In this chilling techno-thriller, an investor in a mysterious virtual reality startup finds that the sordid experiences the service provides its clients aren’t as virtual as he’d been told.
After losing everything when the Silicon Valley startup he’s invested in flames out, venture capitalist Joel (Zack Robidas) finds himself in the undesirable position of living with his wife’s parents in suburban New York. Desperate to regain his autonomy, Joel happens upon a chance for redemption when smooth-talking acquaintance Nicolaus (Eric Berryman) introduces him to XVR, a hyper-realistic virtual reality experience that allows users to literally walk in someone else’s shoes. XVR’s wealthy but unhappy clients get to briefly inhabit the lives of the less fortunate, leaving them freshly attuned to the pleasures of their own privilege. A test run of the XVR experience is a revelation, and soon Joel has encouraged his wealthy in-laws to put everything into the fledgling company. But it doesn’t take long for Joel to recognize that the seemingly-benign technology is leaving a sinister real-world impact, leading him down a dangerous rabbit hole of lies, blackmail, and mistaken identities. Boasting an ingeniously twisty script and lensed in striking black and white, EMPATHY, INC. is that rare breed of genre film: a thrilling feat of imagination that still feels acutely attuned to the harsh realities of contemporary life.
CAST: Zack Robidas, Kathy Searle, Jay Klaitz, Eric Berryman
In Competition: Pinkenson Award
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