About Me

Rob Pincombe is a prolific television writer, recovering comedian and sometime comic artist/storyboard artist who just wasn't satisfied with a single blog. He writes about sci-fi and fandom at rebelalert.com, Canadian comics at comicanuck.com, and shares thoughts and insights on writing at starkravingadventure.com

Monday, January 25, 2010

Science Fiction and Genre Features at Sundance 2010

Welcome to the rebellion.

Sci-Fi and genre are well-represented at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, running this week. We’ve checked out the shorts in my last post. Now lets look at the feature-length mayhem lighting up Park City, Utah’s silver screens.

Canada’s genre-on-a-budget superstar, Vincenzo Natali, the writer-director of Cube and episodes of, God help us, Earth:Final Conflict, brings Spliced to this year’s fest. The cast features David Hewlett and Sarah Polley (Yay!) and Adrian Brody (Boo!). Polley (Yay!) and Brody (Boo!) play husband and wife geneticists who impregnate an ovum with animal and human DNA and struggle to raise the fast-growing, increasingly dangerous (Boo!) and yet oh-so enticing female (Yay!) creature they create.

Twitchfilm.com’s 2010 Sundance review of Spliced calls it a “genre mash of science fiction cautionary tale and a young parenting drama…” Or “Freudian family politics with bio-evolution in fast forward…” Sounds perfectly messed up.

PopularMechanics.com has a rundown on The Top Sci-Fi, Military and Environmental Films at Sundance 2010. Their master list includes Spliced, the post-apocalyptic One Hundred Mornings and Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei’s documentary, Space Tourists, which follows “self-made multimillionaire” Anousheh Ansari’s one week aboard the International Space Station.

www.io9.com follows suit with a round-up of Sundance 2010 Midnight Screenings with creepy, horror-esque entries All My Friends Are Funeral Singers and the Butcher Brothers latest, The Violent Kind.

Last month Collider.com shared images from more Midnight films here and here.

I’d also include former NOVA and PBS producer Jason Spingarn-Koff’s Life 2.0 as a sideways genre film, dramatizing the blurring of reality that can come form spending too much time living in Second Life’s online, digital world.


Science Fiction Shorts at Sundance 2010

Welcome to the rebellion.

As the Toronto International Film Festival gets bigger and bigger, it becomes more of a challenge to get into any screenings without advance planning months ahead of time. It got to the point where I would just buy the program book and read it over the course of the festival from the comfort of my couch. Now even that seems like too much work, which probably reveals more about me than it does about TIFF.

I find it easier to look at a festival like Sundance from a comfortable distance, where I don’t have to take line-ups and sold old screenings personally. So a quick tour around the net has helped to identify some of the genre films making their debuts this week at Robert Redford’s little, Park City, Utah film festival that could.

Keep your cybernetic implants on the look out for these genre films. First up, let’s check out the bumper crop of shorts thanks to io9.com and wired.com.

The future of sci-fi is becoming more and more of a global phenomenon and the so-called Third World countries are the new torchbearers. Last year Mexico led the pack with the debut of Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer. The film followed in the footsteps of trailblazing director’s like Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy), Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men) and Alfonso CurĂ³n, letting creativity of ideas and imaginative visual language sell his sci-fi drama on a budget. Of course as Wired.com Underwire blog pointed out last fall (Vintage Mexican SciFi Beams a Blast From the Past con Queso) this stems from a grand tradition of low-budget Mexican sci-fi.

After the holiday success of the South African-shot District 9, it’s not surprising that there’s some big buzz at this year’s fest surrounding director Wanuri Kahiu’s Kenyan short, Pumzi, produced by Simon Hansen, who also produced the short District 9 was based on, Alive in Joburg.

Pumzi takes place after a “Water War” has pretty tapped out the Earth’s supply of water and fresh air is the ultimate commodity. Kahiu tapped into the environmental realities faced Kenya and other small, economically-challenged countries today and projected them into a potential future. But she also looked to the past for inspiration, according to this Pumzi interview at Underwire.

But to produce Pumzi, Kahiu looked to the past, as well as the future.

She researched classic 1950s films to create her movie’s futuristic sets, comparing the processes of matte painting and rear-screen projection with indigenous African artwork.

“We already have a tradition of tapestries and functional art and things like that, that loan a backdrop for films,” Kahiu said.

Pumzi may be the “pure speculative fiction”, lit pick of the fest but for sheer entertainment value, La Petit Dragon looks like pure, fresh-squeezed fun juice. The premise supposes the Dragon spirit of Bruce Lee was reincarnated in a doll’s body thirty years and is finally freed from his box.

The That’s Just Wrong Award goes to "N.A.S.A. – A Volta", for it’s “ulta-violent” drug deal gone wrong and "Please Say Something" may be the final word on the age-old game of cat and mouse.

The other short getting a lot of buzz is director Spike Jonze’s 30-minute short, I’m Here. After mining movie magic from Maurice Sendak’s children’s book classic, Where the Wild Things Are, Jones returns to literature aimed at the young but read by all, taking his inspiration from Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. According to the Hollywood Insider

The director admits to the Silverstein influence, adding that he named his main character Sheldon in honor of the 1970s poet and storyteller. “I was trying to take the influence of The Giving Tree, but write about relationships,” says Jonze. “I love Shel Silverstein. I just love him.” Jonze hired Andrew Garfield (The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus) and Sienna Guillory to don robot costumes, while his special effects crew did a fantastic job drawing emotions out of robot heads that resembled the old Apple Macintosh Classic computer.

I remember being moved by The Giving Tree as a kid only to return to it as an adult and see it as an ode to an extremely abusive, one-sided relationship from which the selfless victim never escapes, even in death.

Good luck with that, Spike.

For more details on Pumzi check out wired.com and sciencefictionbiology.blogspot.com.

Next: Feature Length science fiction films rock Sundance.