Expect More than the Unexpected at the 2018 Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival

Slip through the void of the ether, into a place on Earth that still looks nothing quite like reality, on a stage where strange and supernatural entities are born in time lapses, crushed dimensions, futuristic technologies, and pure imagination...

It's almost—no, could it be? A dimension as vast as space and infinite as timelessness. It's the only known setting that actually beckons randomized oddities, without a single isotope of negative cynicism. 

Anything's possible here; it's all so real and believable, you'll think you've literally entered the mind of science fiction's forefather. At this year's Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival you won't know what to expect; an unforgettable event, despite the fact that it'll feel like a living dream. 

A man with a billion worlds in mind, Philip K. Dick, oftentimes shortened to PKD, is known widely as one of the pioneers of science fiction. As an author, his work covers the topics of alternative history, parallel universes, dystopian worlds, metaphysics, drug abuse, transcendental experiences, religious destiny, authoritarian governments, monopolistic corporations, unreality, and more. 

While PKD may not have the same history or mass fan base as the likes of H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, or Isaac Assimov, his sci-fi iterations have been praised for birthing often horrifying, trippy, multi-layered envisions of the future, as in Ubik and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Others, most of which being PKD's best novels, have been adapted for the silver screen, like A Scanner Darkly and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, for which Ridley Scott's Blade Runner was loosely based. More than not, the legendary author imbued his own aspects of science fiction and revolutionized the the genre's typified mainstream to give us what we have today. 

Such as Amazon's televised streaming adaptation of short stories titled Electric Dreams (which is available to Prime subscribers), the show's portrayal of futuristic technological machinations has been received by critics as more positive and optimistic than their shadowy rival Black Mirror, Netflix's tech-Twilight Zone that paints a bleak and terrifying future of malicious possibilities with advanced technology. It's most often pessimistic, but considered by the standards of PKD, technology is our natural-born future. 

Serving as a reminder of his legacy in the real world, while juxtaposing  contemporary concepts and methods in presenting his far-flung realities,  the Sixth Annual PKD Science Fiction Film Festival intends to reinvent the genre as we know it.

Dreaming of Sleep

Launched in 2012, the festival is only partly reminiscent of PKD's widely daunting mind. It's also a large gathering place where critics, fans, film directors, innovators, stars, scientists, engineers, and more come together to watch and divulge in the artistry of PKD reengineered by the best in modern entertainment. The upcoming convention, which is being held at the Village East Cinema between February 23-25 and the Museum of the Moving Image from February 23-24, will host an exploration in the transcendental, metaphysical, and mega-verse of science fiction, only expounded in the years following the author's untimely demise on March 2, 1982. This year will even feature panels with some modern pioneers in technology, more specifically producers in android robotics and virtual reality headsets (some of which will be available to wear to experience the festival in an all-new digitally enhanced perspective). 

Daniel Abella, founder and director of the festival, wants to peruse similar elements from the previous six years and institute new elements inherent in the range of issues from the modern era. He says: 

"Every year our films cover different themes of the PKD spectrum... This event focuses heavily on inner worlds, transhuman realities and other types of films including speculative fiction, magical realism and surrealism." 

The festival has previously experimented with a host of Dickian themes, such as mind control, alien abduction, human cloning, technological  advances, psychoactive drugs, and much more, all of which were presented in a multiplicity of film entertainments. There's foreign features, like 2016's El Incidente (The Incident), or short film entires, such as last year's "Adam," (which incidentally won best in experimental science fiction film), and even documentaries, like this year's The Shaman and the Scientist. Besides the special guests, hundreds of screenings, and various panel discussions, it wouldn't really be a film festival without an award ceremony. Each year, a limited number of screened participants are granted best among their particular categories, which can be anywhere from feature and short films to web series and virtual reality, plus many more. The festival has traveled the globe, spreading its message to places like Poland, Germany, France, and domestic cities, showcasing sci-fi screenings, new prominent technologies, and the best individuals modifying the craft. 

