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I watched a number of incredible movies at Sundance this year, but there’s only one that, three months on, I still think about almost every day, and that’s We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, written, directed, and edited by Jane Schoenbrun. This one-of-a-kind film is Schoenbrun’s first narrative feature, but our audiences should already be familiar with their work. They were the mind behind collective:unconscious, which played MdFF 2016, as well as The Eyeslicer (an ongoing episodic project), A Self-Induced Hallucination, and The Eyeslicer Halloween Special—all of which screened theatrically at the Parkway. And speaking of the Parkway: as a long-time employee, I am, of course, disappointed that the festival will be virtual again this year, but I personally think that this movie is tailor-made for in-home viewing, as long as you promise to give it the undivided attention it deserves.


Certain viewers who grew up in the internet age will immediately recognize themselves in Casey: a socially-awkward high-schooler (played by Anna Cobb, in an astonishing feature debut) who spends most of her time alone in her dark attic bedroom, making and watching videos online. Casey’s current obsession is the “World’s Fair Challenge”—the latest in a long line of viral internet challenges that finds young people doing reckless and/or dangerous things on camera in a bid for cyber notoriety. She decides to stop being a spectator and start being a participant, so—with her laptop’s built-in Photo Booth camera rolling—Casey performs the initiation ritual, which includes the thrice-repeated incantation: “I want to go to the World’s Fair.” From then on, she exhibits some uncanny and concerning symptoms, and she dutifully documents them on video for all of her followers—among them, the mysterious JLB (Michael J. Rogers). But are her symptoms all part of an act for the “game” she’s supposedly playing, or are they real, with potential real-world consequences?


World’s Fair’s biggest strength is the deeply satisfying, unsettling atmosphere Schoenbrun uses to mirror Casey’s insular existence; they incorporate an angsty, otherworldly score from home-recording sensation, Alex G, and videos from real-life YouTuber, Slight Sounds ASMR, to create a half-online, half-offline world that somehow feels completely authentic and completely original at the same time. But it’s a thematically potent film, as well—one that explores questions of identity, transformation, and truth. And maybe I just don’t have a very firm definition of who I am as an adult, but I think all of those questions are still relevant. If that’s the case for you, too, well...I hope this movie helps you to realize that that's okay. This concludes my incantation—now start the video.


—Lucas Cullen, Programming Associate, MdFF 2021


Content considerations: depictions of self-harm, discussion of gun violence, strong language

  • Year
    2020
  • Runtime
    86 minutes
  • Language
    English
  • Country
    United States
  • Note
    English closed captions available
  • Director
    Jane Schoenbrun
  • Screenwriter
    Jane Schoenbrun
  • Producer
    Sarah Winshall and Carlos Zozaya
  • Executive Producer
    Hannah Dweck, Theodore Schaefer, Daniel Patrick Carbone, Zachary Shedd, Matthew Petock, David Lowery
  • Co-Producer
    Abby Harri
  • Cast
    Anna Cobb and Michael J. Rogers
  • Cinematographer
    Daniel Patrick Carbone
  • Editor
    Jane Schoenbrun
  • Animator
    Albert Birney
  • Production Design
    Grace Sloan
  • Composer
    Alex G
  • Sound Design
    Eli Cohn