This panel, “New Media and the Technologies of Science Fiction” actually served as a more literal reading of its name.
The first two panelists decided to discuss Science Fiction in short film narratives. Ritch Calvin talked about the post-apocalyptic story in science fiction, comparing many narratives to modern anti-corporation and big business movements. But also focusing on the way many short films navigate the problem all-together by foregoing any backstory and letting the viewer piece together the puzzle. Which, personally, is my favorite method of storytelling – one that is prevalent in video games and short films alike. Pawel Frelik also made a pretty big statement when he referred to short films as a new medium for filmmakers and storytellers. Something I truly agree with and appreciated his comparison of an artist working on both painting and mosaics – they can be different ways of looking at the same story.
Julie Turnock spoke on the special effects of SF throughout film history and the unfortunate reliance on the uses of big name Hollywood studios for special effects (deemed “the Big 5). She seemed to ignore some of the smaller picture short films that use all internal effects, ones you’ll find after some brief searches on sites like Vimeo, but she does have a valid point when it comes to big name directors from around the world. I would’ve liked to hear her speak more on something she only mentioned in passing which was the director’s vision with the “foreign-made” monster in The Host where, coincidentally, the term foreign-made takes on a double meaning. Turnock talked about how The Host gives us lots of clear views of its monster in broad daylight – something most modern US filmmakers wouldn’t dare to do for fear of desensitizing or ruining the audience’s suspended disbelief. Director of Attack the Block, Joe Cornish, found a clever way around this with his “blacker-than-black” invaders from outer space. However early films didn’t shy too far away from showing us the whole picture such as the “menacing” ED 209 in 1987’s RoboCop; however, this could also be an example of how American filmmakers have learned from this open, clear, approach over time.
Garett Stewart also posed an interesting question in his fast-paced analysis of the 2011 film Source Code, asking about the worth of one man’s life (or in this case death?). Questions like this one reminded me exactly of what Nikolas Rose was writing about in The Politics of Life Itself, as he warns us about the dangers of thinking of ourselves as a sort-of biological commodity and asks us to forget about the taboos of bioethics and focus on what is truly at stake not only for progress but for humanity.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for all of the Q&A as technical issues pushed the panels a bit farther back than planned; however, it was a great conference and I’m glad to have been able to be a part of it.
Rose, Nikolas. (2001) “The Politics of Life Itself.” Theory, Culture & Society