SCI-FI-LONDON: East Roundup
Our fourth Oktoberfest has come to close, with two major changes; it moved to November and it moved to Stratford in East London, hence the name change. As we race towards the end of 2012 and possibly the end of the world, and with venue of the world's biggest sporting event within spitting distance, it was a gift for us to theme the festival as Post Apocolympic (not that easy to say). And this was reflected in the films we showed, although this was more down to coincidence and good fortune than clever planning. Although we would like to think there was some intelligence in the choices from our side.
Our autumn festival has been a bit nomadic since its inception, but the Stratford Picturehouse was very welcoming and after many years at the Apollo in Piccadilly Circus, it feels very much like our new home. And with our name on the marquee in traditional removable letters somehow felt like we were a part of a real cinema experience. The bar area is great, with lots of sofas for hanging out and having those intense geeky conversations that you can only have with likeminded people. It also served as a relaxing place to hold the informal talks with authors and assorted other specialists that are an integral part of all our festivals.
Although it may seem a long way out from central London, especially if you live in west or south London, it is incredibly well served by public transport, thanks to the Olympics. Its location certainly didn't stop millions of people from coming from all over the world to watch sports, and it didn't seem to deter the sci-fi fans either.
What was surprising to us was how many new theme-appropriate films we had, including UK premieres, such as The Human Race from Paul Hough, whose short film The Angel won Best Short at the SFL8, which opened the festival on Friday evening. There was probably never a more fitting film for us to start with, and it should definitely be considered as a new sport at the Rio Olympics because wheelchair rugby/deathball is far too passé.
For all those that turned up there was an extra treat as we were supplied with freshly cooked pukka tucker from Jamie's Ministry of Food Stratford, before seeing a preview of the claustrophobic Aussie sci-fi thriller, Crawlspace, which is due out some time in the new year.
Saturday and we had a long Q&A with David Wingrove, author of the Chung Keo novels, which, naturally, have a futuristic, post apocalyptic story. This was quite informal and led by our literary editor and Clarke Awards juror, Rob Grant. For those interested in old-school gaming (with boards not bytes), Esvidium were running some pretty intense sessions of Star Trek Catan, which proved popular with visitors. As did the new Microsoft Surface tablets, for those of a more digital persuasion.
As we continuously point out, we like to support both short film and encourage new British sci-fi filmmaking talent, which was the reason for starting the 48 Hour Film Challenge. Although we had some exceptional films in the first year, including Gareth Edwards' Factory Farmed, the overall quality of the films has grown exponentially. We showed a selection of some of the best from the last four years, and, more importantly, announced that Guillermo Del Toro has agreed to be on the jury for next year's challenge. There are lots of other exciting developments in the pipeline, so if you want to give your filmmaking career a boost (like Gareth Edwards) then get into sleep deprivation training. April isn't that far away.
It was fitting that the guys running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make a post-apocalyptic comedy The Fitzroy should be at the festival trying to drum up support, not only because their film is British and post-apocalyptic, but also because they met at the 48 Hour Film Challenge. Please support their campaign.We interviewed them here.
There was a solid day of screenings, from the kids' screening of the fantastic Paranorman, to the horror-fantasy of After. There was the slightly disturbing vision of celebrity culture (this time literally grown in petrie dish) in Brandon Cronenberg's feature debut Antiviral. Festival favourite Cory McAbee dropped in on his current flurry of European festival dates to show his new film Crazy and Thief (which makes him one of the coolest dads around), as well as treating us to a live performance of some songs from his latest project Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club. After the lightness and brightness of Crazy and Thief, it was back to the dark side with Errors of the Human Body.
It was soon time for a change of shift as the hardcore all-nighter crews arrived for anime and MST3K and the sensible folk headed for the last Tubes and trains and their own comfortable beds. However, those that made it through the night were treated to breakfast at Asper's Casino and were given the chance to be bitten by the gambling bug.
Sunday morning, after all the all-nighter survivors had left, a whole new batch of survivors arrived, or at least those wishing to know more about how to survive, from Vinay Gupta, the inventor of the Hexayurt, which is handy because shelter is the most important thing to establish in a survival situation. Meanwhile, the younguns were being treated to classic kids' sci-fi Flight of the Navigator, which has just been rereleased on DVD.
Always a favourite at all our festivals is the pub quiz. This time the questions were set by the Post Apocalyptic Book Club with, as you might have guessed, appropriately themed questions. The hastily cobbled together SFL team (Janeway and the Red Shirts) didn't fare so well, neither did we disgrace ourselves, but as per usual it was Dave Green and his cohorts that trounced all comers, most of whom were newcomers. And there were no readings from "the book".
More family viewing in the afternoon, but not necessarily for all the family, with Nuclear Family, which was the pilot for a new TV show that looks like it may become an online series, and if they can keep Ray Wise in it, it is bound to become a hit. This was followed by a revisiting of Kafka's classic novella Metamorphosis. The festival finished with the French dystopian film Carré Blanc.
At the end of the festival, the general consensus was the new venue is great and we look forward to being there in May for SCI-FI-LONDON 12, with lots of great films and events. So we have to thank Stratford Picturehouse for putting up with us, our sponsors, all our volunteers who were marvellous as usual, and the filmmakers and distributors that supplied the films without which it wouldn't be much of a festival.
Until May (or April if you are doing the 48 Hour Challenge).