By now, you've probably seen director Alfonso Cuaron's high-grossing, critically beloved Gravity, which stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts who become stranded in space during a mission gone awry. Now comes a short film called "Aningaaq," shot by Cuaron's son Jonas, which adds an intriguing wrinkle by giving us a brief glimpse of the man on the other end of a desperate radio call Bullock makes in one of the movie's most integral scenes.
"Aningaaq" introduces viewers to the character of the same name, an Inuit man living with his family in a remote part of Greenland. When his radio starts to crackle, Aningaaq picks it up and begins to chat. "I hear you. I hear you!'" cries Aningaaq as Bullock's Dr. Ryan Stone delivers her monologue from Gravity. "All other astronauts on the mission are dead," she says as she attempts to reach mission control in Houston. "Do you copy? I'm stranded in the Soyuz spacecraft without any fuel or oxygen left. I'm feeling dizzy. S.O.S., do you understand? Mayday, mayday. Do you copy?"
On his end, Aningaaq — who can't comprehend the severity of Stone's situation, and assumes that her name must be Mayday — talks about his sick dog Nanaak, who will soon need to be put down. "There's nothing I can do but sacrifice her. Yes, I know it's normal. She's a very old dog. But I can't give up on her. I can't say goodbye. I love that dog so much." As Stone prepares to die, she hears Aningaaq singing to his crying child; when her voice fades, he picks up his rifle and wanders away as satellite debris passes far overhead.
"Aningaaq" is an enormously powerful short film that adds a fascinating extra-narrative context to one of Gravity's most memorable scenes — but how did it happen? According to The Hollywood Reporter, the father-son team came up with the idea as they were co-writing Gravity. "Aningaaq" was shot with a small crew on a micro-budget of just $100,000, and the film was ready in time for Alfonso Cuaron to add its dialogue track to the final cut of Gravity — resulting in a seamless conversation that occurs in both the blockbuster and its short counterpart.
The film was originally intended as a special feature for Gravity's release on Blu-ray. But the short was so warmly received during festival screenings at Venice and Telluride that Warner Bros. has submitted it for consideration in the live-action short category at next year's Academy Awards.