Grace Rowe, received Audience Choice Award for Best Sci-fi Short, “The Sweetening” at 2016’s festival.

Atlanta Sci-Fi Film Festival back for third year

In its third year, the Atlanta Sci-fi Film Festival has a rich lineup filled with diversity in front of and behind the cameras. A boutique-style film festival, The Atlanta Sci-fi Film Festival attracts a diverse audience of dedicated fans and inspires a new generation of under-represented filmmakers, also known as “sci-fi creatives” from all over the world.

Festival founder and organizer Amanda Ray — likely the first black female science-fiction film festival director – is creating a fertile ground for nurturing new talent and supporting concepts that are not often reflected in mainstream studio films.

She’s worked with HBO to bring premieres of the first and second seasons of “Westworld” to Atlanta audiences. And has partnered with IMAX to showcase a young filmmakers’ initiative.

“Science fiction is a very important genre, it allows us to explore what our lives will look like and it doesn’t always have to be a post-apocalyptic cautionary tale,” said Ray. “And it’s important that we show an all-inclusive representation of the future. But we must support great films from under-represented filmmakers and actors.”

Through the Atlanta Sci-fi Film Festival screenings, filmmakers have gone on to bigger and better things. Many films have gone on to become successful fan and industry favorites. Native Atlantan Tim Glover was the first winner of the 2016 IMAX Young Filmmakers Award for his sci-fi short, “N-Touch.” He is now working on a major studio film project.

Visual-effects artist Hasraf Dulull directed a sci-fi short, “Project Kronos,” that was screened at the Atlanta Sci-fi Film Festival in 2016. He received his first feature film development deal with Paramount 20th Century Fox and Benderspink (producer of “The Hangover”).

“Project Kronos,” now called “The Beyond,” premiered last year at the Atlanta Sci-fi Film Festival and received a Jury Award for Best Sci-fi Feature Film. “The Beyond” is now available on Netflix.

The first winner of the Audience Choice Award for Best Sci-fi Short went to Grace Rowe, an Asian-American woman who directed and starred in “The Sweetening.” She now has a recurring role on “Grey’s Anatomy” and is set to appear in several upcoming movies.

Neil Blomkamp, who found critical and commercial success with the film “District 9,” had his short films “Zygote” and “Firebase” featured at the Atlanta Sci-fi Film Festival in 2017. Both are in the works to become feature-length films.

“One of the most rewarding things for me is to see films and filmmakers we’ve supported over the years grow and become successful,” Ray said.

The mission of this annual film festival:

• Provide screens for independent science-fiction films locally and internationally.

• Increase cultural diversity and interest in science-fiction films and TV.

• Inspire and strengthen the local science-fiction film community by cultivating an engaged audience.

The festival opens Saturday, Sept. 29, with the Audience Choice Award for Best Sci-fi Short Film. The competition includes 11 of the top short films from all over the world. Each filmmaker has a chance to win cash and prizes totaling over $6,000, but it will be up to the audience to choose the winning film.

Out of the entries, 80 percent of the filmmakers and actors were women or people of color. It includes narratives that represent the LGBTQ and different abilities (disability) communities.

To round out Saturday night, the film festival is celebrating the 20th anniversary of director Alex Proyas’ groundbreaking sci-fi film “Dark City.” This cult classic sparked an insatiable appetite for new cerebral films such as “The Matrix” and mind-bending narratives such as “Inception.” And while “Blade Runner” was an inspiration with its deliciously dark and gloomy backdrops, “Dark City” takes the viewer on a one-way trip to unknown dimensions.

This trippy sci-fi classic written by Proyas, Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer is led by strong performances from Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly and Academy Award-nominee, William Hurt.

Sewell plays John Murdoch, an amnesiac man who finds himself suspected of murder. Murdoch attempts to discover his true identity and clear his name while on the run from the police and a mysterious group known only as the “Strangers.”

This year, the festival is presenting its first writers panel, the Sci-fi Writers’ Scope. Wrapping up the festival on Sunday, Sept. 30, this event will include a demonstration of robotic technology presented by a Georgia Tech grad student. The exhibition is to inspire creative narratives about the technology. Writers will see how this new technology functions, learn how to work with people in the robotics field and find out how to legally incorporate the technology into their sci-fi film or book.

Also joining the panel, remotely from London is, Sci-fi London Film Festival Director Louis Savy. He will give tips on how to translate a good script into a great film and how to find the right acting talent for a film.

Author Casey Alane will talk about literary agents and how under-represented voices in sci-fi can find the right agent for their work.

The Atlanta Sci-Fi Film Festival schedule

2‍ p.m. Saturday

Audience Choice Short Film Competition

Georgia State University Cinefest Theater‍, 66 Courtland St. SE No. 262, Atlanta

3-5 p.m. Sunday

Sci-Fi Writers Scope

Georgia Tech’s Bill Moore Student Success Center, 225 North Ave. NW, Atlanta

An all-inclusive festival pass is available for $10.

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