One of a kind, and New York City's most exciting sci-fi attraction, the event will tie genres in a knot, ensuring no matter what type of varied science fiction fan attends, everyone can be a part of the cosmology and culture; it's about the culture as much as it is about the entertainment, or even the author himself. The event uses the author's name and long history in exploring the metaphysical and strange to form newer concepts not only within sci-fi entertainment, but in horror, fantasy, virtual reality, and supernatural storytelling. It's run by some of the most intelligent minds in filmmaking and the corporate world to help ensure this narrative is broadened and continues to embrace unique forms that blend original content with alternative approaches to reach beyond the conceptual PKD model. 

The Future, Now

"Narrative themes in these films are more effective in shaping popular thinking than a new review or manifesto. In our own modest way, the festival represents a resistance against monolithic hypercaptialism and rapacious technology. Think of it as technology with a soul."

So says Abella on the possibilities and connotations that can be extracted from the festival. Unlike in previous years, 2018 promises a deluge of sci-fi potentialities demanding that you question the nature of reality. The hefty lineup includes performances by the likes of Breaking Bad star Charles Baker, who's Alterscape (2018) will have its world premier at the festival's 9 PM Friday block, Battlestar Galactica's Richard Hatch and Nicki Clyne, Dakota Fanning in Zygote, plus the likes of Tom Sizemore and Eric Roberts, both of whom star in the world premier of Black Wake, set for Saturday's 9:30 PM block. In addition to these and many more screenings, the festival will also host follow-up panels after certain showings; Armand Assate will appear after the screening of Wanderers: The Quest of the Demon Hunters, Dr. Dennis McKenna and Sarah Hutt, whose investigations on biomedical psychedelics in the documentary The Shaman and the Scientist, will also be available for an in-depth discussion following the latter's screening, and not to mention more anticipated names, from Vincent Pastore and Chuck Zito, to Melvin Van Peebles and the most advanced androids, provided by Grindhouse Wetware

As Abella points out on the nature of this event:

"We are social creatures and need to be with others to find communion and transcendence."

Finding the truest and most disturbing concepts hidden under the surface of science fiction is at the heart of the festival. Meshing genres, pushing boundaries, overcoming obstinate realities, and delivering us to never before seen planes of the cosmos are only a few anticipated features. None of this is an easy task, which is why Abella has kindly asked for monetary support to keep the festival thriving among the rising New York City real estate rental markets. Thus far, their Indiegogo fundraiser has barely scratched the surface of their $5,000 flexible goal, the current tally resting at $324. The crowdfunding campaign looks for as many contributors as possible to keep the spectacle ongoing annual event and to expand its influences. Abella is offering a multitude of incentives, but the only real incentive should be the continuance of this festival's legacy and bolstering the PKD culture. 

"My Major Occupation is the Question, 'What is Reality?'"

Whether you're a fan of the sci-fi man or not, it's obvious that Phillip K. Dick's writing has created an entire movement in entertainment, one that holistically seems to reverse engineer the inner components of science fiction and create the genre anew with each and ever story. That's the whole point behind the festival: to see, or at least experience, the future in realistic and plausible narratives. 

And, while it may be the "science fiction" film festival, it's more of an arts and entertainment extravaganza dedicated to the creation of dreamscapes and parallel universes swirling in a pot of scientific imaginations. Daniel Abella even says it himself:

"Just like PKD, we are very eclectic in our thinking and do not subscribe to one single unitary form of entertainment."

Likewise, the festival's own home page and guideline site for potential entries plainly states:

"We look at films that push the cinematic form to new levels of expression."

This is what enlivens the annual conquest of screenings and panels: the unreality of PKD's masterworks breathes life through this fog of meshing genres that which can only be experienced here—no other event on Earth is as mind numbingly cerebral, cosmically imaginative, infinitely listless, or technologically progressive in the portrayal of modern entertainment than the PKD Science Fiction Film Festival. It's an event so gargantuan, so futuristic, so ungodly irreplaceable that anticipation has many on the brink of total insanity, but don't fret. Before you know it, as if in a PKD blink of a moment, we'll all be piling through the open doors, drum rolling heartbeats and hushed whispers no sooner silenced by the power of the PKD profile. Watch right before your eyes as recycled elements from past iterations unfold anew in modern sci-fi entertainment, as if almost implanted into our own minds, or digitally rendered into the simulation of life. Miss it? I wouldn't dream of such a thing.

Leap into the black hole starting February 23 at the Village East Cinema and the Museum of the Moving Image.

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Expect More than the Unexpected at the 2018 Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival
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