Film run-time: 13 minutes | Starring Keith Berry, David Disher, Ryan Ward
Directed by Andrew Cividino, Story by Yann Martel, Produced by Jonathan Hodgson, Karen Harnisch, Josh Clavir
“We Ate the Children Last“, a 2011 short film by Andrew Cividino, is a satirical vision which lampoons consumer and celebrity culture, and to a lesser extent, warns of the consequence of unchecked exploitation of medical advancements, of which their side effects may not have been fully weighed.
Adapted from a short story by Yann Martel, the film begins with the scene of a dystopic, strife-torn society; order has crumpled, civilization seemed to have come to a standstill, and there is an oppressive military presence all around. Patient D, the protagonist of the film, recollects how this all came to be: some years ago, dying of stomach cancer, he volunteered for an experimental cure known as Porsicure, which transplanted pig digestive tract into human beings. This allowed Patient D to live, but with some unusual side effects.
These side effects began benign enough—Patient D experiences visceral urges to consume food at all hours, and not just any food, but garbage. Weighing the trade-off between death and this strange tendency, most of society embraces the operation and it is heralded as a revolutionary cure for cancer. The procedure is marketed en masse via television advertisements akin to those of large pharmaceutical corporations, and its popularity has enticed even a famous musician to undergo the surgery for cosmetic reasons.
Soon after, however, the operation descends into horror as a string of bizarre murders is discovered to be committed by the musician, whose primal urges for garbage turned into cannibalism. The country is then divided into two factions; those who had the operation done, and those who are still “fully human”. Advocacy and religious groups battle head on to debate the actions of one individual, and reminiscent of the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s, much ideological clashing and violence occur.
“We Ate the Children Last” underlines the great influence of media to impose product on us that we may or may not need, and furthermore highlights the human propensity to find faults and differences among ourselves which we may interpret as being different enough to classify as the Other. On the other hand, it is likewise a cautionary tale of mass implementation of any medical advancement without due research, though this can also be metaphorical for any phenomenon which affects society on a large scale, in a short duration of time. The power of Cividino’s film lies in its sheer verisimilitude to our own reality, and how plausible our shortsighted avarice and herd mentality might give rise to such a calamity.