Sci-Fi-London Film Festival has launched its 19th annual programme. Here are a few of the highlights...
This year's festival will run from 15th May until 22nd May across London with eight days of amazing film, immersive experiences and more. It will showcase a fantastic lineup with 4 world film premieres, 11 UK film premieres, 11 world short premieres and 13 UK short premieres and will host 17 features, 36 shorts and 7 VR shorts alongside its regular classic cult events such as the 48 HOUR FILM CHALLENGE.
Opening this year’s festival on the 15th May at the Prince Charles Cinema is the UK Premiere of PERFECT– a film that promises to send you tripping into a science fiction world like no other.
Directed by Eddie Alcazar (KUSO) it is unclear if the young man (Garrett Wareing) has committed the horrible crime, but his mother (Abbie Cornish) sends him to a luxurious retreat full of beautiful hedonistic people for therapy. He will receive an experimental treatment to cure his ills and discover his true self. His mother has been there, but does she want to help him become ‘perfect’? Frenetic editing, soul shocking set-pieces and some eye-popping animation by Kidmograph, PERFECT alternates between calm and chaos, and picks at themes of AI, genetic engineering and esotericism. With its super-heightened visuals worthy of GasperNoe, production design that DAZED would find hard to beat and a stunning soundtrack by Flying Lotus, this is ALTERED STATES for the iGeneration.
The festival’s Closing Night on the 22nd May at Stratford Picturehouse is the World Premiere of THE RIZEN: POSSESSION directed by Matt Mitchell and starring Julian Rhind-Tutt, Sarine Sofair, Adrian Edmondson and Sally Phillips.
In 1955, NATO and the Allied Forces conducted secret, occult experiments in a bid to win the Arms Race. They succeeded, but what they unleashed almost tore our world apart and sent a human through a portal to somewhere very alien. This was the story of THE RIZEN, Sci-Fi-London's closing night premiere in 2017. Come forward to now, and a group of urban explorers is exploring the abandoned bunker. But will they and a private military unit sent in after them, become the final pieces in a 60-year plan to reopen a door that should have stayed closed.
There's also SCI-FIDO, the world’s only cosplay for dogs which returns this year on Saturday 18th May outside the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square, in association with DOGSTARPHOTO and ALL DOGS MATTER. Do you have a four-legged friend who likes to dress up as a sci-fi character? Or a pooch that looks like Princess Leia? Bring them along to the ‘dressed-up dog’ photo session! Here's a look at the event from a couple of years ago.
Augmented, virtual, enhanced, trans or multimedia – it’s ‘mixed up’. A few brands have led the way - adding a VR thing here, an AR thing there – but does it make any difference and does this usual corporate approach get to the audience in a way that makes them care? #HACKSTOCK: 5 on the 16th – 18th May at festival’s secret HQ is the answer – bringing creators, makers, disrupters, artists, musicians, hackers, developers and you together in one place to talk it, think it, do it and play with it. And it’s Free! Access to the Hackstock playground is by password only, register on the festival website for the details.
Other major Film Premiere Galas this year include:
The World Premiere of SHED OF THE DEAD, directed by Drew Cullingham.
Darkly funny, gruesome and a little bit rude! Shaun of the Dead meets The Archers. Trevor (Spencer Brown) doesn’t really like gardening but has an allotment in which he spends his days avoiding his overbearing wife. Most of his time in his shed is spent painting figurines for wargames he plays with his friend, Graham (Ewen MacIntosh), both of them dreaming and arguing about their gaming alter-egos.
One day, Mr Parsons, one of the other allotment tenants, knocks with a petition to have Trevor evicted as his plot is a disgrace. After what should have been a simple argument, Trevor is left with a corpse to hide. Unfortunately, this untimely accident coincides with the Zombie Apocalypse and Mr Parsons' return is just the start of Trevor's problems. More pressing is whether or not he should try and save his wife (Lauren Socha) and her beautiful best friend (Emily Booth), who both he and Graham have a thing for... The film also features a little BDSM fun provided by Michael Berryman.
