This year, Cinequest has divided up its science fiction shorts programming into two different programs. It’s quite possible that the division is arbitrary, since a good science fiction short ended up in “Something Funny.” (Yes, “Multiverse Dating for Beginners” could have just as easily fit in “Bending Space, Folding Time.”
A couple of the shorts don’t really bend space or fold time; they’re just fun pieces. And let’s be honest — one of the best shorts in the festival, “Space Girls,” celebrates the power of imagination, the importance of STEM education, and girl power. But it isn’t science fiction; it’s just an inspiring piece from writer/director Carys Watford. Created as part of a NASA competition, “Space Girls” finishes up the compilation, and though there really isn’t a weak link in this line-up, Cinequest saved the best for last.
There are, however, weird links. While “Space Girls” is perfectly family friendly (and families should enjoy it), “Hybrids” offers a disturbing vision of sea life merged with garbage, and gets a little gross. In a similar vein, Neil Blomkamp’s ‘Rakka” is visually exciting and even features Sigourney Weaver. But it’s just a piece of a larger narrative that he may or may not get to make. Even then, it’s an alien invasion story, with little new to offer.
Since everything old is new again, there’s another intriguing beginning of something bigger. One-time Aquaman Alan Ritchson wrote and directed “Tree House Time Machine,” which mixes a little Safety Not Guaranteed with all those 80s Spielberg kid fantasies. Just when it gets going, it’s over. Slick, yes, and it’s cool that Ritchson has gone from acting to filmmaking, but it will feel a lot like a time-traveling Stranger Things to you.
A short twist on the zombie thriller reminds us that “The Apocalypse Will Be Automated.” It’s clever, and opens the program with just the right mixture of tension and humor. The real mindbenders (not to be confused with the shorts program actually called “Mindbenders”) are the French “Non Merci” and “The Tesla World Light.”
“Non Merci” follows a hapless Frenchman who seems to live all his life in one morning, with fiction bleeding over into his reality. It should spark post-screening conversation, as will “The Tesla World Light,” a black and white film that mixes an actual letter from Nikola Tesla to J. D. Rockefeller with stop-motion animation, scratch drawings directly on the film, and the courage to do something different when portraying a man who really was different.
But back to “Space Girls.” You have to see it, and when the time comes that it becomes available online, we will post it.