We visit the BFI’s Days Of Fear And Wonder.
October- December 2014, nationwide
With the BFI’s colossal sci- fi season in full swing, Nina Cromeyer Dieke reports on the story so far
The BFI’s Days of Fear And Wonder programme has been screening sci- fi classics in over 200 locations across the UK to showcase the genre’s best and inspire the next generation of filmmakers. This year’s season is also giving genre lovers the opportunity to attend talks and Q& As with filmmakers and critics, take masterclasses, and even dance to tunes by DJ Yoda. Programme curator Rhidian Davis says, “This is the genre that has the power to show us our hopes and fears for the future, always at the forefront of innovation in special effects and where things are going.”
By the end of the year, the programme will have explored three thematic streams: Tomorrow’s World, Altered States and Contact. Special events have included an Afrofuturism weekend, exhibitions from the BFI’s National Archive, and a Star Wars Day on 13 December. Outside of London, BFI partnerships have resulted in screenings and events at Bletchley Park, the Eden Project and the Bristol Planetarium, among many more.
One event was the premiere of Ambition, a film commissioned by the European Space Agency to mark the ESA Rosetta comet landing on 12 November. The short film, starring Games of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen and The Fall’s Aisling Franciosi, bridges the gap between science fiction and fact by depicting – in stunning special effects – a fantastical event which is in fact reality. It’s an innovative collaboration that has not only added filmmaking to the ESA’s mantle, but raises the age- old question around the relationship between sci- fi and science. “Sci- fi is the imagined realm of science and technology, and is a laboratory for a lot of ideas,” says Davis.
One of those ideas was discussed at the BFI Southbank Reuben Library by sci- fi author Adam Roberts, who asked whether cinema is the ultimate time travel machine, as it moves us between distant moments and speeds up and slows down time. The library also hosted writer and critic Sophie Mayer, who spoke of the female cyborg as the male- made empty vessel and made the provocative suggestion that non- organic enhancements, like glasses, make cyborgs out of us all!
This, and other stirring concepts, are the fuel that power the stories the programme is celebrating.
“In a world of visual fantasy and the plasticity of the digital image, people want to see where it’s gonna go,” says Davis. “They want grand narratives that will make sense of this fantasy world. And they want to understand what these technological changes will mean. I think sci- fi does that.”
Days Of Fear And Wonder runs until 31 December. A full programme is available at www. bfi. org. uk/ sci- fi.
Ambition bridges fact and fiction in a real- life fantasy. Film lovers getting in the spirit of things. Local hospital inpatients join in the fun. There are certainly worse places to watch a film.
Screenings include new releases
and older classics.