The Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival, affectionately known as SFFSFF (say it “siff siff”) returns to the Cinerama theater in Seattle this weekend. The sixth annual event, jointly sponsored by the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Seattle International Film Festival, will feature twenty films that span the definition of the genres, and come from around the world.
The wonderful thing about a shorts festival is the opportunity to sample emerging or experimental works from a large number of filmmakers in a small amount of time. The director biographies of festival participants show a wide spectrum of backgrounds, viewpoints, and experience levels. There will be Q & A sessions with many of these filmmakers that are sure to be worthwhile.
The films in the fest fit a range from comedy to action thriller to surreal adventure. Easily, the highlight of those I’ve seen is the charming Zero, from writer/director Christopher Kezelos. Made with a stop motion animation technique and characters formed out of yarn, it tells the tale of a lad unfortunate enough to be born a literal ‘zero’ in a world of numbers. The clever set-up provides a lot of nice moments, but the impressive visuals, simultaneously adorable and sleek, are the real draw. Other animated films in the selection also stood out to me, such as The Astronomer’s Sun, an odd, sad film with lovely animation and sound, and The Wonder Hospital, a fantastical journey with a memorable main character who will remind you of all manner of literary urchins.
Many of the live action films also show off impressive special effects, particularly the action-on-a-spaceship piece Cockpit: The Rules of Engagement. Unfortunately, this isn’t a film that matches its high production values with an equally polished script; chock-full of “on the bridge” sorts of clichés, the decent acting can’t save it. (The captain, played by Ronny Cox, provides a nice “Hey! It’s that guy!” moment…I am here to tell you that yes, that dude’s in RoboCop.) We find a similar problem with Hector Corp., a big business satire that deftly combines CGI animation and live action, but that isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is. Still, each film is very much worth watching, to see what can be done by an independent filmmaker on a limited budget.
Even with how well something like Cockpit is done, complete with space explosions, from a production standpoint I was most impressed by Denmark, which has a marionette crustacean for its main character. The film almost gives the impression of being animated in the way it’s shot, and the movement of the main character is spellbinding. It’s a lovely piece that I wanted to go on for much longer than it did. It’s also the sort of thing that I might never come across, if not for specialized festivals such as this.
The selection of films for this year’s SFFSFF will air in two blocks of ten, one at 4 P.M. and one at 7:30 P.M., followed by an awards ceremony. Though the Saturday events are sold out, an encore best-of-the-fest screening will take place on Sunday at SIFF Cinema (you can buy tickets here).
Be sure to check out our interview with Brooks Peck of EMP/SFM, speaking about the festival. For those of you who are not in Seattle or otherwise can’t attend this weekend, he assures us that eventually most of the films will be available online.