Sci-Fi-London: Retrofuturist sci-fi, illegal experiments and robots on day two of sci-fi festival - SciFiNow

Sci-Fi-London: Retrofuturist sci-fi, illegal experiments and robots on day two of sci-fi festival

We review the movies showing on Day Two of the 2023 Sci-Fi-London festival…

Sci-Fi-London lands on planet earth on 31 May-6 June 2023, taking place in several cinemas in Central London, and boasting 13 new features,19 shorts, and a special retrospective screening of Peter Watkins’ post-nuclear faux documentary The War Game (1966) with a new live score.

Here we review the movies showing on day two of the festival…

Phi 1.618 (2022) Uk Première, 1 June, 8.45pm Picturehouse Central

“Where is it? Where has time gone?”, asks Krypton (Deyan Donkov) in animator Theodore Ushev’s feature debut.

Certainly time operates mysteriously in this post-apocalyptic retrofuturist sci-fi. Timepieces are used to create chronic disorder (the ‘Chaotic Clock’), or to assassinate (the ‘strangle watch’). Krypton himself defies the ravages of time, as one of 666 immortal, all-male ‘bio-titans’ engineered for a fascist mission to leave the dying planet. As the countdown for liftoff ticks away, Krypton joins Gargara (Martina Apostolova), the embodiment of a forbidden book, to gather scattered ingredients for a magical drug that will reawaken Phia (Irmena Chichikova), a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ abducted and preserved in ‘timeless’ cryostasis as the sole female specimen for the space mission’s archive.

Combining modern filmmaking methods with the inter-titled stylings of Metropolis-era dystopia and Soviet agitprop-aping animated sequences, this eschatological fairytale sends Krypton on a quest for a happily ever after where ephemerality brings its own timeless bliss.

Cade: The Tortured Crossing (2023), International Première, 1 June 6.45pm and 4 June 8.45pm, Prince Charles Cinema

“Am I dreaming?”, asks Tim (Eric Lum). “Where am I? What just happened?”

Tim is a patient in a run-down mental hospital whose renovation the messianic, superpowered philanthropist Cade Altier has agreed to finance. Meanwhile Cade’s estranged, ailing twin Cale is helping to abduct and traffic patients for illegal gene editing experiments, in exchange for access to the results. Both brothers are played by Neil Breen, even as Cade occasionally splits into multiple versions of himself to even the odds in fights. Breen too is a polyhyphenate artist, serving all at once as writer, director, DP, editor, producer and many other rôles, in a film where dualisms and divided realities reign.

The viewer will share Tim’s confusion about what is real, as characters are green-screened not just into sub-Matrix battles, but even into the most banal of locations. There are weird cutaways, jarring sound drops, unmotivated freeze frames, oddly recurring lines, bizarre dance sequences, a randomly appearing white tiger that transforms into a ghostly woman in white (Jennifer Estrella) – and it all comes with the dissociative, dislocating feel of a drawn-out dream, or perhaps of a parable of the endless, interdimensional conflict between good and evil.

Deep Astronomy and the Romantic Sciences (2022), UK Première, 1 June, 8.30pm The Garden Cinema

“So my friends and I have a bet.” says Rudy (Rudy Dejesus), as he approaches a peculiar woman wearing pink rubber gloves in a bar. “They said you’re a robot. Are you a robot?”

Grace (played by Michi Muzyka, voiced by Meredith Adelaide) is a robot, due shortly to be sent into space as a ‘representative of human nature’ – but before she goes, she wishes to engage in conversation with a real live human like Rudy. Grace wants to talk about performer Cory McAbee (also the film’s writer/director, and a regular guest of Sci-Fi-London since his 2001 feature debut The American Astronaut) and his associates, and so her discussion incorporates several of McAbee’s live performances, whose humour, poetry and profound questions also permeate this film.

Encompassing the distinction between hard scientific facts and romantic truths, artificial time travel, transdimensionalism, and the way that ideas (including the many ideas thrown into the air by this film itself) can take root and be realised, it is a thoughtful, reflexive, funny series of standup routines, palatable lectures, faux advertisements and eccentric songs, as well as an impossible love letter full of hope for humanity in a vast universe.

Sci-Fi-London will be taking place between 31 May and 6 June. Keep it with SciFiNow as we review the movies on each day of the festival.