Fantastic Planet, aka La planète sauvage [1973]

“What a shame we can’t play with her any more.”


First off, let me tell you right now… This is not a film about a ‘Fantastic Planet’ as the name suggests. It’s actually a pretty terrible planet with terrible beings!

The story begins following a mother and her baby who are being tortured. The mother is from a species of humanoids/humans called Oms who are much smaller than the dominating species (Draags) on the planet they live on. The Draags have brought these Oms to their own planet where they are technologically more advanced. From the offset, we see the Draags treat Oms like their little playthings. In fact, we see the aforementioned mother brutally murdered but as the film is animated style, even though it’s tragic, there’s something quite unreal about it so as it doesn’t feel as brutal as it should be.

The baby is ‘saved’ by a young child Draag called Tiwa who wishes to keep it and a retractable collar is put on the baby so it cannot escape. We see the young Draag play with the baby as it grows and names it Terr. It seems like Tiwa genuinely loves Terr and she cradles Terr, as well as sharing her lessons with him through this telepathic headpiece device, even though it is forbidden by her parents. Eventually, Tiwa becomes careless with Terr as her ‘pet’ and Terr decides to run away (stealing the headset). He runs into more of his own species who help him remove the collar and eventually embrace him into their group. Many think that the education that Terr brings is dangerous, but it turns out to save many of the Oms people in the end. The group he joins is at war with another group of Oms. It seems like despite the fact they literally have bigger problems, they can’t help but fight among themselves!

With the knowledge the headset has given them, the Oms build rockets with the intention to leave the planet for the planet’s moon which they call the ‘Fantastic Planet’. However the Draag intend to eradicate them and start to gas the park they all live in fearing the seemingly rebellious act of Terr, concerned that others will follow suit and that the education they are now afforded will be dangerous. To retaliate, the Om destroy a bunch of statues which it turns out threatens the existence of the Draag. The Draag and the Om come to a peaceful resolution.

First off, the animation in this film was incredible. You don’t see films made like this any more, really. The surreal, vivid colours and imaginative creatures, plants, landscapes and soundscapes are so interesting to watch and hear and it’s no surprise that this film is so iconic. It really is quite a beautiful creation. The soundscape is undeniably 70s because there’s something quite funky about it.

The Draag, despite on the surface being more intelligent, are very savage to the Oms, just because they can. It’s completely normalised by the adult Draag that Oms can be treated poorly and there is this pervasive idea shared that Oms are savage and unintelligent like they deserve to be treated that way almost. It’s quite alarming and striking to watch, because it’s quite reminiscent of the way white colonialists used to talk about Black/Indigenous people, and it’s the way that a lot of racist white people talk to this day, with this air of superiority. Something that is touched on in many sci-fi books but also in a recent book we read in SOPHFIFEST THE READERS club, is how ‘dominating species’ tend to be super arrogant that their elite, superior intellect puts them on top and that any sub-dominant species or group not only do not have the smarts but wouldn’t dream of overthrowing them. The specific book I am thinking of is Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The word for world is forest’ where the human species feel like the indigenous peoples are savage and unintelligent and a peaceful species, that they would never ‘fight back’. We learn of course that their arrogance is unfounded and of course, the indigenous peoples certainly make the humans very foolish indeed! And the same is true for this story. The Draag televise these lengthy intellectual debates, regaling how superior they are. They don’t even see the attack on their existence coming. I really really like that they don’t, and it just shows that if you work together that you can do anything. Even overthrow a brutal alien species!

My only criticism would be that I didn’t believe the ending. If my peoples had been tortured our whole life, I would absolutely have destroyed all of those damn statues, but I appreciate that the intention is for a hopeful ending rather than one filled with carnage.

All in all, gorgeous film. Really well put together. Interesting story. It’s a must-watch!

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Behind her eyes [TV] [2021]

“Everyone has secrets…”


This show turned up on my Netflix account recently and not knowing anything about it, my partner and I thought we would give it a try. It seemed to really tick my partner’s box in terms of type of shows she tends to watch whereas for me, I prefer sci-fi (obvs) but we gave it a watch and the show was really surprising. There are big spoilers in this post so YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

The show started out with a sexy liaison between Louise and David who meet by chance in a bar when Louise’s friend stands her up. Their chemistry is palpable and they share – DUN DUN DUHHH – a kiss before David calls it off and leaves abruptly. The next day Louise goes into work and realises that David is – DUN DUN DUAHHHHHH – her new boss! And he’s – DUN DUN DAHHHHHHHHHHHH – married! They agree to move past it but obviously it keeps happening over and over again and turns into a full blown affair. Meanwhile, there’s a parallel story about David’s wife Adele which paints David in this controlling light. Adele has no control over her own life which David sees to, calling her multiple times a day to check in on her and prescribing her heavy medication. Adele intentionally runs into Louise and befriends her, thus beginning a very weird love triangle where both Adele and David are hiding the fact they are friends with or seeing Louise, and Louise is also omitting this to both. Adele appears to be both vulnerable and mentally unstable and it’s hard to know what’s really happening. I feel like the story tries to force to you to question morality because of all these different scenarios that present themselves paint the main characters in this polarised way, but all the characters in this show are so flawed. The ex boyf, the best friend, David, Adele, Louise. The only pure character is Louise’s son who was the most adorable little boy <3

As the story unfolds, you see more and more pieces in this puzzle. We learn that Adele was in a mental institution, that her parents died in mysterious circumstances leaving her a massive mansion and grounds, that David was suspected of having something to do with their murder as he rescues her from this fire that has killed them. And then there’s this character Rob who you’re really not sure how he fits into it. He meets Adele in the mental institution and talks of Adele being like his escapism so when she is released from the hospital and invites him to the mansion, he jumps at the chance.

