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Astounding Tales of Science Fiction!: Fourth Annual Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival

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A blue-collar woman works in Daniel Trezise's Outsource.

What happens when a wormhole opens up in the middle of an aging woman’s apartment? What if a normal garden hose was a living being? How would you befriend a creature living at the bottom of a wishing well?

These questions and more were posed — and answered — at the fourth annual Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival last Saturday. National and international filmmakers converged on the Seattle Cinerama to present their work to the sold-out theater. The festival was hosted by the Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (EMP|SFM), in partnership with the Seattle International Film Festival.

“The festival started four years ago as a way to showcase young and upcoming filmmakers in the sci-fi genre,” Public Relations Manager Maggie Skinner said. “Film is a big part of science fiction.”

The eclectic mix of films ranged in tone from the humorous to the serious.

Many were film school projects. Emily Yoshida’s cyber-punk film Abigail was a $12,000 short thesis film for UCLA. “It was my biggest film in terms of money and time,” she said.

Abigail is about a young girl who disappears in a world where virtual interfacing and alternate reality are the societal norm. Her best friend embarks on an adventure to discover what truly happened to her.

“It’s sort of a jump 30 years into the future,” Yoshida said of her film. “It shows how we interact with one another and how that evolves in society.”

But not every film at the festival was made at a film school. Hirsute, which won the award for the audience’s favorite feature of the night, was a privately funded short filmed in director A.J. Bond’s apartment in Vancouver, Canada.

The film itself is a chilling time travel story. A young inventor working on a mathematical method for a time machine is visited by a version of himself from the future. But this meeting between two of the same men has devastating results.

“I don’t think it’s a message movie, but it does have a bunch of themes,” said Bond, who also stars as the two main characters. “If you met yourself, objectively saw yourself, how would you feel? Would you like what you saw?”

Besides the audience award, four other awards were given out at the festival by a panel of jurors made up of professionals in the field.

The third-place juror award was given to Notes from the Acrid Plain with Burton Hoary, Vol. 7, a witty pseudo-documentary that chronicles the lives of certain mutants living in a toxic wasteland.

The awards for second place and for special effects were both given to Outsource, a visually stunning allegory with almost no dialogue spoken between its two protagonists.

The first place award was given to Fade, an Australian metaphysical short. On their way to visit his dying father, characters Ryan and Anna encounter a strange phenomenon that has tragically far-reaching consequences.

Although some of the films are available on the Internet, most of the projects are impossible to view.

“That is one of the reasons why this event sells out,” Skinner said. “Attending is the only way to see these films unless you go to other film festivals.”

Mark Sebring, an assistant organizer for Seattle-based meetup groups, has attended the festival for the past three years. He is a self-identified sci-fi fan, but his interest in the festival extends beyond that.

“You rarely see short films in this venue,” Sebring said. “It doesn’t matter what genre. I would’ve gone anyway.”

Skinner said that young filmmakers from all backgrounds are welcome to submit their films for the festival next year.

“Filmmakers can submit starting June 1, 2009. The final deadline is September 30,” she said. “We really do encourage submissions from young filmmakers around this area. This year, only one was from the Pacific Northwest.”

Constant van Hoeven, a filmmaker from the Netherlands who now resides in New York, was at the festival to show his film Things Last. The film ponders the idea of the human soul as an energy source and contemplates the fate of the last human alive.

“You can use all the materials from school to make a film,” van Hoeven said. “Science fiction is possible anywhere.”

Reach reporter Robert Frankel at arts@dailyuw.com.

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