Adapted from Philip K. Dick’s 1985 novel by the same name, Radio Free Albemuth (2010) is a curious bird, blending dystopian society, technology, extraterrestrial life, religion and the notion of free will into one Maverick film.
When Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) begins receiving visions – or transmissions – from an unknown alien presence he refers to as VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System), he uproots his life, and that of his wife, and relocates from Berkeley, California, to Los Angeles. Taking a job as a record executive at Progressive Records, Nick soon discovers that the messages he receives from VALIS offer him insight into the future. Nick shares his insights and visions with his good friend Phil (Shea Wingham), a science fiction writer, Nick soon draws the attention of the Gestapo-like group Friends of the American People – under the rule of the tyrannical U.S. President Ferris F. Fremont (Scott Wilson). As Nick continues to receive information about the purpose of VALIS and the mysterious Aramchek organization, he devises a plan to spread the good word of VALIS via subliminal messages embedded in an upcoming album Progressive Records is releasing.
Part V for Vendetta and part Battlefield Earth, Radio Free Albemuth rejects government dominion, while at the same time seeking answers through aligning with the values of a higher being. Though it was written in 1976 – and published posthumously in 1985 – the themes found in Dick’s novel transcend decades to offer a commentary on government censorship and control that’s relevent today. Featuring Alanis Morrisette in a lead role as Sylvia Aramchek, a singer and member of the elusive Aramchek organization, the film paints an eerie picture of a society where anything and anyone can be labelled as “subversive”.
Radio Free Albemuth sees its Canadian premiere, with director John Alan Simon in attendance, on Saturday, September 24th at 4:15pm at The Plaza Theatre, with an encore screening Sunday, September 25th at 9:30pm.