And then stuff starts getting REALLY REALLY weird out of the blue. It turns out that Adele has this supernatural ability to leave her body and go on adventures. She confides this in Rob who she has been coaching all along. Similarly in present day timeline, she clandestinely teaches Louise how to do this and gradually Louise pieces together that Adele knows about her and David because she has been watching them this whole time using her weird powers and that she might be dangerous.

We find out that David helped Adele cover up the death of Rob which David eventually owns up to Louise and goes to the police. Then right at the end, Louise realises that Adele is trying to take her life. Louise uses the paranormal abilities to jump into Adele’s body hoping to save her only to discover it’s a trap and Adele is definitely not who we think she is.

I really thought this was just going to be another sexy show about two cheating adults who can’t get enough of each other and the more I watched, the more it unfurled into this fantastical, paranormal thriller. I thought it was a pretty inventive storyline with a nice twisty ending, but then I didn’t like how polar the story was trying to paint the actions of the characters. Additionally, I really didn’t like how much they used old tropes in TV and film, like the ‘crazy wife’ or the ‘sexually promiscuous secretary’ or the ‘sexually promiscuous POC’ in fact! Even the cold and abusive way that David was acting in this, the storyline turned it around as if he was only acting that way because he was scared, poor him. He was only controlling his wife and cheating on her and cutting her off from the outside world because he was scared, which I don’t really buy. There’s this one scene where he’s like ‘thank you, you saved me, I’m going to march right to the police’ and he just walks off into Kings Cross station through open barriers and I half expected him to just disappear and never return. TBH I felt like they let him off really too easily given that he covered up what turned out to be a murder. He would have been an accessory if this were real, but instead he and ‘Louise’ lived happily ever after………

That said, I did enjoy watching the show. It was pretty entertaining and such a messy drama with such broken characters. The relationship between David and Louise is so sexy that it’s easy to get drawn into. I think more could have been done to develop the main characters so that they could be more nuanced, more colourful but I liked the Stepford wife gone wrong vibe and the twist. Additionally both performance from Louise and Adele were stellar. The paranormal aspect felt a bit tacked on; it hid under a nightmare remedy guise and I wish more had been made of it to show the impact of it on David and Adele’s relationship. For instance, David talks late in the series about how Adele appears to ‘know things she shouldn’t’ but earlier on when Louise and David are cheating, he doesn’t seem to mind or worry about that which seems inconsistent. In any case, enjoyable and spooky series and like Sharronda from ‘Pay or Wait’ says, Louise should have minded her own BIZNEZ! I’m glad I watched it.

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Tenet [2020]

“We live in a twilight world. There are no friends at dusk.”


This is one of those films where if you blink you can miss something important in the plot. It’s ever moving, ever changing, plodding forward to a focal point that you don’t see until you get right to the end of the film, at which you have already passed it.

The film follows ‘The Protagonist’ played by John David Washington and flanked by his sidekick played by Robert Pattinson. Washington is an espionage/CIA agent tasked with finding some mysterious artefact on a mission he knows nothing about. At the beginning of the film, he infiltrates a building dressed as some sort of Ukranian tactical police and is saved by a mysterious fellow who ‘un-fires’ a bullet past him. He is then taken hostage by some unknown enemy and takes cyanide only to wake from what he planned to be his imminent death. Impressed with his candour in the face of danger, the powers that be grant him deeper access to the inner fold of ‘Tenet’ and show him a secret hand signal that will take him deeper still into a rabbit hole. He discovers that time travel/time manipulation is real, that it has been weaponised and that a baddie called Sator wants to take the world hostage with this invention.

So! I thought this Christopher Nolan film was fast-paced and exciting and just what we have come to expect of Nolan TBH. He really doesn’t make it easy for us does he?! I’ve heard many people say that this film was James Bond meets science fiction, and I would have to agree. Also, it felt like I was witnessing a really good Washington/Bond audition video.. HINT HINT. Put Washington in, M! Come on! DO IT FOR QUEEN AND COUNTRY!

The concept was a pretty original one and another thought-provoking Nolan film. The more details you learn about the film – which I explored after I finished watching – the more impressive this offering is. I feel like it’s a shame that the film came out during the pandemic because the epicness of the film really would have lended itself to the big screen. Unfortunately, we all had to watch it on our TVs and computers so the reception was not as explosive as I think the film deserved.

I really really like that it was unlike any time travel film I’ve seen before. Most time travel films have a machine that you step into; the reaction is fast and it takes you to anywhere you want to go in a millisecond. But with this film, time travel is slow. You’re advised to wait to enter until you see yourself exit on the other side of the glass before you go in. It’s about as exciting as stepping into a lift, AND in order to travel back, you have to live all those moments in reverse breathing from an oxygen tank trying not to bump into yourself. Imagine how tedious it must be to go back in time in this version of time travel. I know most people would find that really dull but I enjoyed how deliberate and slow the pacing was of the tech. It made it feel fragile, even. Like it could break at any moment.

