With the sounds of her crash landing mixing with voices from the past, Doctor Eva Novak of deep space research organistaion Navis awakens in an alien desert, thrown clear from the wreckage of her ship. Comms are down and there is nothing useful to be salvaged, and she is left alone in the desolate landscape with only her resolve and her practicality and her memories for company.
While the environment is not actively hostile nor is it particularly amenable, and as she tries to scrabble together the bare necessities of survival to keep herself warm through the night, Eva begins to suffer visual and auditory hallucinations; is it the effect of the environment, of lack of oxygen, or is it her subconscious trying to tell her what to do?
Directed and edited by Roan Sajko from a script by Angharad Nettle-Smythe to which Sakjo also contributed, they and their associates at Sixth Planet Productions have comprehensively demonstrated the skills they learned during their time at Australia’s Academy of Information Technology and what can be achieved on a microbudget.
Telling two parallel stories in just over ten minutes, of Eva on the planet and her memories of her life on Earth with her young son Elijah before she left on the mission, Navis cannot be more than a snapshot, and as is so often in science fiction there are hints that it may in fact be using the conventions of genre to tell a story that is not in fact about a failed expedition at all.
The crash of her ship cleverly represented rather than depicted to stretch their Kickstarted budget of just over AU$5,000 to the limit, fixing her own ship won’t be so easy as when she mended Eli’s broken toy, but it is the location and Doctor Novak’s environmental suit which give more reality to the situation than it may actually warrant.
If Eva’s behaviour doesn’t quite ring true, either in the present or in her memories, is it because she isn’t recalling what really happened so much as how she imagines it might have been, or is she trying to rewrite her past to a better ending?
Given the requirements of science fiction to set up more than a conventional drama might in the same time, Ashleigh Stewart and Natana Poa convey what is required of Eva and Eli to convey the story and if their relationship is slightly cloying it is a consequence of the requirement for narrative shorthand rather than dramatic development.
As it stands, Navis is a compact and efficiently created calling card for a talented team of creatives, particularly production and costume designer Tomas Curda and cinematographer Peeja Svoboda, with the end title design of Wei Liu and Mary Zumbo particularly pleasing.