Digital Afterlives

An existential disaster comedy.

A man in white-winged angel shoes awakes in infinite black to the strains of Liszt’s “Dance of the Dead”.

A witty and whimsical meditation on free will, identity and the afterlife.  A narrative made through the collision of unlikely elements: dance, digital code and Franz Liszt.  It echoes playfully across the history of onscreen physical storytelling, paying homage to films like “Modern Times” and “The Red Shoes”.

A man in white-winged angel shoes in an infinite black space is awakened by the strains of Franz Liszt’s “Totentanz” (“The Dance of the Dead”).  He gets multiplied and manipulated through all the dimensions of infinite black.  None of the incarnations of his body have free will as he is thrown, bounced, split, squelched, flopped, frozen, and slid through multitudinous geometries by an unknown force, finally to be returned to his original form and spat out onto the junk heap of history.  Could the insistent music be a god manipulating him in this afterlife?  Would a breakout lead him to a better world or just another incarnation of himself as a puppet?

“Digital Afterlives” brings a contemporary perspective to age-old questions rattling around the cages of spirituality and religion.  Is there a God?  What happens when we die?  A witty and whimsical meditation on free will, identity and the afterlife, it pieces together a narrative through the collision of unlikely elements: dance, digital code and Romantic music.  It echoes playfully across the history of onscreen physical storytelling, paying homage to films like “Modern Times” and “The Red Shoes”.


  • Winner, Jury’s Stellar Award for Screen Dance, Thomas Edison Film Festival, USA 2022
  • Winner, Best Dance Film (under 5 minutes), NewGrounds: Dance Film Collection, Tampa, Florida, USA, 2021
  • Winner, Best Film Edit, Red Rock ScreenDance Film Festival, St. George, Utah, USA, 2021
  • Winner, Audience Favorite, Austin Dance Festival, Dance on Screen, Texas, USA, 2019
  • Winner, Best Lighting in Professional Film Artists Screendance, Idaho Screendance Festival, USA, 2019
  • Winner, DDFF Innovator, Dallas Dance Film Festival, Dallas, Texas, USA, 2018
  • Winner, Best Editing, Portland Dance Film Festival, Portland, Oregon, USA, 2018
  • Finalist – Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance on Film or New Media, Australian Dance Award, 2018
  • Finalist, Best Experimental, SAE Atom Awards, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2017


“Attending a Screendance festival sometimes feels like watching MTV in the 90s: a steady succession of ever new clips in bite-sized format, waiting for your favourite to come on. Occasionally all the stars align and a film achieves a perfect synthesis of editing, musicality, camera and human movement. Digital Afterlives by Richard James Allen and Karen Pearlman (The Physical TV Company, Australia), sees Allen himself, dressed all in white with winged angel shoes, dance through a black infinity with a bemused look on his face, like someone who just died and went to heaven – only to realise the afterlife isn’t at all what he expected. Or did anyone guess it would be angels in trainers exhaustedly jumping around to Franz Liszt? Brimming with digital effects such as multiplying, overlaying, zooming and shrinking, it is the virtuosic musicality of this choreography of tricks that stands out, and a sweet whimsical humour perhaps comparable to Disney’s masterpiece Fantasia.”

Suzanne Frost, Sidetrack Magazine, reviewing the 2019 London International Screendance Festival

“Digital Afterlives is a complete contrast. It is a playful solo by Richard James Allen, who dances all in white with wings on his heels – except they are attached around the insteps of his joggers. Full of zany actions that closely follow the music, the dance is multiplied a dozen times over in a single screen view with lively editing in a longtime partnership between Allen and Karen Pearlman. It’s fun.”, Jill Sykes, “Deep grace, playfulness jump out among films capturing art of dance”, The Sydney Morning Herald, reviewing 2021 Dance Cinema screening in Sydney.

“Sublime,” Holly Pittman, Curator, Noosa International Film Festival.

“Beautiful dancing and magical video,” Nora Garda, Co-director, International Iowa Screendance Festival.

“One of my ABSOLUTE favourite dancefilms of all time (yeah, I said it!)”, Jen Ray, Curator, CAPITOL Dance & Cinema Festival.

“It is clear from Digital Afterlives that you and your team are at home in this medium. I certainly won’t presume to venture a “critique,” but I’m honored to share my thoughts with you about this work. From the beginning, I was impressed by how clearly you placed a question in the mind of the viewer. This, I think, is a hallmark of good cinema but rarely leveraged in screendance. What is he looking for? This question was then allowed to settle in the back of my mind as I enjoyed the deft body and screen choreography. I loved how the dancing body became a duet, and then a group piece, and then evolved into a screenic texture, somehow washing me with the same kinesthetic experience as the body choreography that began the work. // And how satisfying that the question was finally answered in a welcome surprise, breaking the fourth wall, and then the fifth as we’re made suddenly aware of our own limitations even as viewers and beings. I’m grateful for the opportunity to review this work and wish you luck in the future,” Robert Uehlin, Curator, DanceBARN ScreenDANCE Festival.

Digital Afterlives is a super film, truly a delight – a wonderful, skilful and witty movie that really stands out,” Alex Reuben, British Filmmaker

“Simply delightful,” Lisa Anne Kobdish, Co-Producer, Austin Dance Festival, Dance on Screen

“Witty. Great editing, pace, thru line,” Efren Corado, Dance Artist, Adjudicator, 2019 Idaho Screendance Festival

“‘Witty and Whimsical’ indeed. Playful, droll, clever.” Eric Handman, Dance Artist, Adjudicator, 2019 Idaho Screendance Festival Festival