I have a few criticisms for the film. First was that it was visually confusing in the later epic fight scenes. I had heard lots of people were confused about the plot generally, but that wasn’t it for me because the speeches the characters repeated throughout told you contextually everything you needed to know. From the “we live in a twilight world” to “what’s happened, happened”… The characters even went so far to refer to and explain the ‘Grandfather paradox’, explaining the theory behind it and – SPOILER ALERT – setting up a later scene which ended up being a near paradox! It’s the fight scenes which ended up being the most confusing to me, in part due to the nature of the film i.e. much of the fight scenes were shot in reverse, but it’s the final fight scene where this gets spectacularly muddy. Despite the ‘good guys’ wearing coloured armbands, when the fighting began it was really hard to see where one person began and another ended. There were also surprise cast inclusions, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson turning up three quarters of the way through the film to join the fight, only for us to later find out that he’s not a bit-part but actually an extremely integral part of the plot. Where was he hiding this whole time? And lastly, the damsel-in-distress storyline was a bit much… The Protagonist uses this woman and preys on her fear for Sator by promising to help her only to kinda double cross her. It felt a little like sensationalising an abusive asshole by putting him on this pedastal albeit – SPOILER – he ended up meeting his match. That said, fair play to the lead female actress Elizabeth Debicki. There’s lots of good moments but the most subtle look she gives at one point of the film is really well done, and arguably with the emotional content she had to take on, Debicki’s storyline was by far the hardest. I thought she did a great job despite not having that much to work with compared to her co-stars.

So in conclusion, I really enjoyed watching this. The plot was audacious, epic and original, and invites further watching. Washington was DA MAN in this and his peripheral cast had great chemistry with him. I wasn’t sure Pattinson could pull it off because I see him as a child-actor but I believed him as an agent in this and I guess that reassured me for what will be his later transformation into Batman… Still, don’t fuck it up Pattinson… Some muddy bits but this film kept me thinking about it for a while after. I know many critics have seen this and gone all Avril Lavigne on Nolan (WHY YOU GOTTA GO AND MAKE THINGS SO COMPLICATED?!) but Nolan makes an entertaining film so I can’t hate on him. Go check it out!

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I am Mother [2019]

“Contrary to your understandable assumptions, my primary directive is to care for humanity.”


Thanks to everyone who came to the February WATCHERS club! We watched this gem of a film.

The film, directed by Grant Sputore, centres on the life of a young child, brought up in a special unit by a robot. There are no other humans and we’re told that humanity did not survive a cataclysmic event – the details of which are murky. We are shown the child’s test-tube birth, its development in toddler-hood and soon teen-dom as both the child and its carer goes about their lives and routines. The robot, which the kiddo calls ‘Mother’ appears to care for the kid deeply. Then enters Hilary Swank’s character, ‘woman’, and she disrupts their happy existence.

I don’t want to give too much away so I won’t say anything more beyond the above regarding the plot. This is an excellent film. It’s well shot, very well written and had me thinking for days after I had seen it.

There are no names given to the characters beyond their descriptive names: child/mother/woman. In a post-apocalyptic world, it seems apt to strip the characters of identity and instead replace them with human roles. I think if the robot had been referred to directly as MX-123 or something by the child it would have been way easier to distrust from the beginning.

Throughout, the film was very tense.. so tense you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. I felt distrust but did not really know who to aim that distrust towards. I knew one thing for certain, and that was that the child was a total innocent and I think having the shots showing her grow up in front of my eyes lended itself to this impression, added by the nostalgic “Baby Mine” playing as she grew (aka the song Dumbo’s mum sings to him)… but I couldn’t shake this feeling that someone was evil, that something wasn’t right. I wanted to believe the robot was evil, which is the norm right? So when the ‘woman’ came into the scene I was like ‘aha, the woman is the virtuous one; this confirms my bias’ and then later I was like ‘wait a minute, maybe the woman is the one I shouldn’t trust’… It was an emotional rollercoaster.

Later you are presented with a catch-22 – which I won’t spoil – which left me very conflicted. I couldn’t really say I would have done something different given the circumstances. But maybe if you see someone has destructive tendencies, is the most caring thing to give them a gun?

So all in all, brooding excellent atmosphere, simple and thought-provoking story. Cinematography of the film was really good including the expressive look and sound of the robot. I feel like the smooth, motherly voice given to the robot was juxtaposed with the harsh, cold, squared off look of the robot. I liked that everything about the film was designed to make you feel uncomfortable and it absolutely succeeded in that. There were some WTF twists I totally didn’t see coming and was totally floored by. Very enjoyable. Would 100% recommend watching this film.

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Ch-Ch-CHANGES!

Hai, what’s new with you?! SOPHFIFEST.com has some new changes. Check them out 🙂


EVENTS

Events have moved from FACEBOOK.com and are now at MEETUP.com! Users can get easy notifications about upcoming events and join in on discussions there. I’ve re-jigged the website to streamline this change.

Check out the event pages here which will take you through to MEETUP.com

THE WATCHERS

THE READERS


SHOP

Like SOPHFIFEST’s logo? Like t-shirts, hats or hoodies? Want to support DIY movements?

SOPHFIFEST’s shop is coming in February in partnership with Printful.com. All profits made on orders will go straight back into running SOPHFIFEST.com events!

Countdown below!!! So excite!!!

2021-02-01T10:00:00

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SHOP OPENING!

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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension [1984]

“Sealed with a curse as sharp as a knife. Doomed is your soul and damned is your life.”


Thanks to Sam for hosting this watch party! This was on my watchlist and I was so happy to watch it with the gang, finally!

Buckaroo Banzai, directed by W.D. Richter, features a star studded cast of Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jonathan Banks and much, much more! The story follows Buckaroo Banzai, “an adventurer, brain surgeon, rock musician” and his band of merry men, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, as they dash to protect the planet from a bunch of evil aliens looking to take over the world!

