There’s plenty of aesthetic polish to Futura, but it’s largely mitigated by the bland, reductive didacticism at its aging core.
“How do you do, fellow kids?” We’ve all seen that clip from 30 Rock, where a try-hard Steve Buscemi — adorned with a hoodie, backwards ball cap, and skateboard — which feels like an attempt at impressing the Gen Z crowd, even as it predates them. It’s a humorous clip from a rather mediocre sitcom that has since spread like wildfire across the internet; and also a perfect encapsulation of Futura; a collective work directed by three of the most influential Italian auteurs currently working. Rumor has it that Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi, and Alice Rohrwacher met together in late 2019 to pitch and collaborate on a unique omnibus film. After tackling various ideas and concepts, the three filmmakers decided on the participatory documentary format which we see today, with all three directors directly involved in each of the featured interviews and B-rolls. The topic at hand? An investigative work examining Generation Z’s fears, perspectives, and general outlook on society, alongside the dawning threats of the future.
It’s as pretentious as it sounds: a presumptively historical record already outdated, given its limited and selective outreach. There’s a penchant for data collection in nearly every interview, where Rohrwacher, Munzi, and Marcello attempt to put on display the dreams and aspirations of young Italian teens across the country through a mosaic of poorly assembled storytelling. Futura is a film so pedantically obsessed with its central thesis of articulating a specific generational archetype that none of the three directors even thought to think outside of the box and experiment with varying perspectives, both formally and thematically, in reference to the more heated political issues at hand. It’s a superficial portrait-cum-examination of industrialization and human movement, nothing but derivative for the Gen Z viewer.
Perhaps this might be a bit harsh of a reaction towards Futura, coming from a young, teenage writer born in the troublesome year of 2002. Yet, all that surfaces through the film’s 105 minutes is a blurred and pandering reflection of this writer’s friends and colleagues. Futura is the TikTok generation’s meager profile; a documentary that examines neither the interpersonal social lives nor external anxieties of Generation Z. It’s riddled with missed opportunities, where multiple discourses involving climate change, privacy, surveillance, corruption, fascism, terrorism, and even the pandemic appear only haphazardly and at random. All that’s left to savor is its beautiful 16mm aesthetic, curiously ironic for its utilizing of baby boomer technology against the backdrop of an iPhone-dependent world; a wonderful aesthetic choice representing generational symbiosis, only to be deterred by a less wonderful didacticism at its aging core.
Originally published as part of Cannes Film Festival 2021 — Dispatch 9.