BY: DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Arman Darbo, Chloe Ray Warmoth, Nick Moran, Bill Oberst Jr and Eric Roberts
Written and Directed by Dana Ziyasheva
GREATLAND tells the story of a dystopian hell where the world is being torn apart by a mysterious virus and everyone is losing their minds over an arbitrary election where the candidates have superficial differences, like being a cat or dog. It’s not the most subtle satire, less “ripped from the headlines,” and more “used Silly Putty to pull phrases from newspapers.” You may like it, you may like it for the wrong reasons, or you may hate it. It’s a psychedelic trip through a world gone mad with “leftist” ideals that only has merit depending on how you view the writer/director’s motivations.
The story follows Ulysses (Arman Darbo, And Then I Go, Itsy Bitsy) as he navigates the titular GREATLAND on his very special birthday. Every aspect of his life is governed by the mysterious Mother, an entity that relays messages to all citizens of GREATLAND through their wrist communicators. The denizens believe Mother to be an actual person, but viewers will instantly know her to be a computer overlord, consistently bombarding her subjects with propaganda. She affirms that GREATLAND is the birthplace of fun, and that enforced tolerance and diversity are the greatest things to achieve. Already, a viewer will get the impression that this is one of those “this is the world libs want” kind of films, where the police are rainbow-clad, painfully effeminate hunks that enforce a world of forced gender nonbinary-ism.
Ulysses best friend is Ugly Duck (Chloe Ray Warmoth, Fuller House, Trevor and the Virgin) who is a social outcast due to being born through actual procreative sex, something that has been outlawed due to it resulting in painful births. Already viewers should notice that this is definitely not a leftist ideal, since leftists are some of the most awesomely depraved individuals you will ever meet. You can’t simultaneously cast people as perverts as well as prudes out of the two sides of your mouth. Anyways, Ugly Duck is afflicted with something simply known as the Virus (which seems to be the simple act of menstruating) that has been plaguing GREATLAND after an attack by The Evils, a vague threat that unifies the people.
A lot of other goofy shit happens, like people getting married to trees, or Ulysses getting assigned a rabbit as his son. Ugly Duck gets is forced to choose between becoming sort of Cat Girl or an ominous S.L.A.V.E., which seem to be the only occupations for women. This must be the logical conclusion of feminism or something. Ugly Duck gets taken away, and Ulysses vows to save her.
At this point in the film, I was pretty pissed off. This was a conservative’s wet dream, showing what would happen to the country if we let those filthy SJWs take over. It feels like the right-wing version of Idiocracy (2006) with fewer jokes. I may have been wrong though. The big reveal, halfway through the movie, is that this is just what the powers that be have done with GREATLAND. There are still greasy, rich, white pedophiles calling the shots, making all the lower class people we’ve spent time with do all the work and gather all the resources. The election that has most of the people in GREATLAND fighting each other tooth and nail is actually just a media spectacle, with the President of GREATLAND (Eric Roberts, The Dark Knight, The Pope of Greenwich Village) pitting his pet dog against his wife’s cat for popularity.
This may be a naïve interpretation, but this is a criticism of right-wing tactics, and how they often co-op and appropriate leftist causes to better suit their needs. Like Kendall Jenner ending racial tensions by offering a Pepsi, or Bell running a mental health campaign while mistreating their own employees, many morally bankrupt individuals will slap a shiny rainbow sticker on their soulless profiteering to placate the masses. GREATLAND isn’t leftist ideals taken to their extreme, it’s what conservatives think leftist ideals are being used to consolidate their own power.
Unfortunately, this interpretation relies on the good faith that writer/director Dana Ziyasheva isn’t using her platform to force Right-wing talking points. Her history as a UNESCO diplomat, a well as her previous film Defenders of Life, which brings light to the issue of child-brides, makes one believe that she is invested in the betterment of the human race, believing in equality and tolerance, not maintaining the status quo.
Some may love this film because they see it as a scathing criticism of the mindless liberalism the world is (supposedly) spiraling into. Some may hate the film for that same reason. Some may love the film because it calls out performative social justice by those in power, and again, it might be hated for that same reason. All that can be recommended is that you see the film, judge for yourself, and enjoy the awesome visuals along the way.
GREATLAND is now available on VOD from Indie RIghts