Hmm what can I say about this film? Well… Dr Hikita and Buckaroo are trying to perfect a machine (called an oscillation overthruster) which will allow people to pass through solid matter. Buckaroo drives the machine in his car and ends up in the 8th dimension. He finds something under the car which seems to be an alien creature. Meanwhile, learning about their tech successes, Dr Lizardo (a scientist who had ALSO attempted to create the same machine, and was in an insane asylum) decided to break out. Apparently in creating the same machine he had found himself in the 8th dimension as well, was attacked by aliens, and his body was taken over by an evil alien. There’s a bit where a messenger called John with a Caribbean accent comes to Buckaroo and crew and lets them know that he is from one group of aliens called the Black Lectroids that has been at odds with another evil group of aliens called the Red Lectroids, and it seems like earth is about to get caught in the crossfire. Also a bit in there where Buckaroo gets electrified and can see the aliens in their true form, a bit where he finds a love interest in a bar, some slug torture, Banzai tries to kiss an unconscious woman and he gets immediately and painfully electric shocked (honestly served him right) and then at some point, the film finishes and the gang do a catwalk past a sign saying Buckaroo Banzai and it rolls to credits…

There’s a lot to unpack there, but mostly one big question… What the hell did I just watch? This film has a big cult following and is a lot of fun, but it’s a very silly film. There’s a lot going on, and also nothing going on. I believe one critic called it “unintelligible” which I would have to agree with, because it was pretty hard to follow. It seems like the writer(s) threw everything they had at this film and that Peter Weller and friends were just having a fun old time in front of a camera; meanwhile John Lithgow goes through a whole gambit of European accents, never really landing on the one he is attempting to nail (Italian).

Parts of the film gave off the same vibe I felt when I watched ‘American Astronaut’, which was this grease-monkeys feel. Though I thought that AA was excellent, whereas this film went on a weird journey that was all over the place.

Also, how can a film have that many stars and yet feel so low budget?! In one scene, the characters put ‘glasses’ which were clearly made of bubble wrap, supposedly to protect their eyes or help them see an alien. It’s unclear why. At one point all the scientists were wearing glasses to illustrate how smart they were, and then later abandoned that idea apparently. There was a moment at the end where – after the characters strutted past in slow-mo – the camera pans to the Buckaroo Banzai sign and I said “nothing says high budget film like gaffa”. You could clearly see a K on the brick wall, showing where the makers had attempted the sign prior lol. There was this level of pride they seemed to have in the film at that point, like they were collectively saying “nailed it” as they walked away. Did they nail it? Well that’s up for debate!

So all in all, great cast. Very fun, weird film. Probably the most diverse 80s film I’ve ever seen, including lots of ace Black and Asian peeps <3 though only one woman… who ended up only being the romantic element of the film. There was literally a scene where she is kissed by Buckaroo into consciousness, like some sort of sleeping beauty. It’s one of those films you need to watch with pals for maximum banter. I’m really glad I watched it with a group because it made it a lot of fun. Don’t watch it after taking drugs because you will trip out. You have been warned. I’m usually a big fan of weird, but even this was a bit too weird for me but maybe I need to watch it again. Jeff Goldblum in every scene was probably the highlight. Particularly dressed up as a cowboy in the end.

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Flatliners [2017]

“What happens to us after we die? The only way to find out is to see for ourselves.”


Thanks to all the WATCHERS who joined me for the January watch party of this little gem. We had such a lot of fun and banter-galore!

So this film is both a remake and sequel to the 1990 film of the same name, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and stars Elliot Page, Diego Luna (of Y tu mamá también) and some other peeps!

First things first. If you’re coming into watching this thinking ‘wow Elliot Page? It’ll be a gem’, I gotta pre-warn you that this is not gonna be one of those films… I’m not one to usually suggest people don’t watch films. I think you’re an adult and can make up your own mind, but this one was pretty basic.

Medical student, Courtney (Page), is looking to crack the code behind what happens to your mind when you die and decides to rope in a couple fellow students. Page is hooked up to a neuroimaging machine, tells the two colleagues to stop Page’s heart and then resuscitate in 60 seconds. They begrudgingly do so after Page explains a waiver has been prepared and that they need not worry about repercussions. Page’s pals do the deed and Page survives. Then #hardpartayyyyy. Thus starting a cycle of subsequent students in the friend group trying the same, tensions around will they/won’t they save them from dying in time and then the group go into party mode. There’s a plot in there where all of the students who tried the experiment end up seeing what appears to be malevolent ghost but they don’t really address this until pretty much the end of the film but don’t worry they all learn something in the end…

Sooooo…. This film wasn’t what I was expecting. I love Page and he normally has a good track record for starring in at the minimum ‘average’ and at best ‘excellent’ films… I was really hoping that this ‘remake’ would extrapolate from the original – an already average film… maybe make it even better? But from all accounts that’s not the case. The scriptwriting was weak. I mean, I had a lot of fun watching it with all the fun WATCHERS and I don’t regret watching it, but had I watched it alone I think I would have thought it was a waste of time!

Erm so pretty big spoilers ahead: I really hoped, like a lot of the WATCHERS, that more of the sciency bits would have been expanded on. It felt like they threw in some well-known parts of the brain and said they flared up on the monitor, but didn’t really expand on that in any way when there was certainly opportunity. The budget for the film showed that they had money for a great deal of technology, the visuals and the soundscape (more on that later) were decent. Where it fell short was the reductive script… It seemed like jump scares for the sake of jump scares tied together with a few scientific terms and everything else was a footnote or an afterthought.

