Toronto born cousins Robbie and Stephen Ammel joined forces with director Jeff Chan to make a feature-length version of their hit 2016 short film Code 8. Set in the troubling world of Lincoln City (Toronto) they are relegated to the fringes of society because they have special superpowers and because they are feared. The superpower subclass suffers from poverty, joblessness and other controlling abuses by conventional society. When Connor, played by Robbie Ammel must find ways to make money for his mother’s healthcare, he goes down a road he never expected. He now faces serious ramifications and the robotic police force has him in its sights. I spoke with Robbie in Toronto.
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The dystopian society in Lincoln City is grim, violent and unjust especially for your character who has special powers. Audiences love stories about a dystopian society, what’s the appeal?
I think that it’s not necessarily dystopian but a reflection of problems in our society today. WE wanted to have superpowers to make it entertaining and disguise issues. We didn’t want it to be preachy but we wanted to make people think, nothing is black and white but shades of grey, we wanted people to ask questions and maybe not necessarily agree.
I’ll tell you what is really scary – the robotic police force! The film reflects much of what’s going on today – joblessness, marginalisation, automation, political fascism. Looks strangely familiar.
As far as our movie goes, I wanted it to feel relatable and real and grounded and not too far fetched. As for the militarised police robots and drones, we took from a slight exaggeration of what’s already available. We looked at it if it was just a small percentage of people with superpower abilities, asking is this how the world would handle something like this? How people would start to worry and fear things they may not have to but at the same time, a few people could use their powers in the wrong way. All of a sudden, the police force is way too much, too many.
The idea of keeping the subclass down through drugs isn’t far off reality in some ways – when you think of religion being called “the opiate of the people” or threats or distractions from reality.
Anytime you’re developing a criminal underworld, drugs are going to be involved, in this world what would be an interesting version of a drug, people who have powers, maybe there is some kind of genetic makeup. Its extracted and taken and we thought it was an interesting sci-fi take on something always been a problem.
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You and your cousin Stephen made the short some years ago with Jeff Chan – what inspired the feature?
We always planned on making a feature, the short was never just to live on its own. The short was supposed to be a world builder and proof of concept and make something that looks good and be exciting so investors would love to give us money and it would be cool. It was on the short film page on Reddit, and it was a big deal. People really dug it the comments on YouTube were great. People were arguing about whether what my character did was right or wrong. The movie was meant to ask questions and spark debate. Also, Indiegogo was great, we got lucky with amazing people being supportive.
Kari Matchett is so great as your mom.
Kari Matchett was the first audition for the role of my mother. She was perfect. She reminds me of my mother.
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI