Papers, Please: The Short Film is based of the independent 2013 game (Papers, Please) that has won many awards and has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide. The film is set in a fictional country called Arstotzka which is surrounded by warring lands. It focuses on the hard life of a border guard. The border guard is an employee of this totalitarian country and he has to decide who to let in but he is plagued with moral choices as the story progresses.
The main theme can be seen as reasoning vs empathy. On the one hand, he must not let anyone in that’s going to potentially be harmful towards his country. It’s his duty to protect his people. But then among those are simply people that are desperate. They are poor people. People with no other options over than to try and sneak into the country; seeking work to provide for their families.
Its hard to watch but clever in that it allows the viewers to make up their own minds as to who should be let-in much like the game. When he turns someone away – we are left to wonder what broken lives they have to go back to. And the ones that do make it through – some might think of deceitful. Its been a while since I’ve watched a short film (10 mins) and had so many thoughts spinning around. It’s a delightful adaptation of the game, that conveys exactly what made it so popular.