Octia of the Pink Ocean is a fantasy film now playing at the Vortex Theater in east Austin as part of the film festival attached to the Vortex's Cosplay Expo. The film is truly a landmark for its producers, as it is the first feature length film of any kind produced by its production company, Ethos, under the guidance of its sponsoring parent, Vortex Repertory Company.
The film is the first cinematic expression of any performance in the CyberOpera series by Ethos. The series started as live staged operas in the early 1990s with the X & Y Trilogy. Those works were some of the first CyberOperas ever, and they put the then-new Vortex Theater on Austin’s performance map. A CyberOpera is an opera, sung throughout, with cybernetic concepts and artistry, robotic movement, and electronic music. The combination of these esthetics gives CyberOpera a very distinct look and vector that won’t appeal to everyone. But to those who enjoy it, it opens the very future. For those with doubts but who may want to give it a try, Octia of the Pink Ocean is the best of all recent examples of the form. The film is exceptionally well-produced, with vibrant electronic music that achieves both majestic and haunting qualities, extravagant costumes and sets, goddesses to adore, and villains to hiss. Although opera is an old form, Octia and other CyberOperas seem to take stabs at fulfilling the potential of emerging and established 21st century art forms.
But, still, what is Octia? “It’s a live-action anime,” says Melissa Vogt-Patterson flatly. Vogt-Patterson has the title role, playing Octia, Sovereign of Butterfly Island. She also leads a cast of superb operatic voices, including Erin Gettys, Betsy McCann, and Anderson Dear. Justin LaVergne represents male voices well, singing with a mouthful of shark’s teeth. He plays the villain Mermecho, a genetically engineered, cybernetic mako shark with all its voracious instincts brought forward intact.
The story pays homage to ancient operatic forms in its plot, and with its music and very clear singing it is not at all difficult to follow. Some of the characters and circumstances carry through from earlier CyberOperas and speak to more works to come, but Octia stands alone as a satisfying and original piece of unusual art.
The font of all this creativity is Chad Salvata, Mr Ethos. He is the writer, composer, chief designer, and resident visionary of the company, his roles from the first Ethos CyberOpera. When asked who he thought he was at his artistic core, he said “A mystical composer of fantastical imagery.” No one who has witnessed an Ethos CyberOpera would disagree with his statement.
Octia also showed the talents of Ann Marie Gordon and Helen Parrish, grand mistresses of all things involving sets, visual art, props, costume pieces, and objects that defy categorization. Bonnie Cullum directed, bringing all the elements together for the film.
Plans for Octia of the Pink Ocean are to circulate it to film festivals around North America. With its unforgettable title, it will be easy to spot when it appears in the neighborhood. Catch it if possible, it may prove to be a breakout work of CyberOpera, the one everyone will want to claim they saw. It is recommended for all adult audiences.