Thursday, April 30, 2009

What I saw at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival, by Fiona aged 34 1/2

As mentioned, Alan and I got some complimentary tickets to The Sci-Fi London Film Festival this year. Here's what we saw:

Eyeborgs: Surveillance paranoia thriller about a future America where all CCTV cameras are linked in a super-surveillance network, supplemented by a network of little mobile cameras called Eyeborgs; a Department of Homeland Security agent gets suspicious when he realises the physical evidence of a number of crimes doesn't match the video evidence. This was really quite good; the effects suffered in places from a limited budget but were generally fine, the cast were good and the topic timely and well-dealt-with. Better than 90% of mainstream thriller movies.

Cyborg She: Sort of like Terminator: TSCC with humour and pathos. Lonely Japanese university student meets quirky girl who claims she's a cyborg from the future sent back in time by his future self to protect him; he teaches her about humanity and love, she teaches him about compassion and caring. Spectacular effects, good characterisation and casting, beautiful directing, and a few interesting time-travel twists towards the end. A mainstream movie in Asia, but unlikely to get a mainstream release here, however, it's definitely worth forking out £10 for a DVD if you find one.

Recon 2023: The biggest disappointment of the festival. We had high hopes for this film, as the subtitle was "The Gauda Prime Conspiracy" (which should have all Blake's 7 fans pricking up their ears) and the description and trailer made it look like a BSG-style space-war story. However, the acting was generally not great, the effects problematic (e.g a chicken retro-engineered into a sort of dinosaur; nice idea, but it's hard to find something terrifying when it's clucking and shaking its wattles), the story largely lacking in humour, and too many plot holes, unexplained actions and just plain improbable elements for me to enjoy it (e.g., a politician character who is clearly loosely based on Servalan, but who somehow seems to be raping and murdering half the cast without the other half noticing, or a soldier deciding to take himself off behind a tree and masturbate to a porn video right in the middle of a jungle battle). The locations were good, though, and it seemed to have a bit of a fan following, so who am I to judge.

Cryptic: Definitely the highlight of the festival, despite stiff competition. The premise is simple and the stuff of many lesser movies-- young woman finds a mobile phone which allows her to communicate with her child self and change her own past-- however, as the story unfolds you realise that it is in fact a detailed and merciless character profile of a murderer, which is gradually revealed through the changes in history. Shot on next to nothing with an unknown cast, this film deserves awards, recognition, release all over the world and huge amounts of publicity, none of which I can provide so I'll just rave about it here.

Angels and Idiots: A simple animated morality tale for adults, about a criminal who magicaly receives angel wings which force him to do good. A premise like that could lead one easily into treacly he-sees-the-error-of-his-ways territory, but this instead takes it off into a morally complex and often terrifying universe of consequences. Hand animated in pencils, which gave it a spare, innocent quality which contrasted nicely with the mature content of some of the story.

A Bunch of Short Films: Too many to review in detail, but the ones we liked best were Marooned (about a LARPer who becomes convinced he really is his role-playing character, and the killing spree which ensues), The Day the Robots Woke Up (a really cute stop-motion piece about robots in a deserted future London and the pleasures of low-tech lifestyles), Death In Charge (a black comedy about Death working as a babysitter for an evening), Simulacrum (about a man whose robot duplicate is better at being himself than he is), Die Schneider Krankheit (a fake-1960s newsreel about a plague from outer space arriving in East Germany courtesy of a Soviet space mission gone wrong), Attack of the Robots from Nebula 5 (another one about the vague boundary between science ficution and madness) and The Story of Sputnik (a stand-up routine about the Cold War). So obvious themes are childhood, identity, madness and the 1960s. Look out for these online soon at Sci-Fi London's website.

Other highlights: Meeting Pat Cadigan (a feminist hero of mine) and Liz Williams, as well as hearing from the horse's mouth all about Bryan Talbot's latest project, Grandville (which looks cool as all get out, being Rupert Bear as imagined by Quentin Tarantino) and being given a ton of free books, DVDs and T-shirts. Here's looking to Sci-Fi London 9!