Aldis and Edwin Hodge on Breaking Down Doors for Black Voices in Sci-Fi with Parallel

The brothers spoke to BET about their new sci-film.

Many people collect watches; one need only look at how rappers have turned customizing wristpieces into their own genre of art. But fewer people make them- the field is called horology- and fewer watchmakers are still major league Hollywood stars.

 Aldis Hodge (Black Adam, Underground) is one of the very few people with this unique distinction. Though the new film sci-fi thriller Parallel, which he produces and stars in along with his brother Edwin Hodge (The Tomorrow War, Bumblebee), isn’t about watches per se, the film does play with perceptions about time as we understand it now––embracing out-of-this-world theories that was one of the reasons. Aldis got excited to take on this project. 

“When we first started working on a script, my brother and the other writers and producers  talked about variables of time, quantum theory and things like that,” he tells BET. “Time is not a lucid theory; it’s something we can't fully quantify, we only measure it by the basis of what we know. Here I’m 37 but on Mars, because of how time moves differently, I’d be about half my age. It all plays into the multiverse theory you see [in Parallel].” 

An adaptation of the 2019 Chinese film Parallel Forest, the Hodges’ Parallel follows what happens when Alex (Aldis) goes on a retreat with his wife Vanessa (a terrific Danielle Deadwyler) and his Martel (Edwin Hodge) at her family’s lake house. Vanessa is grieving after the loss of her child, trying to regain some sense of normalcy after the tragic accident altered her life––and her psyche––forever. But they soon find that their trip won’t offer them the solace they were hoping for after Vanessa is convinced she’s witnessed some sort of rip in the fabric of time and space when she is attacked by a version of herself that exists in another universe. Of course, her husband and brother-in-law believe she’s suffering delusions because of her pronounced sadness, all but forcing Vanessa to face whatever’s lurking out there by herself so she can reconcile the gaps between the multiverses and heal. 

Both brothers see Parallel, the first film under their Hodge Brothers Productions company, as an example of how Black audiences and storytellers have deep interest in the sci-fi/genre space––even if they haven’t been seen or heard as much in that milieu. “We love the sci-fi genre, and we've been here for a minute now,” Aldis says. “I grew up on sci-fi, anime, all of that. And the issue that we go up against is people oftentimes try to remove us from the space so when we enter, and it’s like, ‘No, we've been here, you just haven't given us credit, you haven't paid attention.’ Being in this space is sort of the intention for us, so that people don't feel like it's foreign for us to be there anymore.” 

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Parallel is a uniquely interesting case for representation in sci-fi because it’s an adaptation of a Chinese film, and, as the story unfolds, there’s not much about it that's inherently “Black” per se. Edwin says having Black characters in this story doesn’t necessarily change it–it just changes nuances. “I’m not sure it adds any type of context to the story, we can just tell it just a little bit differently. Cultural pain, successes, the way we say certain things––[Black people] just identify with it. There are times when Danielle says things and it’s like, ‘Yes, a Black woman would say that.’” Indeed, a lot of Parallel’s tension and terror comes from Deadwyler’s strong performance and point of view: she’s able to convey grief, fear, rage, confusion about what the heck is going on and determination to fight through it in ways that make the film cohesive and strong. “She's incredible,” adds Aldis. “We got really lucky being able to have her on board. Working on a small budget on a very limited timeframe, in the cold mountains of Vancouver––she just came ready to do work.” 

Parallel will be a little bit of a head trip for viewers as they watch Vanessa come to terms with the notion that there’s another version of her (and her husband) out there, particularly how she resolves this unusual conundrum. The ending leaves a lot of questions to be answered––an intentional move on their part to get people thinking. 

“We don't want to answer it for the audience,” Aldis says. “I think this environment challenges Vanessa to figure out if her home reality is worth it, or is it worth the risk of moving to a different reality, where things could be better or worse. And I think we do that in life on a regular basis. Anytime we go for that new job or new opportunity, we venture into the unknown. Is this risk worth it? What am I going to sacrifice?” 

These are, of course, questions all people face, and with Parallel, Black viewers get a chance to see more people who look like them taking them on. “It’s a story about three very real people in a messed up multiverse,” Edwin says. “It’s a story for everybody.” 

Parallel is currently in theaters and on demand.

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