After the year we’ve had with 2020, it’s safe to say that most want to move on after the troubling times we’ve all encountered. Safety restrictions have meant that us seeing our loved ones outside of home is much more difficult, and self-isolation has driven us to be more connected, albeit apart. Yet safety restrictions didn’t stop director/writer, Adam Mason, from completing both the writing and production of Songbird, a film set within a dystopian future of 2024 that will surely hit close to home for many.

The film is set in the not-too-distant future setting within the light of a world where COVID-19 has not only continued to entrap people within their homes, but also mutated as well. Now classified as ‘COVID-23’, the film has a semi-fictional take on the very-real virus that keeps us on edge today. The virus has an increased mortality rate upwards of 50% and an incubation rate much faster than what our current virus has itself.

SONGBIRD: SOCIALLY-DISTANCED FILMMAKING

But do not fret! Thankfully our main character Nico, played by a much more grizzled-looking KJ Apa of Riverdale fame, is immune to the virus. Working as a courier making deliveries around his home city amid “martial law, murderous vigilantes and a powerful, well-connected family in order to reunite with his love.” Songbird, director Adam Mason describes the pandemic-set thriller as a “Romeo and Juliet [tale], but they’re separated by her front door and the virus.”

Songbird KJ Apa
KJ Apa stars in Songbird

Playing Nico’s socially-isolated love-interest is Sofia Carson, most known from Disney’s Descendants franchise as Evie. While the two leads are sure to have very little actual time right next to each other (both on set and in the film) Evie is said to “[never feel] like the damsel in distress”, according to Carson.

Even though she’s lost everything, she is a warrior of hope. She represents this young generation of fearless men and women who are holding onto hope and who are the real true leaders, who will lead us into the future.

Sofia Carson on her character, Sara

Rounding out the rest of the cast is a surprising amount of big-name actors. Craig Robinson (The Office), Bradley Whitford (Godzilla: King of the Monsters), Alexandra Daddario (Baywatch) and more round out the cast, although their roles are currently unknown.

Even more unknown is the scale of the film itself. Mason and his co-writer, Simon Boyes, began the Songbird script in March of this year, with filming and majority of production completed by only July, with the shoot beginning on the 8th and concluding just seventeen days later. It makes one question the integrity and overall quality of the film itself, as productions such as this with shorter windows for completion have historically turned out less-than-ideal as a final product.

Songbird is a Passion Project

Despite the short production cycle however, for many involved this seems to be a passion product, birthed out of both a desire to create something meaningful out of their troubled circumstances, and to gain a reprieve (however ironic it may be) from their COVID-safe lifestyles.

Mason told Entertainment Weekly in an interview, “We should just go and make a movie. We should just get together with our friends and do something on our phones.” The initial premise of shooting the film on a budget with just phone cameras got upturned, however, with the help of studio backing, most notably with the involvement of Michael Bay, most (in)famously known for his take on the Transformers franchise.

Songbird city
A dystopian city… crazy fantasy, or dark future?

Michael Bay’s involvement with the film itself provides the most interesting aspect to Songbird, and ultimately why I’m skeptical of its supposed tale of “hope.” As many would glean from his filmography, Bay isn’t typically known for his heartfelt, thought-provoking stories. Bay’s style is much more gung-ho and “‘Merica Woo!” than a legitimate insight into what life amid a pandemic and social-distancing can do to those among those circumstances.

My suspicions aren’t helped either by the poster’s clear foregrounding of Michael Bay’s involvement, as well as its emboldened mentioning of both The Purge and A Quiet Place, whose messages and tone seems far out of line. At least compared to a film depicting an – admittedly exaggerated – depiction of a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

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Add onto this, the very soapy Hollywood-esque poster of two characters in dark lighting trying to embrace each other without a hint to the underlying setting or virus it’s based on, I’m curious to see the public reaction to the film once it fully releases.

Furthermore, no Songbird promotional material thus far has even hinted towards characters wearing any form of Personal Protection Equipment either. This is especially interesting considering Nico’s profession is traveling across the city. Despite his apparent “immunity” (which itself feels like a disservice to the real-world impacts of the virus), him not wearing seemingly any form of mask highlights how the film seems to be striving for a more-topical iteration of The Last of Us’ post-pandemic world, than what a real-life situation could be.

Songbird Sofia Carson

That being said, the looks Entertainment Weekly have provided are few, and it is possible that the promotional material shown thus far has decided to not show any such element of the film that depicts characters implementing protective methods such as masks.

But the biggest question of all is: Should this even be a thing? Or at least, should this be a thing so soon? I love dystopian fiction as much as the next person, but this seems to lean more a bit too close to non-fiction that it may hit too close to home for many, and depending on the events of the film itself, could provide to be a bit too much.

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Songbird is certainly a curious case within the film industry right now, as the ethical quandaries of releasing a film about an exaggerated version of a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands is a mine field. Even more so is how the film itself would be released: putting a film such as these in theaters (especially within the next year or so) would show a severe lack of self-awareness on the subject matter. Whereas putting it on a streaming service such as Netflix or on Video On Demand services could suit it much better.

Songbird poster
Songbird’s Poster

Songbird currently has no set release date. For more on the world of movies and more, be sure to stay tuned to The Illuminerdi for more!

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