The documentary feature More than Robots had its world premiere on March 14 at SXSW and is now available for streaming on Disney+.
Directed by Gillian Jacobs and executive produced by Michael Garcia and CalArts alum Christine Beebe (Film/Video MFA 05), the film follows four teams of teens from Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Chiba, Japan, as they prepare for the 2020 FIRST® Robotics Competition. Combining sports and intellectual rigor—focusing on science and technology—the high school teams work under strict rules, as well as limited time and resources, to build robots. The creations then face off in challenging field games against each other.
As the film’s title suggests, designing and building are only two pieces of the competition. The documentary follows along as the students raise funds, create a team brand, and work on their teambuilding skills and friendly sportsmanship. More than Robots also captured lessons in patience and perseverance as the students endure the uncertainty of a worldwide pandemic and canceled finals, leading to an uplifting and unexpected ending that proves the kids are alright.
From The Hollywood Reporter’s review:
The end of More Than Robots is both an inspiration and an indictment. As we navigate another year of the pandemic, most government officials have abdicated their responsibilities to their people. Watching these kids use their comparatively meager means to help one another, and listening to them speak about interdependence, really puts those leaders’ selfishness into perspective.
Beebe, an independent producer, was most recently at Lucasfilm as director of its Non-fFction Development department. She was nominated for the Producers Guild of America’s 2019 Outstanding Producer Award in Documentary Film for the feature film, HAL, a documentary on director Hal Ashby, an unsung hero of the New Hollywood Cinema era.