Coverage: The Atlanta Sci-Fi Film Festival (2016)

Great way to start off the day.
Smiling faces everywhere.
We had the distinct pleasure of attending the first annual Atlanta Sci-Fi Film Festival this past weekend. Taking place over three days, the festival kicked off with an HBO event screening of the second episode of Westworld with a live panel. The second day was full of sci-fi shorts which ran from roughly 2pm until just after 8pm as attendees were presented with the first AI written science fiction film, Sunspring and a discussion with two of the creative minds behind the project. The third and final day was capped off with an IMAX screening of Terrence Malick's new project, Voyage of Time. This is a shortened 45 minute version of the movie that's narrated by Brad Pitt. The full length release of the movie will be 90 minutes and is narrated by Cate Blanchett.

As a first year event, this came off without a hitch. Everything about the festival was organized and each person involved was highly polite and gracious. Arriving on site at Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon for the film short section of the festival, we were greeted with nothing but smiles and a cordial attitude that was a sight for sore eyes. After a long drive down and a few frustrations along the course of our trip down, we were more than happy to be greeted by festival runner Amanda Ray and her support staff of students and professors. We were treated with absolute hospitality and were honored to be involved as an integral part of this great new film fest.

Starting off with a block of CGI animated short films that were competing for an award, The Movie Sleuth was treated to several beautiful looking pieces that centered on numerous but still congruent themes. Although they were all extremely well made, a few stood out for us specifically. The Last War by Dima Fedotov was one of our personal favorites that painted a futuristic glimpse of the finality of mankind as an autonomous technology makes its final bombing run on a mostly dead planet ravaged by war.  The second was the 9 minute Uncanny Valley, a short film with a distinct tone reminiscent of Neill Blomkamp's earlier work on District 9. Asking questions about virtual reality and social themes of addiction and loss, Federico Heller's direction and dedication to creating an action-centric movie in under 10 minutes is truly awesome.

After the CGI competition block and CGI features were completed, festival goers and press were privy to some of the best live action genre shorts around. Again, all the content was highly relevant to where current social media is taking us and where technology is headed in the near future. Some shorts were dark presentations of tech's psychological reign and others stayed true to long running science fiction tropes of where society may be headed. Again, out of nearly two dozen films, all were good but a couple were extremely intriguing and did something new and fresh with run times under 20 minutes. 

Cashell Horgan's The Clockmaker's Dream is an absolutely gorgeous piece to look at. As an homage to George Melies' 1904 film of the same title, Horgan captures the essence of love, loss, and our desire to extend life beyond the realm of our existence. Adding to the wonder of his short is work of Jared Harris narrating with his immediately recognizable voice. Using stylistic black and white with tones of an era in filmmaking that's been lost, The Clockmaker's Dream maintains a rewatchability factor and touches on sentiments that will easily hit home for people that may have lost a loved one. 

Festival winner Grace Rowe
-The Sweetening- 
Last but not least was (our favorite) festival winner, The Sweetening. Written, directed, and starred in by long time tv and film actress, Grace Rowe, we immediately knew there was something special afoot at the Atlanta Sci-Fi Film Festival. The Sweetening attacks many themes in only 14 minutes. Capturing the audience's attention with her movie about virtual reality and the hardships of marriage, Rowe's creativity and love is felt all over this masterful gem of a short. After seeing it twice back to back, we were both convinced she'd be the award winner of the live action block. Rowe actually plans on turning The Sweetening into a television show and is currently in the process of transposing her vision to that format. We were lucky enough to sit down with Grace to conduct a live interview. We'll be posting that in the next few days. 

Ending the second evening was a live performance by the awe inspiring Atlanta based string trio, Luna Strings and a live video panel discussion with the creators behind Sunspring, the world's first movie based off an AI written screenplay. The movie was strange but humorous and eclectic. With nonsensical dialogue and a some overtly melodramatic performances, it was a fun way to end the evening. 

The final day of the festival ended with an awards ceremony and Malick's Voyage of Time in the IMAX format. Grace Rowe was announced as the winner of the live action competitioin and a young filmmaker award was also handed out. Closing out the final evening was a panel with Amanda and a group of scientists/instructors that were informational and centered on questioning the elements of Malick's current work. We all seemed to agree on the questionable way Malick presented his 'voyage of time' in a fictional and rather uneventful way. The movie itself is beautiful to look with great looking cinematography, but the narrative is sadly lost on this shortened version of this feature. 

Throughout the numerous sections of films we were given, the thematic elements all remained slightly similar and made it quite obvious that Amanda had a vision when creating the the Atlanta Sci-Fi Film Festival. We're really looking forward to a return trip next year as we can see the writing on the wall. This small festival will continue to grow and we'll be right in their corner, supporting them all the way. Amanda and her crew did an excellent job pulling this off. This will become a yearly journey for us as we fully support their vision and dedication to offering the world a positive way to experience the films of up and coming directors/creators/visionaries. Great job all around!

Please check out The Multicultural Sci-Fi Organization for further info. 


Entry to the festival - Day 2
Q and A - Day 2
Georgia Tech Theater - Day 2

Live panel with Sunspring director Oscar Sharp - Day 2

IMAX at Atlanta Station - Day 3