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[Fantastic Fest Review]…Wastelander Panda: Exile

Wastelander-PANDA_FF2014Of all the oddities found at Fantastic Fest, some titles seem tailor-made for the genre fans who flock to Austin every September. Now Wastelander Panda may come across like something between an Old Spice commercial and a love of anime, but, as ludicrous as it sounds, the story works. The plot – giant pandas making their way thorough an apocalyptic outback – is really kind of cool, and even more so if you just go with it. This 60 minute story is a fantasy piece that builds very well, and the episodic nature of the story keeps you wanting more.

The future depicted in the savage world of the Wasteland universe is bleak, harsh and minimalist (it’s from Australia, so go figure), but there still exists a spark of humanity, and a strong focus on the importance of family. It binds the characters together, even if they are the three humanoid Pandas (mother and two brothers) seen in the header image. Responsible for the violent death of a young girl, Issac (one of the brothers) causes his family to be banished from the Tribe of Legion. Desperate to reinstate his family to Legion, Isaac aligns himself with the Helm Clan – a family of bounty hunters – to seek a replacement child.

The story has heart, and it’s based on the strange but symbiotic relationship between Rose (the girl) and Isaac (the Panda) – she teaches him things he doesn’t know (dangers of the forest for instance), and he becomes her body guard while they both quest to be reunited with their respective families. It’s surprisingly dense yet accessible, and caters to fans of many different genres. It’s easy to pick up on echoes of properties like Lone Wolf and Cub but this Australian production certainly crafts and executes it’s own unique vision.

Wastelander Panda is a work of extreme fiction told across six 10-minute segments. It is swift but there’s an overarching story and a grand end goal in mind. It, at times is, is also a rousing adventure even if this is set in a dreary post-apocalyptic adventure. Little aside here, the whole production takes on an endearing quality that looks like it could be be furher expanded in different formats and across different mediums – comic books, video games, etc.

Things are kept tense but also entertaining. Further, the use of tribal sounds and world instruments rounds out the film score which sells weight and scope of the world being presented. Barring the Pandas of course, this world is actually not too far-fetched. It’s clear that the aspirations for Wastelander Panda go far deeper than the runtime and one thing is for sure – the team behind this feature and co-write/director Victoria Cocks knows where they’re going. Fingers crossed we get to see even more of the Wasteland, the Pandas, and the mythology, because things look good so far.

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Note: Even if you weren’t able to attend Fantastic Fest, you can check out Wastelander Panda: Exile for yourself. All the episodes in the series available to view online at Check it out now!!