Brutal Nihilism and Cold War Drama: ‘Papers, Please’ Short Film Debuts Online

If you’re aware of the blossoming indie video game scene, you’ve probably heard of Lucas Pope’s award-winning hit Papers, Please. Released in 2013, it told the bleak story of a divided city and one immigration worker who had to make gut-wrenching decisions about whether to admit or reject people in need. Now, Pope, along with co-writers Nikita Ordynskiy and Liliya Tkach, have turned Papers, Please into a compelling short film. It’s available to watch for free on YouTube and Steam.

Like the game, the movie focuses on making difficult choices, choosing to either emphasize the safety and sovereignty of your own country or the health and happiness of individual people. The picture it paints is ultimately nihilistic, but unfortunately, it’s not too far off from reality. Subtitles are available in 22 different languages, though the spoken language is Russian — appropriate for the sort of Eastern Bloc country that the fictional Arstotzka is.

Hopefully you’re not in the market for a chipper and uplifting film, because this isn’t that.

Directed by co-writer Nikita Ordynskiy, Papers, Please is well worth the ten minutes it will take you to watch, even if you’ve never played Lucas Pope’s original masterpiece. For even more dark drama, however, check out the game on Steam, GOG, mobile, and other digital storefronts.