The World Premiere of AFTER WE LEAVE is a brilliant début for director Aleem Hossain, a vibrant script, satisfying special effects and outstanding performances – the type of film this festival searches for every year.
Near future, Los Angeles is a bleak place: permanent recession, water shortages, and rising crime. Six years ago, Jack abandoned his wife and vanished. Now he's back because before he left, they'd applied for a visa to immigrate to a better life on an off-world colony. The permit has finally come through, but there's a catch: it's a couple’s visa, and Jack cannot leave Earth without his wife. Is Jack back because he wants to make things right or because he needs his wife so he can use this "lottery ticket" to a better life?
Another World Premiere is THE TANGLE, a brilliant sci-fi noir written and directed by Christopher Soren Kelly and stars Jessica Graham (Crazy Bitches) and Nicole Da Silva (Wentworth)
In the near future, the TANGLE, an AI with airborne nanotech, connects the world. The Tangle is benevolent; it has stopped crime, keeps us well and safe. But to make sure it never turns rogue a government agency watches over them from within technology safe rooms, locations impermeable to the nanobots that make up the Tangle. When field agent Margot Foster is found dead in one of these rooms, the agency needs to investigate the first murder in years.
Also having its world premiere is ZOO-HEAD, directed by Navin Dev. With the aesthetic of TRAINSPOTTING and the weirdness of GROUNDHOG DAY, this is a strong debut from Dev, with great performances and awesome techno soundtrack to boot. Charlie is a zoo-head, a slang term given to junkies addicted to a powerful hallucinogenic that has memory munching side-effects. Squatting in a foetid apartment and existing on benefits, Charlie is a mess, and it is about to get worse. The Social Service is forcing the long-term unemployed to under-go radically experimental treatment to get them ‘normalised’; the only danger would be to zoo-heads. Charlie gets called in and lies about his situation, and so begins his treatment.
UK Premieres include:
FONOTUNE: AN ELECTRIC FAIRYTALE
Dir: Fint, 2018, Japan/Germany, 74mins, Japanese/German (English subtitles).
The world will end soon, so what to do? Outside of time, a teen hooker, lo-fi cowboy and a mute drifter cross the white desert to experience the final performance of the mysterious rockstar hero.
This visually stunning work MUST be seen on the big screen. Its soundtrack will leave you humming and tapping for days to come, and its beautiful production design burns your brain.
The film stars Kiki Sukezane (Westworld) and features performances by Guitar Wolf Seiji and Stereo Total.
Dir: Shae Sterling, 2018, New Zealand, 90mins, English.
New Zealand is beautiful, and often we only see the ‘Lord of the Rings’ landscapes and not the everyday life of your average stoner.
Riko (Jimi Jackson) lives in a small town in the middle of nowhere (Waikato, New Zealand). Life was pretty normal until two aliens crash-landed near Riko’s house. He welcomes the aliens, and together they develop an intergalactic relationship of epic proportions.
Dir: David Giancola, 2019, 93mins, USA
Dane (RYAN WESEN) was going to steal one last car before he quit forever, but is disturbed by Tomas, an inventor being chased by the police, the F.B.I., and the C.I.A. Trapped in the manic crossfire, Tomas passes a device to Dane, who is teleported miles away into the arms of Kate (LAURA JAMES, S*W*A*T). She could be the girl of his dreams except for the global conspiracy he has just embroiled her in. The FBI’s Ray Moritz (MAXWELL CAULFIELD, Grease 2) wants to destroy it, Amanda Graham (SEAN YOUNG, Blade Runner) wants it for the C.I.A., and rogue agent Sy Devol (JOHN JAMES, Dynasty) has his sinister plans.
Sy unleashes his brutal assassin, Brink (SAM J. JONES, Flash Gordon) who leaves a trail of corpses behind him while pursuing the ‘Axcellerator’ device. To stay alive, Dane and Kate must discover the Axcellerator’s secret. An exhilarating rollercoaster ride reminiscent of 80s blockbusters – a classic, fun action thriller.