The experiences the characters had after death were so inconsistent that it didn’t seem believable. Some became haunted by people who had died (one at fault, the other not), others by living people who were apparently still on their mind and the take away is YOU GOTTA FORGIVE DUDEEEEE JUST FORGIVEEEEEEE. None of them had any redeemable characteristics. They all seemed like thoroughly terrible people from start to end. The main and supporting characters seemed two dimensional. There were two Black women/POC/BIPOC in the film which I was excited about and the script seemed to focus on at least one of them a little (Sophia), showing her to have a little dimension as a studious and anxious person… And THEN, following from her out-of-body experience, they have her fuck the shit out of one of her co-characters. Who doesn’t like a sexy scene? However, the choice they made for the only POC/BIPOC character to play that role, and the focal, uncomfortable and aggressive way it is done further builds on this hypersexualised stereotype in film that comes up time and time again that Black women are somewhat sexually deviant. This is further contrasted when we see a second sexually romantic relationship between two white people in the film but their sexual endeavour is portrayed in a gentle way. It creates this idea that Sophia is animalistic, fetishising something that is actually healthy. And then there is her mother figure, the only other POC character in the film who is desexualised and to me came off a bit like a mammy stereotype. They’re too pretty pervasive stereotypes in film so…

The only saving grace of the film is that the soundscape composed by Nathan Barr is pretty stellar.

So in conclusion, great soundtrack, very little storyline and pretty poor characters though fairly acted well despite what they were given! Jump scares actually made me jump even though I knew they were coming. That said, it felt like the film did neither the horror, nor the science fiction that well so… I personally wouldn’t recommend watching this. If you’re gonna watch any Flatliner, make it the original but listen to the 2017 film soundtrack so you get the best of both worlds! Also I still love you Elliot Page.

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See you yesterday [2019]

“Aren’t you too old to be playing with toys?”


I watched this as part of the WATCHERS club in December and it has taken me so long to process how great this film is!

Produced by Spike Lee and directed by Stefon Bristol, this 2019 film follows science geniuses CJ Walker and her best friend Sebastian as they prepare for a technology expo. They’re trying to crack the key to temporal relocation or TIME TIME TIME TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVELLLL. Then one terrible day, CJ’s big brother Calvin and his friend are leaving a party when two local kids who robbed a store run past them. The police mistake Calvin and friend for the thieves. Though not shown initially, we discover that Calvin is shot by them when he takes out his phone attempting to video the police as they brutality attack his friend. Grief-stricken, CJ throws herself into her work, thinking that she can save her brother. She and Sebastian fixes the tech and successfully jumps back a day, but there’s a catch. The wormhole is only open for a short time and she and her bestie have to get back to it before it closes. They jump and try to save her brother, but every time they do, they have limited time before the wormhole closes and changing the past causes unintended consequences.

I thought this was an incredible film. Whilst it is science fiction, that felt almost secondary to the social aspect of the film. I pre-judged the film from the poster. I didn’t know anything about it other than knowing it was about time travel and I mistook the film to be light-hearted. Boy was I wrong. The colourful and youthful poster made me think that it would be a childlike jaunt and I guess a part of me thought as I watched it that seeing as it focused on the future, maybe the future would be kinder to CJ and her family as they jumped further into the future but it just got harder and harder for them. I feel like the adult-type theme definitely speaks to current reality in USA. African American children are taught from a very young age that they need to be extra careful because racism is systemic. It’s so all encompassing that it is impossible to unpick it from positions of power like police, so African American parents teach their kinds from a young age what they need to do to stay alive. I don’t know about you, but my parents never had to warn me about the dangers of walking down the street, jogging or opening the door to my own house. African American children are not afforded the same right to a peaceful, innocent childhood like white people are. This film served as a poignant reminder of that and it was absurdly well done.

Really great soundtrack of BIPOC music of all different genres. I particularly loved the science montage to reggae. That was ACE.

Excellent cameo game from a certain someone (“Great Scott!”) It really felt like he was passing the torch to the next generation of time travel nerds.

So all in all, See you yesterday is a super vibrant and colourful film that you just never see the darkness coming but it is there everywhere, and it takes you like a kick to the chest. I loved that the film didn’t paint a Black mono culture. It showed how utterly diverse Black people are; the dialects, the food, the music`, the personalities, the histories, the heritage! Absolutely excellent film and really well done. I can tell this is going to be one that I will watch over and over and over.

Go watch it, yesterday,

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Store Announcement – Coming Feb 2021

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. MERCH!


The SOPHFIFEST shop will be unveiling beginning February 2021. It was planned to open earlier but COVID-19 has meant much of the UK is under heavy lockdown, so I thought it best to postpone.

We got t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, stickers and cups coming. All profits from orders will go back into SOPHFIFEST events such as subsidised writing workshops and a DIY film festival.

The legal bit: Fulfilment of orders will be handled by third party, Printful.com. All information provided will be handled in line with GDPR privacy laws and the specifics will be noted in SOPHFIFEST’s privacy notice.

Can’t wait to start seeing SOPHFIFEST popping up in the world!

2021-02-01T00:01:00

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SOPHFIFEST STORE OPENING

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Sci Fi London 2020 – Shorts (part 4 of 4)

SciFi London 2020 had a selection of 41 excellent short films this year. Check out my reviews for shorts 31-41.


