If there’s any genre of film that represents futurism in intellect and style, it’s queer themes mixed with sci-fi. These two have been used before in classics like V for Vendetta and Cloud Atlas but the queer element has often been secondary; a non-critical constituent of the plot hidden beneath the Sci-Fi-forward narratives. You probably haven’t even noticed that there was a queer element in the massively popular films I mentioned. Until now, the thematic formula in such films never had those two components in equal quantities.
Until this short film called Coming Out With The Help Of A Time Machine. As the name suggests, LGBTQIA+ is the central theme of the film, aided by sci-fi. The short film is about Sid, played by Karan Soni, who uses a time machine to change the outcomes of a very important moment in his life - coming out to his family. Sid’s parents are god-fearing Brown folks who are not taking the news well and are afflicted by the age-old “where did we go wrong” narrative. His father can’t comprehend how his MIT grad son turned out to be gay when he never wore “skinny jeans”, and the mother throws a conniption calling their family physician in distress. The film is shot in real-time in a diner setting that enlivens the whole storyline.
Sid has a reset button on his watch that helps him recreate this day repeatedly so that he can come out to his family in the least disruptive way possible, which is rare. Coming-out stories are always complicated and imagining them in a South Asian household? that’s a whole other flavour of drama. The protagonist's pain and fear of not being accepted for his sexuality is so tormenting, it supersedes his regard for the effects of time travel on the time-space continuum; an otherwise major concern often brought up in science fiction. The short film explores not just homophobia that plagues our culture but also racial prejudice that’s often seen among orthodox immigrants. It’s a heart-felt story of sensitive Brown-family dynamics.
This beloved short film was the winner of the Netflix-sponsored Tasveer Film Fund and has been an official selection at more than 50 film festivals (and counting) including Tribeca Festival winning 16 awards so far. It’s also being converted into an hour-long sci-fi, LGBTQIA+, immigration family drama TV series.
'Coming Out With The Help Of A Time Machine' is directed by Naman Gupta, an award-winning BIPOC director/writer and a fellow of Ryan Murphy's Director Shadowing Program, 2022. Naman grew up in India and has worked against many odds to carve out a career for himself in the states. He loves blending fiction with contemporary social issues to reach a wider audience. His immigrant background and unique lived experiences in three countries and countless cities help him bring a fresh and authentic voice, impassioned talent and a deep understanding of storytelling to all his projects.
“The film started with a youtube video; a video of a same-sex couple describing their experience of coming out to their Indian parents. It was honest, funny, and emotional. My writing partner, Janki, shared the video with me with a note saying we should do a coming-out story. However, I did not want to do just another coming-out story. So we sat on it, while we worked on other fun projects. Then one day, as I was scribbling a time loop scene set in a diner, it hit me. Having a passion for sci-fi and blending fiction with contemporary social issues, why not tell the coming out story in a new and fresh way... the sci-fi way. Something bold, exciting, and genre-bending. Thus, the idea of Coming Out With The Help Of A Time Machine was born”, shares the director.
This striking visual production succeeds in doing what films do best; make pain palatable. It captures every emotional aspect of a family - Sid’s fear of loss and abandonment from his parents, his anxious attempts to make the day “perfect” and the parents’ internal battles as they struggle between their love for their son and the judgment of the community and their orthodox beliefs. This short film is a big beautiful mess, like life itself.