AFTER THE LETHARGY
Dir: Marc Carrete, 2018, 82mins, SPAIN
Sara, a journalist with a keen interest in UFOs, receives a video from a paranormal researcher, talking about a hotspot for landings and sightings. She travels to the forest to meet the researcher and meets the park ranger who tells her of a dark character who lives alone deep in the woods and the abandoned retreat. Soon she discovers the truth about the UFo sightings and must fight for her life.
THE FINAL LAND
Dir: Marcel Barion, 2019, 113mins, Germany, German (English subtitles)
Across the bleak wilderness, the prisoner has escaped, looking for a rumoured ship that might get him off-world. One of his pursuers discovers him aboard the craft and instead of turning him in declares he also wants a way out and together they fly away. But who built the ship and where did it come from, more importantly, where are the crew? As they try to answer these questions, they hear a strange signal and obsessing on its origin head toward it. This feature debut by Barion is a testament to what performance and pragmatic use of resources can achieve. At times it feels like ALIEN, at others like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
Dir: Wen Ren, 2018, 104mins, China, Mandarin (English subtitles)
In a future reliant on solar energy, the world falls into chaos after the sun disappears, the skies are lit only by the stars and the temperature is rapidly dropping; eventually, oxygen on Earth will be exhausted. Yang, a reclusive astronomer, and Mu, a neighbour he hardly knows, must find their way to a supposed sanctuary located in District Four.
Ren’s debut film has a unique take on end of days stories with spectacularly realised special effects showing how different our world, and everything that we take for granted in it, would look in the absence of the Sun.
Dir: Erin Berry, 2019, 82mins, CANADA
Bernwood (Paula Brancati, Slashers) is an anti-conspiracy video blogger. She spends all her time debunking conspiracy theory until she gets a note from an old man claiming to have worked for the legendary Majestic-12 (aka majic), a secret US spy agency, created after the UFO incident at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. So begins her trip down the rabbit hole looking for answers as reality as she seems to know it is unravelling.
Dir: Brett Ryan Bonowicz, 2018, USA, 82mins, English.
Conceptual artists Don Davis, Charles Lindsay, and Rick Guidice have helped bring NASA projects to life. Their incredible pioneering artwork, which helped define the aesthetics of futurism and space travel, is ubiquitous; and yet these artists have always been hidden behind the scenes until now.
The second documentary that Bonowicz has had at the festival, last year Sci-Fi-London screened CLOSER THAN WE THINK about conceptual artist Arthur Radebaugh. Again, Bonowicz delivers a love-letter to concept art and design.
CHASING EINSTEIN (stranger > fiction doc strand)
Dir: Timothy Wheeler and Steve Brown, 2019, 81mins, USA
Einstein's vision of gravity has shaped our understanding of the universe for the 100 years since Eddington confirmed his theory in 1919.
Nobody has succeeded in challenging Einstein's theory despite its startling conclusion that the vast majority of gravity must be caused by an invisible form of ‘matter’ that has yet to be detected. The search for this missing "Dark Matter" will either confirm Einstein or disrupt a century of physics.
Following leading scientists including Nobel Laureates on the brink of paradigm-shifting discoveries, CHASING EINSTEIN travels behind the scenes of some of the most extraordinary experiments ever created to probe the mysteries of the dark universe (LIGO, CERN, XENON 1T).
Will Einstein stand the test of time, or will a controversial new theory change the way that we see the universe?
Finally, there's a The DreamCage favourite from last year as Sci-Fi-London presents the London Premiere of LUCID, directed by Adam Morse, 2018, 86mins, UK
A young man practices an experimental form of therapy after his enigmatic neighbour offers to help him overcome social anxiety and win the girl of his dreams.
Isolated in a big city with no friends, young Zel simultaneously fears and craves intimacy. He has a pitiful obsession with a dancer called Jasmine and is caught spying on her by an eccentric neighbour Elliot (Billy Zane) who offers to help him win her heart. Lust leads Zel on an intense subliminal adventure as Elliot teaches him how lucid dreaming can be used to practice the art of seduction but will Zel be able to charm Jasmine in reality? This thought-provoking film, with great cinematography and luscious production design, will stay with you for a long time.
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