Sci-fi and fantasy fans are a lucky bunch when it comes to modern cinema. Hollywood’s big-budget blockbusters have the finest special effects money can buy, creating worlds that we’ve only dreamt about. But bigger is not always better. Stories can be easily lost amid all those fancy explosions. After you strip away the CGI, what’s left? Sometimes not much.
And this is the big secret about geeky movies: It’s all about the story. Tell us an imaginative, creative, innovative, and interesting story and we’re yours. Well, fellow geeks, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival (SFFSFF) promises just that, meeting our criteria while catering to our modern-day attention span: No film can exceed 15 minutes! It might seem impossible, but the EMP and SIFF manage to make it work, aweing crowds year after year with these brief forays into the unknown.
The festival’s roots lie in one of Seattle’s geekiest and most treasured museums (to me, at least), the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. As many Seattleites can remember, the museum became a permanent installment of the EMP in 2004. It honors mostly the legends of sci-fi, so in an effort to highlight and connect the history of the genre with current innovators, EMP joined SIFF to create SFFSFF.
That was nine years ago, and they’re still going strong. This year SFFSFF received more than 100 submissions. And as Jessi Reed, the EMP’s public-programs producer, notes, they are not looking to slow down anytime soon—“hop[ing] to continue to grow, reach more sci-fi and fantasy fans, as well as expand our platform for creators to show their work and get recognition for it.” After all, this is the perfect city to highlight geeky works of art, as Reed points out; we’re a booming tech and science city with a bad case of rainy weather, causing people to “dive into their imagination and explore other worlds.”
For this year’s festival, the folks at EMP and SIFF selected 20 entries. The films include live-action and animation, and cover a wide range of geekdom (all within the sci-fi and fantasy realm, of course). There is even a hometown hero in the mix: Seattleite Vanessa McMeekin will make her SFFSFF debut with Red Summer, the story of a young boy who watches his neighborhood crumble as the end of the world nears. McMeekin has shown her film at the London Sci-Fi Film Festival, but notes that SFFSFF is one of the best in the world. (When she received the acceptance e-mail, she says, she “immediately started jumping up and down.”) McMeekin also notes that Seattle is “a very supportive place for filmmakers” and is becoming a “breeding ground for artists, filmmakers, and performers of all types, and recently the sci-fi and fantasy community have really started to thrive.”
Alongside McMeekin, filmmakers from all over the world (including Spain and the UK) are included in the festival. Sadly, tickets are sold out this year, but fear not—an “Encore Screening” will showcase some of the Jury Award winners, Audience Award winners, and curator’s choices. Sci-fi and fantasy fans can get their tickets for these showings on SIFF’s website (and mark your calendar for next year’s festival).
SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY SHORT FILM FESTIVAL Cinerama, 2100 Fourth Ave., 448-6680, cinerama.com, empmuseum.org, siff.net. Sold out. 4 & 7:30 p.m. Sat., Jan. 11th. Encore screening: $12–$18. Noon Sun., Jan. 12.