It was a book so iconic that it popularised a term that continues to be in regular use today. 

When Alvin Toffler wrote his book Future Shock - which became an instant bestseller - in 1970, he defined the term as the overwhelming feelings people experience when faced with a rapidly changing future. Never has that sensation felt so relevant and on point as in the past year, as the world attempts to adapt to the global pandemic. 

But the phrase and theme has long been a starting point for screen storytellers, even long before director Byron Haskin and screenwriter Barré Lyndon adapted HG Wells’ epic War of the Worlds for the big screen. These films, when done most successfully, not only tell of rapid change and unprecedented strife, but reflect on our place in the world and in society. They show the strength of human resilience and the power of community. 

This year, the theme Future Shock is a central strand of VMDIFF’s 2021 programme as filmmakers the world over look at how rapid future change impacts on lives, and what we can learn about ourselves in their stories. 

“Contemporary society has been changed forever by the Covid 19 pandemic, an experience which we are all processing as a planet yet in our own ways,” said Festival Director Gráinne Humphreys. “According to Alvin Toffler,  Future Shock is described as ‘the dizzyingly disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future.’ 

“From Mexican revolution in New Order, to the amnesia pandemic in Apples, the demolition of housing projects in Gagarine and the lives of the Russian LGBT community of A Worm in the Heart, the films reveal the fractures and fissures created by rapid change. The traumas are shown to be powerful and overwhelming - however, the optimist will watch this short season and draw some solace from the resistance and solidarity of the communities depicted.” 

New Order

Michel Franco’s Mexican dystopian thriller, New Order, examines the very such subject matter. In it, a working-class uprising overwhelms a city in Franco’s tense look at the collapse of a political system in microcosm. When a man approaches a prosperous wedding party seeking support for his sick wife, he’s treated largely with distain as a violent and bloody coup unfolds on the streets. What emerges is a taut story described by Screen International as: “dynamic cinema which takes no prisoners outside the hostages on screen: loud and violent, it lures the viewer into a place where there can be no bystanders.” 


The city of Athens is struck by the future shock of a pandemic that causes people to develop amnesia in the wryly funny feature debut from Greek director/co-writer Christos Nikou. Very well received and reviewed on the festival circuit, Nikou worked as assistant director on Yorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth before making his debut. Described as the latest in Greece’s so-called “weird wave” of filmmaking, it centres on one man who, when faced with stark choices, endeavours to create a new identity for himself through a state-sponsored programme.  Deadpan in tone, surreal and absurdist in humour, Screen International wrote: “This hugely accomplished, satisfyingly textured first feature is really something special.”


A teenager fights to save his home - the only one he has ever known - from imminent demolition in French feature Gagarine, a breakout hit from the Cannes Film Festival. Blending suburban reality with space-age fantasy, it tells the story of Yuri, who is named after Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. So is the working-class housing project where he lives - and even as he dreams of leaving home to become an astronaut himself, he is determined to save his home and community from the effects of a planned demolition. Alséni Bathily has received strong reviews for his lead role in this debut feature from Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh.

A Worm in the Heart

Irish director Paul Rice and producer Liam Jackson Montgomery join forces to create a moving and very personal portrait of what it means to be gay in Russia in A Worm in the Heart. An intimate documentary about the experiences of various people within the LGBTQ+ community, the film focuses on six cities along the line of the famous Trans-Siberian Railway. Their stories are by turns shocking, moving and poignant. 


Corporate greed, economic tensions and the effects of the gig economy are the very present future shocks now examined in a clever and original way in US feature Lapsis. A story that blends the threats of modern living with the storytelling power of sci-fi, we meet Ray, who, in a bid to assist his ill brother, is ‘hired’ by a top company. His job? To trek into the forest to lay cables for a boss that substitutes pay and decent conditions for pep talks. The Los Angeles Times called it: “A refreshing instance of world building where the emphasis is on satirical wit, activist smarts and character.”

Esther Mccarthy

Book Future Shock films and discover the full programme.

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