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<em>Uncanny</em>

Uncanny


Uncanny

Director Matthew Leutwyler


Artificial intelligence is one of the most exciting and frightful developments in modern technology. This feature film, about a female tech reporter who visits a humanoid robot and his genius creator and the love triangle that ensues, tackles the issue with thrilling and thought-provoking intrigue.

See facebook.com/UncannyMovie.

What inspired this story?

Sim Sarna, the film’s producer, and I were talking about doing another film together and I was telling him about how I was looking for a smart, Twilight Zone-like, science fiction film. He told me that I needed to meet with his college friend Shahin Chandrasoma, a screenwriter. 

The three of us went out to dinner and Shahin pitched me several of his ideas. They were all very cool, but the problem was they were all much bigger than I thought we could produce on an independent budget. I told him I was interested in something much smaller: two to three actors, one location. A moment later he laid out a story about a bizarre sort of love triangle between a sophisticated robot, his creator, and a female reporter that comes to do a story on them. I mentioned Masahiro Mori’s book The Buddha In The Robot, which not surprisingly Shahin had read and loved as well. That’s when I realized that we were going to be perfect partners to pull this thing off. 

Shahin started writing it the next day. We would talk on the phone late at night and trade ideas back and forth over the next month. Simple ones like “What it means to be human?” to weirder ones like “Could a robot be religious?” All sorts of ideas. Shahin could only work on the script at these crazy hours because he is a urologist and often had surgeries in the morning and afternoon. I’m still not sure how he managed to pull it off so quickly considering his “day job.”

How close are we in reality to a world of functioning humanoid robots?

Oh boy. Humanoid? Probably not true humanoid because we are dealing with a bio-mechanical form that isn’t easy to replicate. Now, if you are talking about a powerful machine that can do virtually all of the things humans do and many things that humans cannot, well, that is starting to happen right now.

Is moving toward that future a disturbing or promising trend?

Two people that I think are very smart have very different ideas about this. Google’s director of engineering Ray Kurzweil thinks in about 10 years humanity will reach what is referred to as “The Singularity,” where computers will develop a  “consciousness.” He also thinks that this will have positive repercussions for humankind. Helping to cure cancer, prolong life, help us solve big ticket problems faster, etc.

On the other hand you have the likes of Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX who famously tweeted this past summer that A.I. is potentially more dangerous than nukes. I’m still not sure, but I do believe that we need to keep a close eye on where all this is headed. I mean, theoretically, if A.I. developed enough it would look at humans with all of their pollution, warring, and sickness, as something that was a threat to its existence — like humans think of a deadly virus. And I suppose it would not be a stretch for them to try and wipe us out. I know, now I’m sounding like The Terminator.

Did you spend a lot of effort getting the scientific verbiage and aspects as correct as possible? 
I left most of that in the capable hands of Shahin, the film’s screenwriter. He’s the one who has the science background. It was a real help to have him on set to work with actors when it came to using certain instruments and making sure pronunciations were right.
What projects are next on your horizon?

I do a lot of work in Rwanda and DR Congo with a charity I started a few years ago (We Are Limitless) and have been wanting to shoot something there but just haven’t found the right story. But I did start hearing more and more about the situation in the Niger Delta. The oil piracy, pollution, corporate greed, $1 billion of crude oil being stolen a month from the pipelines. It’s crazy. So I wrote a thriller about an American private military contractor and a local fisherman whose lives get tangled when the fisherman is forced to join the oil pirates in order to provide for his family.

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