Austin Film Festival 2018 Review: EMPATHY, INC.

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B

Empathy Inc. screened as part of The Austin Film Festival at The Alamo Drafthouse Village on October 27th as it made a Texas Premiere. I am absolutely glad that I was able to catch the film in the theater to get the full experience of this Sci-Fi thriller. When the film was brought to my attention about screening at this year’s festival, I was intrigued by the plot for “Empathy Inc.” and wondered what the filmmakers may have created with the subject of virtual/augmented reality.

The film created by director Yedidya Gorsetman and screenwriter Mark Leidner is an excellent sci-fi thriller and one that I fully believe deserves a theatrical release for more audiences to watch. When the viewer first sees what the new start up has to offer – a couple of helmets with wires everywhere, attached to what appear to be old dentist chairs, it could cause some people to think it is lower than the low budget films. But Empathy Inc. has such a good script and phenomenal acting, the viewer remains engaged to see where the story/stories are going with each “trip” to somewhere else. It is a great idea to have the Director of Photography Darin Quan use black and white cinematography to give the audience another level of intrigue throughout the film.

The film stars Zack Robidas (“Arbitrage” and “Mozart in the Jungle”), Kathy Searle (“Empire” and “Blue Bloods” TV series), Jay Klaitz (“Jessica Jones” and “The Get Down”), Eric Berryman (“After Louie” and “The Visit”) and Texas born AJ Cedeno (“I Shudder” and “The Good Wife” TV series).

Venture Capitalist Joel (Robidas) and his wife, Jessica (Searle), go back East to live with Jessica’s parents after Joel lost his job and reputation in a very public story of investment fraud on the West Coast. With no future  work in site, Joel is bumming around and runs into an old friend and colleague, Nicolaus “Sleezy” Veezy (Berryman). The pitch by Veezy about a virtual reality (VR) “experience” sounds like a plan for the unemployed investor, except he lacks funds. Although things look a bit shady, Veezy hooks Joel for some big bucks in a new technology known as XVR—Xtreme Virtual Reality.

“Empathy, Inc.” provides plenty in this thriller, including blackmail, guns, and the violence that goes with it when everyone is trying to get what they want. I don’t want to give out any spoilers, because you should experience the action for yourself.

“Empathy, Inc.” will be available again for viewing during the festival on November 1st at 7:30pm at The Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress Avenue. For a full schedule, visit

Source: Rigel Films

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