it. It forces us to look at the very concept of birth in a new light—why, in fact, is Braxton okay with genetically engineering their child, but draws the line at artificial birth? The aspiration for perfection collides with the expectation of gratification, wanting the process to be human, emotionally rich and thus, imperfect.
By the third act of the film, introspection brings Braxton to agreement with Alice and the program. His mental space is visually constructed for the benefit of the viewer. Since the film is essentially dialogue-heavy, the silent, reflective moments that act as a window to Braxton’s headspace are impactful. The frame is constructed with the same sterile, shadowless white space of the Nativity office, prompting one to rethink the whole narrative. How much of it is ‘real’?
Dr Jager alternately plays silent observer and corporate cog to the very end. Detached corporate tone on full volume, she assures the couple that it is perfectly normal for couples to argue during the process. She waits until the final moments to deliver the equivalent of the fine print. Usually perceived as pesky inconveniences, the fine print is now the headline of dividing lines. Kevin Riepl’s delicate yet haunting score urges you to feel as uncomfortable as the main couple.
Watch Nativity Short Film Trailer
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