It’s been fifty years since Star Trek first hit our screens, spawning an incredible franchise and inspiring many others. For many, Star Trek was an introduction into the world of science fiction, and even if it wasn’t, it has inspired creators throughout its fifty years.
Director of the SciFi Film Festival Dov Kornits admits that he is “no bonafide Trekkie,” but the decision to show For the Love of Spock at the festival was a no-brainer. “I was genuinely affected by the film – it’s made by Leonard Nimoy’s son and they had a fractured relationship, so apart from the amazing access he got and the insight offered, there was an emotional arc as well, so much so that I am now a convert!”
Now in its third year, the SciFi Film Festival started as Screen My Shorts, helmed by Tom Papas and sponsored by FilmInk. This year, the focus has shifted from shorts to features, Kornits has programmed a cracker lineup, with science fiction from action to documentary to experimental. “I really just wanted to pick the best and most anticipated films out there, and make sure we were getting an Australian, or at least a Sydney premiere for the film.”
Sci-fi is an interesting film genre, because on one hand, there are huge sci-fi properties like Star Trek and Star Wars, both of which are going through a resurgence at the moment, and then there are plenty of smaller, independent films. All that adds to the interest in the genre and in the film festival. “The best sci-fi to me always has had an undercurrent of social comment or reflects the nature of human existence,” Kornits says, “but it can also be amazing escapist entertainment, if that’s what you’re looking for.”
The SciFi Film Festival’s program highlights the best of both worlds, also taking advantage of the advancements in technology emerging filmmakers have access to. This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy, a New Zealand low budget sci-fi comedy, was made from $100,000 of prize money: director Christian Nicholson says that while the budget was “tiny” by today’s standards, “to us it was like millions of dollars. It was just a matter of making the budget work for you.” Kornits praises the film: “It reminds me of the ballsy no-budget early work of Peter Jackson in its uniquely New Zealand sense of humour, but also reverence for the genre it was parodying.
Nicholson recalls relishing Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Space 1999, among other classic science fiction, while his cowriter has “an enormous knowledge of early British sci-fi TV shows like Doctor Who and Blake Seven.” And of course, they were both huge Star Wars fans. The common denominator was the story: “We just loved the old-school effects and the way the story was king, not the budget.”
Unless you’re willing to travel, only Sydneysiders will be able to attend the SciFi Film Festival this year. But Kornits has big plans for the festival, and hopes to take it national next year. “Let’s see how this year plays out first, though,” he adds. “But I definitely believe that there’s room for genre festivals. As cinemas more and more hedge their bets and only play guaranteed hits (ie. Hollywood blockbusters or prestige films) in the traditional release pattern, more and more gems will not get the opportunity to be seen on the big screen. And that’s where we and all the other film festivals come in. There’s nothing like being immersed in a film with likeminded people in a cinema on a big screen, and that’s where we will fit in.”
And science fiction isn’t going anywhere, either. “We as a society are moving so fast with technology that it’s the sci-fi genre above all else that allows for the most exciting exploration of where we are heading,” Kornit says.
“It comes down to the passion for the genre, which I think is alive and well.”
For more information and for tickets, see the SciFi Film Festival website.