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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Boston Science Fiction Fest: Day 1

  I don't know if I will find the time each day to put down my thoughts on the events and the incredible amount of material presented by the Boston Science Fiction Festival. There really a wide variety of features and shorts presented in this festival that could suit most tastes. With tickets to individual programs available at the Somerville Theater there is no reason why you should not finish reading this post and then get over to the Festival website and join the fun.
  Unfortunately the first day of shorts started out with some technical struggles, incompatibility of some of the equipment meant that the 5pm kickoff program was late and some of the shorts were not shown. Luckily for us in the audience two of the film makers were in attendance and worked out alternate ways to show their shorts, so we did get to see both Flesh Computer and iBrain. The others will be rescheduled for later in the festival.

Flesh Computer (2013) - Written and Directed by Ethan Shaftel explores the idea of consciousness in all things as depicted through beings in the short that are of varying degrees of electronic and flesh. Based somewhat in the ideas of philosopher David Chalmers who has a running dialog on screens in the short. He in his 1996 book "Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness" asks the question "why does the feeling which accompanies awareness of sensory information exist at all?" In the film he can be heard talking about the idea that consciousness could be present at the molecular level, so all living flesh from a few cells to an organ could hold some of the components needed for consciousness. The film by depicting the different degrees of technology and flesh presents us with points of view to different consciousnesses. The Child with an electronic eye, the flesh computer, the fly on the screen, a couple thugs from the building, the part mechanical computer care taker all have points of view in this film. Now I might be mangling the idea but I think I got the idea in general and the film delivers from and idea and story telling perspective. Some of the CGI could have been more fully rendered but often times these films are made on a shoestring so bare with it. The Cronenbergesque look of the flesh computer was wonderful and the director in attendance made for a more fulfilling event with a Q&A after the film. This was a thought provoking interesting short another example of the ever improving quality of the festival's fare.

iBrain (2013) - Written and directed by Dennis Nicholson is a very amusing comedy / scifi short about a near future where the latest greatest gadget for our tech savvy world is the iBrain. Electrodes inserted in the brain allow the user to communicate through text just by thinking it. More than that it explores the idea of a completely networked society with information at the thought and intercommunication that never have to shut down. Playing with the Apple idea it really is amusing with a auto mode that allows the body to perform mundane tasks without having to think about it. I assume the consciousness of the user is off doing other things on the web, watching a movie, hanging out chatting with friends etc. Using a story structure that parallels two different approaches to the new technology the leads Kara (Monica Nowak) and her boyfriend Dylan (Steve Boyer) each are in their own worlds. She in her books and he in his new iBrain but both are to an extent separating themselves from the intimate interactions of being human. Its an great idea and presented for laughs. My wife and I have had similar conversations about the value of the things we use to occupy our time. She being a professional storyteller is a lover of reading, while I am a major movie buff. So I was identifying with the story in film. The conflict between Kara and Dylan each valuing there form of entertainment is similar to the conversations my wife and I have. Again another nice entry into the festival smart and humorous. Also again the director was kind enough to participate in a Q&A something we fans of film really value.

The feature of the night was a local entry called
Nigerian Frequency (2013) - Another comedy and sticking to the theme of  human and technology interacting with humans. This film was about a computer program called Friendle, and online learning program that adapts to your friendship needs. Written by Mathew Scott the film develops the idea of the Friendle and how through its learnin algorhythms first grow popular and then are marred by viruses. It also though really looks at what is a friend. When we start replacing the people in our lives with online companionship where does that leave us?  When I think about the film I like the basic comedic idea, the quirks of how the program is designed come through in funny ways, like having to choose your mode to say get an honest opinion. When the learning program figures out that dogs are creatures that often replace it it instructs it users to smother there dogs. In a world where the average person has 170 facebook friends and most of the interactions with those friends are just liking things they post, ideas about human machine interaction certainly hold a place in society. Nigerian Frequency gives it a go to explore one possible interaction. Made locally in Chelmsford MA there was a large audience of supports for this film which made the premiere special for the film makers. Many of the mostly ametuer actors were also present. A short Q&A and then out for drinks at the Five Horses pub in Davis Sq. made for an enjoyable day of Science fiction.

Missing from the first day, and I will have to see if I can get to see these were the following shorts.
Cell Phone of the Future, Kevin's Book, Contacts, Reboot, A Better World, Transits, and Amy Kid Zombie Speech Pathologist.

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