The Sundance Film Festival enters its 27th year in January, and the organizers just announced the lineup of films for this year. They include only two vaguely science fictional films: The Broken and Timecrimes. This is part of a trend: Sundance tends to shun science fiction films in general, despite the fact that Sundance declared itself "scifi friendly" in 2004.
Even that allegedly friendly year brought only three sci fi-ish films to be screened in competition, including Primer which was critically lauded, but seen by very few viewers. In fact, if you haven't seen it, it's well worth your time.
Sundance has a "Park City at Midnight" category that serves up what the jury thinks of as weird, alternative films, and it tends to serve as a catchall for anything remotely in the scifi vein. Last year Crispin Glover's bizarre It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine screened in this slot, and it's also been host to films like Saw and The Blair Witch Proejct. But why? Science fiction can clearly be as deep (or as shallow) as any other kind of art film.
Marteinn Thorssson, co-director of the 2004 indie sci fi film One Point O put it best:
A science-fiction film doesn't need to be $80 million and use CGI. Science fiction is about human beings interacting with each other and with technology, and technology has become part of who we are today.
Here are the synopses for this year's semi-science fiction films:
- The Broken is a psychological horror project, starring Lena Headey as a woman whose life descends into nightmare after she sees an apparent double of herself driving by in her own car. Granted, it sounds like an episode of The Twilight Zone, and might have little, if any, science fiction in it. At least they're throwing us a bone and it's not just another hack and slash film!
- Timecrimes: A man accidentally gets into a time machine and travels back in time nearly an hour. Finding himself will be the first of a series of disasters of unforeseeable consequences. Again, sounds like a Twilight Zone episode, and based on the thumbnails they both look like they have a high horror potential.
So where are all the indie science fiction films? If you're trying to seek them out at Sundance, you're going to have a hard time of it, but we recommend checking out the Midnight films, and the Animation Program. In fact, one of the coolest retro science fiction steampunk films we've ever seen, The Mysterious Geographic Expeditions of Jasper Morello, screened as part of the Animation Program in 2005 and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006. Check out part one below.