Like a rampaging virtual warrior Battledream Chronicles: A new beginning has been slaying award after award. Martiniquan writer/director Alain Bidard’s apocalyptic sci fi drama has won awards at festivals in Venezuela, Guadeloupe, South Africa and Italy and has been featured at a number of festivals including in Nigeria, Russia, Colombia and India.

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Heaven this is not…

A new beginning,  a prequel to Bidard’s 2015 feature-length animated film, is set in the 22nd century following a global war. An evil empire has enslaved the world, wiped the memories of the conquered and forced then to farm for XP in the titular videogame which is a literal fight to the death.

The short literally throws you into the action with youthful Slave 888 Syanna (Nuriyyih Gerrard) and her desperate struggle for survival in a conquered Martinique. Battledream does not have the budget of a Disney or Dreamworks but the animation does have a wonderfully dark colour palette  and a distinctive, videogame style. The frenetic, anime-inspired action scenes are smoothly animated and most entertaining. And the angel and halo designs of the female fighters in the virtual battlefield are also quite memorable.

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Insert evil laugh here

The very solid voice cast is led by Joseph Marcell (best known as Geoffrey Butler from the Fresh Prince) as the delightfully evil slave master Zeus, Trinidadian Nickolai Salcedo (Hero, Moving Parts) as power-hungry slave owner Torquemada, and Bajan soca queen Allison Hinds who lends her smooth voice to veteran slave and Syanna mother figure Leto. Gerrard gets a bit high pitched at times but it’s not too bad.

On the surface the concept may seem like a Caribbean version of The Matrix but it is much more. The story deftly incorporates themes of slavery, colonisation, neo-colonialism, identity, division, oppression and hope. While Syanna is in the bleakest of situations there is hope, personified by Leto, and some humour courtesy a colourful group of slaves from all over the Caribbean. The short is intended as a pilot for a TV series (the ending is a cliffhanger) and this beautiful, dark world is definitely worth returning to for a full season of episodes

Rating: Battledream: A new beginning gets 4.5/5 lethal angels.

For a review of the Battledream Chronicles film you can click here. And for more information on Battledream you can check out their Facebook page.