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Sci-Fi-London 8


I may be a bit late with writing up my activities over the last $timeperiod, but after a week hidden underground at the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival my brain has taken a little while to start working at the required speed again. The flywheel has reached velocity, so here goes.

This was my fourth year of helping at the festival and my fifth of attending. It was also the most films I’ve seen in a few years, having been pushed into screens with a torch with instructions of ‘Look after the screen’ a couple of times. In short – it was rather good. We added a bunch of talks this year, hitting up comics, books and science as well as the normal film, and I got to meet some lovely and insane people. A few highlights:

My top film of the festival was The City of Lost Children. The first of my ‘look after the screen’ films, I didn’t really have much urge to watch it, despite Marc Caro (co-director along with Jean-Pierre Jeunet) being around as Guest of Honour, but after about two minutes I was rather hooked. I ordered the DVD within seconds of getting home and it’s up on my list of most beautiful films ever now. I spent most of the rest of the weekend thanking staff-wrangler Shaun for kicking me through the door…

Next up was the closing films – 20th Century Boys parts 1 and 2. Live action and based on a manga series that I’ve started reading (although they only have 2 of the 24 books out in english at the moment and are releasing them at a rate which means I’ve got 3.5 years until I get to the end…) it is quite difficult to describe. So far I’ve stuck with “It’s about the end of the world”, but it has cults, giant robots, convenience stores, people eating soup and crying transvestites, so there’s something for everyone. I spent the second film standing at the side of the cinema due to it being sold out, and chivalrously offered the last seat that my rather destroyed brain could see to a fellow volunteer, and it finished me off, removing my already minimal grasp on the art of speech and turning me into a gibbering idiot. A nice way to finish off the festival…

My top new film of the festival was The Mother of Invention – a film that may not get out into the wider world unless they get a distributer, but one that deserves to be seen by more people. The tale of a young ‘inventor’ in his last year of eligibility for an inventing competition, it’s a mockumentary that hits many of the right notes. I loved it and ran a Q&A with the cast and crew (who’d come over from the US specially) after the showing. Well, I say ‘ran’, it was more ‘they ran it before I needed to’, which was a help, as I had no idea what to say.

I didn’t get to sit through much in the way of panels, as I was running around helping to wrangle participants, but I saw a bit of a live read through of Robert Rankin’s Brightonomicon, which was rather good, with a lot of ad-libbing and the occasional bit of corpsing.

Most of the panels seem to work well, with about 60 guests wandering through over the space of the 6 days of the festival. I suspect we’ll be doing it again next year, which will be rather good.

There was one bit of controversy during the festival, although it turned out to be a storm in a teacup. One of our events was a showing and talk focusing on Israeli science fiction films, which was answered by some online articles asking for us to cancel the event and calls to boycott it due to the ongoing situation in Palestine. However, this didn’t pan out to any protests or anything in the end, and the session went without a hitch. The thing that amused me was comments on Twitter and elsewhere that China Mieville had walked out of the Clarke Awards in protest of the Israeli film event, which was slightly at odds with the comments about double booking he made as he said goodbye to the people manning the festival front desk (including me), and also didn’t tie in with the panel he did later in the week… The wonder of the internets strikes again.

Lots of other rather random things happened, with a dance-off to decide the winners of the pub quiz, Kevin O’Neill turning up late to a Q&A and having the film paused while he talked, Richard Jobson’s tales of being bottled ‘on set’ (the set being a street party at new year in Edinburgh), Marc Caro being Marc Caro, and me ironing a shirt for the festival director so that he could introduce the Clarke Awards, but giving up halfway through because I’m crap at sleeves. A great but knackering week.

Anyways, there’s going to be another Oktober fest in October (with all three 20th Century Boys films and some as yet un-announced/decided all-nighters) and an upcoming premiere of the live action version of Blood: The Last Vampire (originally our closing film, but postponed til June as it wasn’t done in time for the festival) already organised before next year’s festival. Hopefully some of the other interesting things in the pipeline will also appear soon…

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