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Sunday
Oct012017

PREVIEW: 2017 SCIFI FILM FESTIVAL

Such otherworldly phenomena as trans-dimensional portals, parallel planes of existence and dystopian future realms are the least one should expect from an event like SciFi Film Festival, which launches its 5th season on October 11 in Sydney. That such potent narrative elements are tackled in the Opening Night film alone suggests festival director Tom Papas has crafted a five-day event of immensely ambitious genre programming.

The 12-session celebration of global science fiction filmmaking launches with the Australian premiere of The Gateway, fresh from a triumphant Revolution Film Festival showing in Austin, Texas, where it nabbed four trophies, including Best Picture and Best Director for John V. Soto (Needle, 2010; The Reckoning, 2014). Genre favourite Jacqueline McKenzie (Deep Blue Sea, 1999; The 4400, 2004-07; pictured, above) gives a star turn as particle physicist Jane Chandler, whose grief at losing her husband Matt (Myles Pollard) blinds her to the dangers of blurring multiple realities.

The Gateway welcomes in nine new international features, including works from North America, The U.K. and Europe. Guy-Roger Duvert directs the U.S./French co-production Virtual Revolution, a near-future thriller in which society functions entirely online and cyber-terrorism has become the ultimate threat; director Andy Mitton’s We Go On stars Clark Freeman as a man so terrified that his existence is meaningless he offers a fortune for proof of an afterlife, only to have the truth reveal a terrifying secret; and, from British director Matt Mitchell, a wildly imaginative supernatural period piece called The Rizen (pictured, right), that takes as its starting point the Allied Forces post-WWII experiments in the power of black magic.

U.S. director Terrance M. Young will be present for a QA session following the Saturday 14th screening of his dramatic thriller, Project Eden: Vol. 1 (a sequel is already slated for a 2018 shoot). Michael O’Shea’s urban vampire shocker, The Transfiguration (read the SCREEN-SPACE interview with the director here) screens following its breakout hit status at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The U.K. sector rounds out the 2017 festival slate - Hendrik Faller’s grueling alpine siege thriller, Mountain Fever (a co-production with France); Keir Burrow’s noirish sci-fi spin on the Alice in Wonderland story, called Anti Matter; and, earning Closing Night honours, Roger Armstrong’s blackly funny Sublimate, a found-footage/mockumentary spin on misguided ambition and blind obsession involving the transcendence of the human soul via aural experimentation.

A short film will precede each feature, a traditional programming policy that acknowledges that many of the most ambitious science-fiction works currently produced are from directors working in short form narratives. On October 12, a full slate of international short films will showcase the film sectors of Japan (Yoshimi Itazu’s Pigtails; Philippe McKie’s Breaker); France (J.L. Wolfenstein’s Departure); Finland (Juha Fiilin’s Job Interview); The U.S.A. (Miguel Ortega’s The Nungyo); Germany (Alexander Dannhauser’s Kaska); and, of course, Australia, which is represented by five cutting-edge visions - Scott Geersen’s Signal/Void; Samuel Lucas Allen’s Only the Beautiful; Sarah Rackemann’s One Small Step (pictured, right); Radheya Jegatheva’s Journey; and, Evan Hughes’ Hell of a Day.

The SciFi Film Festival is also honouring two classics of the genre with retrospective screening events. Starring the late Harry Dean Stanton opposite punk brat Emilio Estevez, Alex Cox’s Repo Man remains one of cinema’s most idiosyncratic visions; it returns to the screen on October 12 amidst a wave of nostalgia, both for Stanton’s body of work and the free-form inventiveness of the best of 80s movie culture. Then, on October 13, the 4k digitally restored 40th anniversary edition of Nicholas Roeg’s existential sci-fi masterpiece The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie, will screen. Both films speak to the core values of the festival, which has always sought out auteristic works characterised by thoughtful, humanistic protagonists and ambitious scope.

THE SCIFI FILM FESTIVAL screens October 11-15 at the Event Cinemas George Street complex. Full session and ticketing information can be found at the festival’s official website.

SCREEN-SPACE editor Simon Foster will host Q&A events with The Gateway director John V. Soto (October 11) and Project Eden: Vol. 1 director Terrance M. Young (October 14).

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