SPACE CLEANERS

Directed by Marco Hülser, this short was about the day in a life the team responsible for clearing and monitoring space space debris! Sort of like garbage people, but in SPACE! It’s shot in a docu style, so I genuinely don’t know if this is real or not… Can someone tell me?! The docu interviews various people in the organisation in operations and films their day to day and the difficulties of clearing items that don’t send a signal back to them, pinpointing their position. It’s filmed at a real satellite base and shows them monitoring items which pose substantial risk if they were to hit earth, as well as collision avoidance manoeuvres for changing satellites courses to avoid debris. It reminds us all that this debris may not pose a massive problem now, but later down the line, this is an environmental problem over decades, one we should be aware is a problem. Really interesting to watch. I’m guessing it’s real but if not, totally valid points.

STRENGTH TEST

Directed by Liu Yixuan, Jin Lilai, Shen Leyi, this short is an adaption from a novel of the same name. It’s an animation about a robot virus, and the robots attack people in a train carriage and then store them by their necks because it’s safest… I think that this is a student film but I thought the animation will date quite badly. Also was really confused about what was actually happening, so I’m sure if the above is the wrong interpretation. I personally didn’t enjoy this film.

THE HARBOUR

Directed by Sam Ainsworth, this short follows two partners Fred and Joe doing a VR property viewing. They drink an unusual blue tea concoction which seems to drug and transport them to a different part of the country and they’re taken to view “their new lives” at Number 1 The Harbour. The architect has designed the perfect house of his dreams and talks of “adjustments” they will need to make. It is clear that the adjustments he talks of would involve them leaving their real lives to stay there (or that’s my impression). They are told they can leave at any point but once they own it, not even the Architect can touch it, but none of it is real… Joe agrees but there’s a catch. Odd film. The twist at the end, I just wonder what the consequences of them agreeing to the house is to their real human forms which isn’t explored. Otherwise strange take on virtual worlds. The soundtrack is curious and ominous.

THE IMMORTAL

Directed by Carl Firth, this short explores the topic of everlasting life. After his dad dies suddenly, the protagonist seeks the key to immortality and finds it. This film shows technology as it advances and society crumbles, the loves in his life grow old and die, but he’s still there. Eventually the sun expands, engulfing earth and he’s just out there floating in space… The ending is just really sad. I think we all think sometimes we do want to live forever, but between this and The Good Place, I think just a bit longer would be enough for me.. Amazing CGI. It’s all about the visual effects really. Just go watch it. Well acted. Really good concept. Check it out.

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH

CN: rape / Directed by April Phillips, this film is about a vaccine which eradicates birth defects. Two years late, following a massive pandemic which causes human’s bodies to attack themselves, Annie is the sole survivor broadcasting a message to others in a hope to find people out there. There’s some references in there to I am Legend with the mannequin, when she wakes up asking them “why didn’t you wake me?!” She reveals that she was visited by a disabled man named Max (he has down syndrome) who she has locked away thinking him a threat. Her message reaches a pig of a man named Carter who threatens to rape her at gunpoint and the disabled man literally saves her life from him, not that she deserves it after chaining him up. He then walks away… The message, which the woman says at the end is that “nobody’s perfect”. I have really mixed feelings about this film. It’s one of only two films in the whole festival that has a disabled person that I could see (the other being Logan Lee’s mum who is in a wheelchair) but seeing this story was kind of disappointing. One part of me is like yay the message, and yay a down syndrome actor… like how often does that happen… but the fact that this character is treated so badly, I really don’t like seeing him subjected that way. In that moment, he is a victim and I guess the end of the film that definition changes and he becomes a hero so that’s amazing. But also can disabled people just be cast in normal-ass roles where they’re not polarised as victims or a threat? Where the fact that they are disabled is not a talking point for your movie, it’s not some bigger teaching moment for able bodied people but just one part of a spectrum that makes them who they are…. This is not necessary specifically a gripe about this movie being made because it’s amazing even if I do have these mixed feelings, but it’s about the industry not writing real characters for disabled people as a whole tbh. Come on peeps. We can do better.

THE RECEPTION

Directed by Sean Peter Sakamoto, this short film has some famous faces and follows the story of two men who are hiding in a bunker following a militia attack on the eve of their son’s wedding. They bond over their love for them as the bombs close in on them. Not much to this story but it’s just a story about the love of their two gay sons and just love in general. Wonderful piece. Seems like it’s a piece of theatre rather than film.

THE SECOND HEARING

Directed by Stuart Black and Nick Mather, this short is set in a futuristic prison where the prisoner Graham attends an AI hearing which re-enacts his crime and tries to determine if he would re-offend. In the process, his parole is denied. Not much to it really. Great visual effects, simple concept. It’s an okay film. I didn’t find the story that interesting tbh.

THE SNATCHER

Directed by Christopher McGill, this short film is based in a draconian dystopia. Two families are competing head to head on a TV show called The Snatcher. The questions reveal the dark state that the UK has dwindled into and the game is rigged to punish those who need help the most. It’s a pretty great social commentary in the theme of televised Hunger Games-esque, and leaves you feeling really un-satisfied, by which I mean this is intentional and a byproduct of it having been written really well.. The ending is like a kick in the stomach.

UTOPIA

Directed by Kosta Nikas, this short film is about Utopia, Australia. Police no longer exist as anyone can fine anyone else for breaking the rules by taking a picture of a crime (for a commission). There are cameras in every room and things like drinking, smoking etc is illegal or fineable. Think Demolition man when Sylvester Stalone got out of cryogenic freezing, but Aussie plus totalitarianism. Apparently bathrooms are the only free space which isn’t monitored. Nice concept. Tying in our obsession with our phones was a cool touch, and the ending was a nice twist.

