Short of the Week


Robbie, NASA’s sentient robot astronaut, relates his life and times in the space program. A powerful narrative constructed entirely of archival footage.

2032. That was the year Robbie became self-aware, but no “SkyNet” dystopian future followed. Robbie is nice. He enjoys being helpful. He is good friends with the human astronauts, and became a practicing Catholic. Robbie has a fascination and affinity for humankind, but is not one of us, making him an excellent narrator for humanity’s fall.

Robbie is a brilliant short film from Australia’s Neil Harvey. Created entirely of NASA archival footage, Harvey, through editing and the writing of Robbie’s monologue, constructs a touching, powerfully elegiac narrative around his robot main character, one which, in true sci-fi fashion, transverse boundaries of human nature, and vast amounts of time. We see and hear of the world through Robbie’s eyes and his voice, the film investing itself in robot subjectivity to a truly novel degree.

The monotone delivery of dialogue and the slow unfolding of Robbie’s memory and experiences dovetail with that elegiac plotting, creating a sweet, but mournful look at what has been, far more effective than the obvious mainstream example, Spielberg’s ambitious but deeply flawed, A.I. The found footage creates that extra level of intimacy that an original, VFX piece would not have attained. It is a well known principle of course, born from short films, and which eventually made its way to the big screen in films like Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity, that the verisimilitude of amateurish footage can deepen audience engagement, and once again that principle is proven to be powerful in this piece.

The warmth and heart of the film, can be perhaps credited to its genesis. An anniversary gift to his wife, Harvey views the film as philosophical and, hopefully cathartic, rather than tragic, using the vehicle of artificial intelligence, to grapple with the meaning of love, life and, ultimately, death. Striking a unique tone, in an absolutely unique way, Robbie is one of the most fascinating and enjoyable short films in a long while.

Co-Founder of Short of the Week, Sondhi lives in Brooklyn working as a Curator for Vimeo. Follow his musings on online video, direct distribution and branded content: @jasondhi.
  • Eric Goetz

    Very excellent film.  Thanks for sharing, Jason.

  • Eric Goetz

    Very excellent film.  Thanks for sharing, Jason.

  • ivan kander

    Amazing. It’s this type of creativity that astounds me…the kind of thing where I see it and think: “Why didn’t I think of that!” Great film!

  • Austin Pelliciari

    great. somewhere on the top of my list.

  • Andrew S Allen

    Amazingly touching piece. Forget the death and terror of terminators, with robots like Robbie and Wall-E, the robots of the future are more likely to kill us with kindness.

    The film itself reminds me of Penny Lane’s The Voyagers—another epic space meditation compiled from found footage. Another must watch!

  • Dick Nicholson

    3 years ago i had the idea for a movie called “Stock Footage” sort of rings like Hollywood where we get stuff like “Pulp Fiction. the titling is not the point – what is the point is the fact that there are shots and footage already – they are just waiting for someone to give them a story as this piece has done – and quite eloquently

  • Ranger7studios

    That was depressing. Great job though. Very touching.

  • cinimodssegrub

    Brilliant work. Felt very emotional watching it – very strange to, as I knew it was just a machine. Very interesting the way we humanise anything that even slightly resembles us!

  • Alan

    Such a wonderful, sentimental feeling of isolation and appreciation.

  • Corum0786 .

    Awesome! Should end with Gamma Ray’s Watcher in the Sky. Great short. Like that documentary style.

  • bob the moo

    And here is the same film starring Patrick Stewart and using the real anthropomorphised messages from Jade Rabbit: