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Sci-fi fest debuts ‘Nigerian Frequency’ and more

Among the dozens of shorts and feature films to be screened at the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival will be the US premiere of “The Search for Simon.”

Boston Science Fiction Film Festival

Among the dozens of shorts and feature films to be screened at the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival will be the US premiere of “The Search for Simon.”

There aren’t many film events that can boast the longevity that distinguishes the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival. The two-part program, nicknamed The Fest and The ’Thon, started 39 years ago at the Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge and continued until the theater burned down in 1986. Garen Daly, a former manager of the Welles, took over as producer and curator and moved the event to the Somerville Theater. (Daly is also making a documentary about the Orson Welles Cinema and plans to have it completed by May 2015, the 100th anniversary of Welles’s birth.)

The Boston Science Fiction Film Festival, running Feb. 7-17, is “the oldest genre festival in the country, if not the world,” says Daly. The local event is also very popular in Europe, he says, citing the appearance at this year’s fest by Louis Savy, director of the London Sci-Fi Film Fest, on Feb. 15. Savy will be joined by British director Martin Gooch for the US premiere of Gooch’s new film, “The Search For Simon,” about a man’s search for his younger brother, who disappeared 30 years before. (Alien abduction, anyone?)

Boston Science Fiction Film Festival

Nicholas Brendon stars in “Coherence.”

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The Fest’s opening night features the world premiere of local filmmaker Matt Scott’s “Nigerian Frequency.” Over the next nine days, audiences can see 65 shorts and feature films from around the world. Daly says he’s particularly impressed with “Coherence,” about a group of friends who gather to watch a comet pass unusually close to Earth. It does — cutting power and causing friction among the group. It will screen Feb. 13 with special guest actor Nicholas Brendon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”).

“ ‘Coherence’ is everything I like in a small, indie, sci-fi film. There are not a lot of expensive effects. It’s got a good script and great actors,” says Daly. “Director James Ward Byrkit developed the characters and let the actors loose.”

Another highlight is the Feb. 13 world premiere of the just-completed documentary “Who’s Changing: An Adventure in Time With Fans.” Directed by Cameron K. McEwan, it’s about 50 years of the British sci-fi series “Doctor Who,” and its legions of fans.

The ’Thon is the 24-hour film marathon that ends the festival. It starts at noon on Feb. 16 and ends 1,440 minutes later, says Daly, who promises an extravaganza with “lots of classic films, games, the occasional scream-worthy schlocker, and a special guest, Philip Gelatt, the screenwriter for this year’s excellent ‘Europa Report.’ ”

For a complete schedule and more information, go to www.bostonsci-fi
.com

Not for kids only

When “Ernest & Celestine” was announced as one of the Oscar nominees for best animated feature, more than a few film buffs wondered what it was and why they’d never seen it. Well, now we have the chance (before the Oscars, to boot) thanks to the Providence Children’s Film Festival (PCFF), which runs Feb. 13-23. The PCFF will premiere “Ernest & Celestine” on Feb. 15 at the RISD Auditorium and on Feb. 22 at RISD Museum Metcalf Auditorium. This French film (with English subtitles), about a bear and a mouse who develop a friendship, is based on the classic Belgian book series by Gabrielle Vincent. “Ernest & Celestine” won a Cesar Award and was picked by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association as best animated feature of 2013.

Now in its fifth year, the PCFF screens a diverse slate designed to also appeal to adults. Other notable films from this year’s lineup include the acclaimed “Wadjda,” about a resilient 10-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia; “Maidentrip,” a documentary about Laura Dekker, a 14-year-old Dutch sailor who set out alone on a two-year voyage to fulfill her dream of becoming the youngest person ever to sail around the world; “The Zigzag Kid,” about the 12-year-old son of the world’s greatest detective and his adventure to solve the mystery of his long lost mother’s true identity; and the Harold Lloyd silent classic “Safety Last!” This year’s event also includes post-film discussions and hands-on filmmaking workshops for ages 6 to 14.

For more information, go to www.pcffri.org

Meet the filmmakers

There are several upcoming screenings that offer an opportunity to hear from documentary filmmakers. Harvard Law School’s Charles Ogletree, a civil rights lawyer and the founder of the Institute for Race and Justice, will join filmmaker Rachel Lyon at Harvard Law on Feb. 10 (5:30 p.m.) for a screening and discussion of Lyon’s 2014 documentary “Hate Crimes in the Heartland.” The film explores the stories of two hate crimes that occurred in Tulsa, Okla., more than 90 years apart: the Good Friday murders of 2012 and the infamous 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. The event is free and open to the public but anyone who wants to attend must register at www.charleshamiltonhouston.org/2014/02/hatecrimes/. . . . The UMass Boston Film Series kicks off Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. with the documentary “Uranium Drive-In” followed by a discussion with the director, Suzan Beraza, moderated by the series curator, filmmaker Chico Colvard. The documentary follows both sides of a controversial proposal to build a uranium mill in southwestern Colorado, making it the first to be built in the States in 30 years. It’s free and open to the public. See www.umb.edu/filmseries. . . . For the past 40 years, presidential campaigns have kicked off in Iowa, where candidates spend months traveling the state’s 99 counties. The new documentary “Caucus” focuses on the 2011-12 campaign in Iowa as eight Republicans fight to become their party’s standard-bearer and take on President Obama. “Caucus,” a hit at both Hot Docs and the Camden International Film Festival in 2013, screens Feb. 11 at the Brattle Theatre as part of The DocYard series. Director AJ Schnack will be on hand for a post-screening discussion, moderated by Erin Trahan, film journalist and editor of The Independent. See www.thedocyard.com. . . . As a celebration of Bob Marley's birthday and Black History Month, filmmakers Esther Anderson and Gian Godoy will appear in a video clip from London prior to the screenings on Feb. 6-8 of their documentary “Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend” at the Regent Theatre in Arlington. See www.regenttheatre.com

Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.
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