We live in dystopian times, so it seems appropriate that NYC is getting its first-ever sci-fi film festival.
The New York Science Fiction Film Festival will debut for three days on Jan. 20-22, and it might surprise you to know it’ll be light on killer robots and alien invasions.
Blame 1982’s iconic “Blade Runner” for the trend of “dark, paranoid, dystopic” sci-fi films, says festival organizer Daniel Abella. “But sci-fi can also be comedic in nature — it can shed humor on current or future developments, it can also have an optimistic take. I wanted to organize a festival that would be more inclusive.”
Most of the films are short, under 20 minutes, and span relatable issues like dating in the age of technology (“Glimpse”) and a mother so overprotective that she disrupts the space-time continuum (“María Fernanda in Time”).
A special block features five films made with fledgling virtual reality technology. “We were looking for more than just a simple sensation, a storyline,” says Abella of selecting these films. “The new rules of cinematic grammar need to be invented in virtual reality, and we can see some of that in our current lineup.”
Many of the films are from abroad, countries like Canada, Finland, Spain and Bosnia, among others. Over a dozen of the filmmakers will be on hand to give post-show Q&As, as well as mingle with attendees after Saturday’s screenings atThe Roxy Hotel, one of four venues hosting screenings.
The three-day fest won’t set you back nearly the cost of a Comic Con ticket, either — an all-access pass is just $35, and screenings on Friday night are free. “It’s really about building a community, and not everybody can afford $20 to go to a screening, so we try to offer that as a matter of appreciation for being there for us,” he says.
Ironically, sci-fi films are often more relatable than mainstream fare, Abella says. “Night of the Living Dead” used zombies to discuss race relations in the ‘60s. In “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers,” UFOs were a metaphor for the Red Scare in 1956. And the premise of Amazon’s series “The Man in the High Castle” echoes current fears of authoritian regimes returning to power: What if the Axis powers had won World War II?
“Sci-fi is a good way of feeling out what’s happening in our culture,” says Abella, “and it can be used in a proactive way to say, ‘This is what’s going on and we have to take steps that sci-fi remains only sci-fi, not science reality.’”