WE CHOOSE TO GO

Directed by Marlene Emilia Rios, this short film centres around protagonist Angie who is woken by Nova (a spaceship’s computer) from cryogenic freezing. She is on board The Horizon which has been drifting directionless for 63 years. The remainder of her crew are not showing any vital signs, and she is the lone survivor; the odds of her survival are extremely slim. The footage is intersected with memories of the romantic partner she left behind on Earth; the project was only supposed to be for 10 years. It was an okay film. The CGI was great, I liked the look of the ship. The story was really simple. I think that Angie would have massively regretted not going if she had stayed, and probably would have resented her partner. So the fact that it’s called ‘we choose to go’ is apt. Would she have still chosen to go had she known the challenges she would face? Probably not right but I don’t feel like the shots of her partner are a sign of regret, but something bittersweet. Anyway, yeah it was an okay film. Love seeing a lead protagonist woman in space!  

ZWART

Directed by Tommie Geraedts, this short features a guy trying to buy tickets for Comicon and being subjected to security checks of a sexual nature which become intrusive pop ups. The ending reveals how little privacy society is now afforded… I’m not sure how I felt about it. Visual effects were decent. I’m just a bit bored of sexualising women in sci fi films rn after so many sex robots and all that… Sure the lead woman in the book was also reading Fifty shades of grey (which is a problematic text in the first place) but no men are visually sexualised. It’s not like he has to do a bunch of security checks of willies haha. I’m just a bit done with it, and I know I’m not the only one.

Thanks to all the creators for making and bringing these shorts to SciFi London 2020. I believe these shorts are no longer available to watch but do seek them out. My particular faves and the ones that impacted me the most from this lot were: The last man on earth and Space Cleaners (special mentions to The Immortal for its CGI and The Snatcher particularly for it’s impactful ending).

Hope you got something from these shorts reviews. I did, so many different ideas this year and lots to consider! As usual, my opinions are just that and I would never tell someone not to watch something if I don’t like it. That’s REALLY not my jam so please go watch these and please tell me what YOU thought because I want those conversations.

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Sci Fi London 2020 – Shorts (part 3 of 4)

SciFi London 2020 had a selection of 41 excellent short films this year. Check out my reviews for shorts 21-30.


I’LL BE BACK TOMORROW

Directed by The Summers Brothers, this short was a late edition to SciFi London 2020. A woman wakes from a nightmare about someone called Karen using witchcraft where she is told “I’ll be back tomorrow”. She tells her guy who confirms he had talked to Karen earlier that day and that everything she is saying she saw in her dream had been said, word for word. They then hear a strange noise downstairs. He goes down to check it out and sees an eerie shadowed presence which disappears. He returns to the room and says everything is fine, OR IS IT?!?!? Creepy scratchy horror sounds throughout, making this a very tense film and making me question why I decided to watch this in the damn dark! Oh my gosh the ending made me yell. So very creepy. Thanks a lot Summers Bros, I’m not gonna sleep again ever and I’m pretty sure it’s your fault (haha just kidding… OR AM I)

POLVOTRON 500

Directed by Silvia Conesa, this short is set in a futuristic time. The protagonist Charly regularly sleeps in a run down booth called POLVOTRON 500 (apparently it’s cheaper to sleep there than his home). He accidentally activates an intelligent sex hologram called Nicky and a 10 minute timer begins. They strike up a conversation making a connection and she tells him that she hates it there and that she needs to get out. I enjoyed this short. I loved for once that despite the hologram being intended for sexual purposes, the protagonist had no interest in that and seemed to want to save her, or at least that’s what was implied by the ending. Would be interested to see where this story goes. How does he save her?! There has to be a way!

POP DOWN

Directed by James Button, this short follows Jess who is experiencing a quarter life crisis. After she opens the window in a state of despair about her life, a stranger who “fancied a chat” pops in her first-floor window(!) and starts talking to her, telling her that she needs a “tour guide”. She pulls him into her window (I mean who does that with a complete stranger?!) and he reveals that he is a vegan alien who tells her she is lost. “I chose white male on the settings, apparently the easiest setting in this world” he says, which made me snarf. The alien asks her if she’s faulty and that she seems a bit lost also, giving her some advice before running off into the night. Cute, kind of random story about connecting but it wasn’t really my thing. If this was really an alien and Jess was the only human he met, it would be a pretty mediocre meeting to take back to his homeworld, which is probably what’s charming about it. Gotta say though, if it were me and someone popped in my window, I would not pull him in and have chats. I would probably have cracked him in the face with a solid item… Maybe that’s why I’m not allowed to meet aliens.

POPULAR TROPES

Directed by Dries Vergauwe, this short is about a pandemic. It’s the winter and the rich are inside; the not so rich or lucky are forced to collect the dead wearing hasmat suits. From the looks of it, the pandemic has ravaged humanity. Whilst on site, bagging a dead body, an employee listens to a message from a loved one saying that maybe they will see each other when this is all over. There’s this bleak malaise that is smeared over everything in this world. There’s snow, no one is walking in the streets, everything looks dull and mainly monochrome to match the mood; humans are barely living. It’s funny that the title is ‘Popular Tropes’ because what happens on screen is a popular trope for pandemic/crisis/zombie films (though this film is obviously not the latter). Yeah, HELLA bleak. I think the lack of any sound really adds to that. There wasn’t much to the acting; there was one bit where the protagonist was trying to bag this person and it was probably long to show how awful and difficult it was but it seemed clunky almost. When there’s not a lot to see, I think those sorts of things really stick out, you know?

