As the 11th annual SCI-FI-LONDON film festival kicks off, Chris Patmore outlines what fans of indie and genre film can look forward to over the coming week.
the 11th annual SCI-FI-LONDON film festival kicks off, Chris Patmore outlines
what fans of indie and genre film can look forward to over the coming week.
For film lovers, there’s no doubt that film
festivals are the best place to catch independent films that will either never
get cinema distribution, or to see them, often years before, the distributors
realise how good they are. And for
people who like going to film festivals
London is one of the best places in the world. Hardly a week goes by
without a festival catering for one of the hundreds of ethic groups living in
the capital. Then there are those festivals for specialist groups, such as
sports enthusiasts, women filmmakers, LGBT, and one of the most maligned and
sidelined sub-cultures, the geeks – the fans of what are loosely known as genre
films, horror and sci-fi/fantasy. For horror fans there is FrightFest, but for sci-fi fans there’s the London International Festival Of Science Fiction And Fantastic Film,
known simply as SCI-FI-LONDON, which
runs from 1st-7th May.
Actually, the festival started a little earlier
than that. Over the weekend of 14th-16th April 14th, 368 teams of filmmakers
signed up to take part in the festival’s fifth 48-Hour Film Challenge, where entrants had two days to make a
five-minute sci-fi short based on a title, a line of dialogue and a prop
selected at random at the beginning of the challenge. By Monday morning, 161
completed films had been returned to compete for the grand prize of a feature
development deal with Vertigo Films.
(Gareth Edwards got to make his
indie hit, Monsters, after Vertigo
saw his winning short from the first challenge). The jury includes legendary
Hollywood filmmaker Joe Dante, and
the top 20 films will be screened at the festival.
In the run up to the serious business of
watching the films, the festival is holding a Costume Parade on Sunday 29th April, starting at Victoria
Embankment Gardens and finishing at the BFI Southbank. For most members of the
public, this is their impression of sci-fi fans – weirdoes that like to dress
up. However, the actual festival is a far more sober affair, although costumed
fans are always welcome. In fact, with the world premiere of Trek Nation just added to the festival
programme, costumes may not be limited to the parade.
Now in its 11th year, SCI-FI-LONDON has
developed an international reputation, especially among filmmakers. SCI-FI-LONDON is not only a very friendly
festival but, thanks to its discerning and intelligent audiences, it’s also the
best place to launch an indie genre movie. The festival is proud of its
independence and, although it has some sponsors, it has never relied on
government grants and, particularly in these tough economic times, it survives
on the passion of its volunteer staff and the boundless enthusiasm of Festival
Director and Founder Louis Savy.
This passion is clearly infectious, spreading to the audiences and the
filmmakers who choose SCI-FI-LONDON
as the place to premiere their films – often coming to the festival, at their
own expense, to meet and greet the fans.
year the festival has eight world premieres, one international premiere, with
the rest of the festival’s official selection made up of UK premieres.
The opening film is the sold out world premiere of Death, a British supernatural comedy drama, by Martin Gooch, featuring iconic Brit actor Leslie Philips. Other world premieres are the previously mentioned Trek Nation, about the impact of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry on the genre; Strange
Frame, an animated, dystopian, lesbian, rock musical from Hawaii (something
for just about everyone, except children, there); Memory Lane, a time travel film reportedly made for $300; True Love, which makes the Ludovico
Technique look like an episode of Mr & Mrs; and Cycle (Main Picture), which is like Tron
meets 2001. Other highlights include
the international premiere of Extracted,
starring Sasha Roiz (Caprica, Grimm); and Radio Free
Albemuth an indie film which promises to be one of the best and most
faithful interpretations of any Philip K
Dick story. In fact, this year is probably the festival’s strongest line up
It’s not all new films either. There is tribute
to Boris Karloff, to celebrate his
125th birthday, and a retrospective of Dutch master Paul Verhoeven, which are both part of all-nighter programmes
which also include anime and MST3K comedy. Apart from features, the festival
has always shown strong support for shorts, with three shorts programmes, along
with two other shorts events; a collection of sci-fi related music videos and a
curated section of short films based on stories by renowned writers such as George Orwell and Stanislaw Lem.
However, it’s not just science fiction features
that are shown at the festival. There is a documentary strand, including the
aforementioned Trek Nation, and another Star Trek doc called The Captains by William Shatner, who
talks with all the actors who have played the captains of the Enterprise in all its different forms.
One of the festival’s world premieres is Sense
Of Scale, looks at the dying art of miniatures and model making in genre
Festival Director Louis Savy is quick to point
out that SCI-FI-LONDON is not a convention with sales booths and celebrity
signings and, while it is a film festival, there are many non-film events taking place too, such as the popular comedy
and cabaret night featuring comedians Rob Deb and Bec Hill. There is also a
free, two-day celebration of the 30th
Anniversary of the ZX Spectrum, being held at the BFI.
Continuing in its support of independent sci-fi
filmmakers, there is an all-day event at BAFTA for people wanting to find out
more about the practical aspects of film making and finding an audience, with plenty of opportunity to speak with
mission has always been to attract audiences who love sci-fi but also those who
think they don’t, by breaking down the misconceptions
about what sci-fi movies are, i.e. not all Hollywood mega blockbusters with
aliens and spaceships! A least
three of the features the festival is showing are romantic movies with a twist,
along with some free children’s screenings.
This festival may not have as high a profile as
other London festivals, but it is always full of surprises and finishes off
with a pub quiz for knowledgeable
geeks and the closing night film, which must have the best title of any film
this year – Ghosts With Sh*t Jobs.
full programme can be found online HERE. Print copies can
be picked up from Apollo Piccadilly Circus and BFI Southbank. The
festival also has its own app, for Android and iPhone, that includes the whole
programme and some special offers and prizes. With many of the screenings
already sold out it is advisable to book tickets as soon as possible.