No one is better suited to this category than Vidal Alexe. His short film Déconnecté, a futuristic science fiction story about an insecure young man who gives his life meaning in a virtual fake world, takes our like-fixated society to task.
It is difficult to believe, but Vidal Alexe was 19 before he had a smartphone. The 25-year-old Instagram, TikTok and YouTube phenomenon drops this nugget as the final word in an interview where he talked to us about the feat he has managed to pull off in the past 18 months: shooting a short film in full lockdown, without a budget and no experience.
“My mother, herself a director, had told me beforehand that it would be impossible. But I had just finished my master's in publicity at IHECS when the pandemic struck and I wanted to do something. When she advised me to look for a director of photography, I didn't even know what that was. Me thinking that I could shoot a film with a dozen people shows how naive I was. (Laughs) All I knew was that I wanted to make science fiction. History has never fascinated me, but the future intrigues me precisely because we do not yet know what will happen. I have always felt that I was born too early.”
In the end, it took seven months to finish his screenplay and start casting, and in total around 150 people worked on his short film.
MORE THAN LIKES
The Brussels native, whose parents fled Romania in the 1980s, has always been a creative person, whether drawing, playing the clarinet or making videos. But he had never taken a course on film. Us telling him that Déconnecté, which he funded with 7,000 euro in savings, barely shows it makes him happy. “I could only pay my cast and crew travel expenses. That is what the adverts said too. We had sponsors who provided catering in exchange for online marketing. Fortunately, the pandemic turned out to be a blessing as well as a curse. If they had stayed at home, my staff would have sat around doing nothing anyway and I was given the keys to Chez Ginette, the former You Night Club that had closed down, for a week.”
In the short film, the nightclub is the ideal location for (the avatar of) the main character Jimmy to collect likes and boost his image. “When casting, I chose to show Jimmy as frail, insecure, especially when around girls, and real, the exact opposite of his avatar, who was supposed to be somewhat fake and overconfident.”
Clue of the story: Jimmy thinks he can boost his self-esteem by pleasing others and putting up a fake version of himself in the virtual world, but finally realises that this will not help him get rid of his inferiority complex in the real world. The newly-minted director does not hide his influences. “Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and the Black Mirror series are inspirations. Did you know that Facebook announced its Metaverse at almost exactly the same time as I launched my short film? I too am presenting the viewer with a potential future.”
Before embarking on his next film project – about a dystopian society where people are reduced to their profitability – Déconnecté, which is exclusively available on YouTube, in addition to offering a possible glimpse of what is to come, broadcasts a crucial message into the world: “Dare to throw yourself into life, even if you make mistakes and what you want to achieve seems impossible. If you then succeed, that is much more rewarding than all those likes.”
Available on YouTube