PROGENY

CN: rape / Directed by Justin Daering, the short is in a world where an alien has saved humanity from the brink of extinction, and the ‘price of admission’ for doing so is that human males need to receive alien parasites from hosts.. It seems that many couples accept this with consent (exclaiming “we’re gonna be hosts!”) but it is clear that is not always the case. The main male protagonist (I didn’t catch his name) works as an operative at a metal mill and is invited to a duck shooting gathering with the boss Mr Walton (an alien). His wife Anna who is a nurse at a local hospital is excited that this might be a promotion opportunity but when he gets there, as soon as he is alone, the boss attacks and rapes him implanting the parasite in his neck. He’s obviously feels violated by this and when he explains what happens, his wife at first doesn’t believe him (asking how did you get approved/ did you even go hunting/did you say something to him about us wanting to be hosts). He’s also warned by a colleague that this is the price of being promoted and that he should be thankful. He attempts to remove the parasite himself, which is an illegal act and extremely dangerous, almost dying in the process but Anna saves him and they go onto have a physical altercation later with Mr Walton… So this story is so harrowing but it’s almost the perfect metaphor for rape… Hear me out. Honestly I feel like for any people (specifically cis and conservative men) who genuinely don’t understand abortions and don’t even think that women should be permitted them in the instances of rape, they should take one look at this film and I’m certain they would change their mind. It really just comes down to having autonomy over one’s body. Even the language that they use in the film is tantamount to what a woman hears from ignorant people if they have been raped by someone prominent in her/their community, e.g. “This is how guys like us get ahead in life… no one’s going to believe you”. Yeah simply amazing work. Really difficult to watch and very intense. I would recommend watching it when you have people in your life who can support you afterwards because me watching it as a sexual assault survivor, it made me feel pretty ill but Jesus fucking Christ man, this honestly should be shown as a teaching point. Lastly, the title was the name of a film where a woman was pregnant with an alien baby so this is probably a homage I bet. Standout film

SEDUCED

Directed by Keren Chernizon, this short follows Samantha who is having a bad day when she gets a call from Josh from ‘Conscious Buy’ about a dress she was going to purchase. He talks her into buying the dress and after doing so, he disappears. It turns out it was an AI!! This is only a three minute story but shows how difficult it might be in the future to distinguish real humans from AI. Enjoyable watch but a bit basic.

SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE

Directed by Robert Summers, this short is about Anna Morgan who is visited by Homeland Security following a temporal incident which poses a massive threat. Anna denies knowing anything about this, but it appears she has been dreaming about this for some time. “It’s not one thing, it’s a what and a where” she is told, by a version of herself. With this information she finds coordinates to a tree and digs to find a case with a triangular symbol on it. It’s a time machine which she has apparently invented in another timeline… “Time is a knife… it’s a cut, slice away piece by piece until one day it’s all gone…” As a character, she seems to be like an ouroboros, the snake eating it’s own tail into infinity; maybe she always existed. An enjoyable little film.

SKYWATCH

Directed by Colin Levy, this short is about a futuristic world with delivery drones run by a massive corporation called NEX Port and some teenage hackers who are tampering with food delivery services in their building block by swapping them with other orders in the locality. However, the drone they try to do this to has an error and falls out of the sky. They check it out and find out it’s part of a project called Osprey, and it is an experimental and dangerous weapon. Excellent CGI but looking at the team that made it happen (hint it it massive) I’m not surprised. Simple but interesting concept. It’s nice to have a story that fights THE MAN. Wish there was more diversity in the lead protagonists though, because it appears both the leads are white boys as per normal, though the two people that save him are a woman and a Person Of Colour so that’s cool. Very surprising cameo from a famous actor who is THE BADDIE!! Think this would make an excellent feature film and it’s probably already in the process of being made; I think this short was crowdfunded looking at the credits so we’ll see where this goes!

SNOWFLAKES

Directed by Faye Jackson this short centres around an immigration centre in the UK. A woman is told she is being taken forcibly taken ‘home’ to Jamaica on a plane. Another woman who has been in the UK for 40 years since she was a child and has indefinite leave to remain is also being taken away. She does not know anyone in Jamaica. The management are all white men – classic – with one exception, and the head guy instructs the latter of the women to be sedated for the trip. It seems that the nurse makes a mistake and gives the woman a vial of a virus rather than the sedative (that’s my theory, anyway, or it could be coincidental timing), which causes all the white people to spontaneously explode into dust. It’s firstly a good social commentary about how fucked the immigration system is in the UK. Excellent reggae soundtrack, from what I heard in the short. This is such an original and weird film, I would love to see it made. Though I have questions: what if you’re part black part white/asian like me? I don’t want part of me to be dust! haha Please make this into a feature.

SNOWGLOBE

Directed by Tim Rush, this short begins at a frozen wasteland. Pilot Robin seeks her co-pilot Jay and her ship and is haunted by creepy dreamlike scenes of a strange red, horned creature. She manages to find some of her equipment and hears message from base saying Jay is gone and that she should forget her, that recovery will be there soon but she doesn’t want to leave her behind. Soon she is chased by the creature she saw in her dream, who looks a mix between Alien, Predator, a deer and a giant. To be honest, I didn’t really like this one. I found it so so difficult to see what was happening during the snowstorm which I guess was the point but probably a touch less would have gone a lone way. The landscaping CGI was beautiful, i.e. the red mountains, the swarming birds and so on. I dunno, I wasn’t into it.

Thanks to all the creators for making and bringing these shorts to SciFi London 2020. I believe these shorts are no longer available to watch on their website, but do seek them out if you like how they sound. My particular faves from this lot were: Progeny and Snowflake. I’ll be adding reviews for the remaining shorts shortly!

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