Science fiction doesn’t always have to be about laser beams and Ewoks. For those who like the science in their films to be a little harder in nature, the Irish Film Institute is offering a series of films, both fact and fiction, that explore and incorporate plausible scientific methods and practices into their stories. These are the thinking person’s films about science and they’re on offer next week at the IFI.
‘Dark Skies: A Festival of Science Fact and Fiction’ starts next Thursday at the IFI, following on from last year’s ‘Futures Past’ programme, a collaboration with Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery that explored how the films of the past imagined our future. The ‘Dark Skies’ series offers a number of intriguing films, speculative and thoughtful science fiction, with highlights including a screening of Saul Bass’ Phase IV and Philip Kaufman’s celebration of the first astronauts, The Right Stuff, presented on 70mm film. Dark Skies will conclude with an early look at The Farthest, the eagerly anticipated space-exploration documentary, directed by Ireland’s own Emer Reynolds. These films and more will be on show from 13 – 16 July and Tickets are available now from the IFI.
See the full Dark Skies programme below.
Thurs 13 July, 6.15pm
Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain follows a team of scientists as they investigate a deadly extraterrestrial organism. After the organism’s landing in a New Mexico town leaves all but two residents dead, the scientists must isolate and understand what they’re dealing with, and find a solution, before it wipes out all life on Earth. This tense scientific procedural will be introduced by Trinity College Dublin microbiologist, Dr Maria Boyle.
Fri 14 July, 6.40pm
Well known across the Internet for being a film that requires a bit of thought, Primer is an experimental and complex time travel story directed, produced, edited, written by, scored by and starring auteur Shane Carruth. The film is about Abe and Aaron, two young engineers who supplement their day jobs with tech projects and accidentally discover a method for travelling through time. This gets complicated, very quickly. Sean Power of Trinity College’s Department of Philosophy will present the film at the IFI.
Sat 15 July, 4.40pm
Saul Bass was a legendary name in Hollywood, an incredible visual artist who crafted some of the most well-known film posters of all time, created classic opening title sequences and assisted in the visuals of films by the likes of Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese. Bass was a filmmaker in his right, but he only directed one feature film of his own, Phase IV, the psychedelic story of scientists attempts to understand unusual behaviour of ants in the Arizona desert. A faded print of the film’s original ending was discovered in 2012, and the IFI will be showing a restored version of the film, complete with its original ending sequence.
Sat 15 July, 7.30pm
Though this film was considered a box-office flop on its initial release, those who did see it strongly praised it. 30 years later, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and it isn’t hard to see why. Philip Kaufman’s film is a triumphant ode to the test pilots who paved the way for the astronauts of the Mercury Space Programme . A cast that includes Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Scott Glenn and Sam Shepard feature as the plucky men vying to be the first American in space, as the nation becomes swept up in its efforts to best Russia in the space race.
Sun 16 July, 1.40pm
In the quiet British town of Midwich, something from strange is going down…specifically, all the women of childbearing age wake up one day to discover that they’re pregnant. A mere two months later, they all give birth to identikit blonde children, who grow exceptionally fast and have telekinetic and telepathic powers. The cold and creepy brats soon seize control of the town, and only a local professor (whose own son is among the hivemind of kids) can take them down.
Sun 16 July, 6pm
One of several films that have drawn inspiration from I Am Legend over the years, this New Zealand production concerns Zac Hobson, a scientist working on ‘Project Flashlight’, an attempt to create a global energy grid. Zac awakes one day after an unusual incident and, after some investigation, makes a note on his tape recorder, as any scientist would. “One: there has been a malfunction in Project Flashlight with devastating results. Two: it seems I am the only person left on Earth.” Or is he? This introspective and psychological sci-fi builds to a famously ambiguous ending.
Sun 16 July, 8pm
Directed by Emer Reynolds, The Farthest is an eagerly anticipated documentary that will open on general release on the 28th of July. Through interviews with NASA officials, archive footage and illustrative animations, Reynolds recreates the journey of the long-travelling Voyager probes, intrepid machines first launched in 1977 that have managed to travel to interstellar space, despite running on less computing power than the phone you’re probably reading this on. The IFI’s early screening of the film will be followed by a Q&A with Emer Reynolds, former NASA astronaut Daniel M. Tani and Norah Patten of the International Space University.