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Boston Science Fiction Film Festival hits 45

Vanessa Harryhausen
Vanessa HarryhausenCourtesy Boston Science Fiction Film Festival

One of the area’s most popular and enduring big-screen events, the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival, turns 45 this year, cementing its status as the longest-running genre film fest in the United States. Running Feb. 7-17 at the Somerville Theatre, this year’s outing showcases 32 international features and 66 shorts; panels and workshops; and a host of guest filmmakers.

Founded and produced by longtime area programmer Garen Daly, the festival opens at 7 p.m. with the East Coast premiere of the French film “Proxima.” Directed by Alice Winocour and starring Eva Green and Matt Dillon, it centers on an astronaut as she prepares for a yearlong space mission and wrestles with conflicts about leaving her young daughter. It’s followed at 9:15 p.m. by “Alien Abduction,” director Shae Sterling’s New Zealand-set tale about aliens who crash land in the middle of nowhere and join a local stoner in having a good time until a scientist starts to hunt them down.

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A small, isolated town beset by strange goings-on is also the focus of the Australian film “The Dustwalker” (Feb. 8, 1 p.m.). Directors Sandra Sciberras and Grace Luminato follow the residents of the community as they’re infected by a mysterious bug that turns them violent, then the dwindling numbers of survivors organize to fight back.

The festival boasts work by other women directors, including Ireland’s Neasa Hardiman, whose “Sea Fever” (Feb. 8, 9:30 p.m.) stars Connie Nielsen and Dougray Scott in a story about an Irish grad student who hires a trawler for a research project. She and the crew battle a growing parasite in their water supply after they become marooned.

Guatemalan director Javier Borrayo will be in attendance for the US premiere of his debut feature, “Luz” (Feb. 8, 7:15 p.m.). Weaving magical realism and science fiction against the backdrop of Guatemala’s tumultuous political history, it’s about a physicist whose experiments with energy allow him to connect with his father, who was murdered by the government.

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Also heading to the festival is Laotian director Mattie Do, whose “The Long Walk” (Feb. 9, 1 p.m.) is a time-traveling ghost story about a man whose discovery of the spirit of a woman killed in an accident gives him the ability to revisit his boyhood and the moments leading up to his own mother’s death.

A scene from "Nathan's Kingdom."
A scene from "Nathan's Kingdom."Courtesy Boston Science Fiction Film Festival (custom credit)/Courtesy Boston Science Fiction Film Festival

Olicer J. Munoz will be on hand for the New England premiere of his dark fantasy “Nathan’s Kingdom” (Feb. 10, 7 p.m.) about a young autistic man (Jacob Lince) and his drug-addicted teenage sister (Madison Ford) who escape their demons by traveling to a world of their imaginations.

Poland-born, Norway-raised photographer-turned-director Piotr Ryczko will be in attendance with his feature debut, “I Am Ren” (Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m. ), a mother-son movie that asks the question: Is mother an artificial intelligence surrogate or is she suffering a mental breakdown?

A particularly notable guest this year is Vanessa Harryhausen, the daughter of legendary visual effects creator and stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, who died in 2013. She appears as part of the celebration surrounding the 100th anniversary of her father’s birth. Her book “Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema” is slated for release in June. She’ll participate in an informal conversation about her father’s work and legacy Feb. 14, 1 p.m., at the Burren, in Davis Square. She joins Connor Heaney from the Ray Harryhausen Foundation, in Edinburgh, for a discussion on Feb. 15, 4 p.m., at the Somerville Theatre, about archiving and preserving Harryhausen’s extensive collection of models.

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The festival concludes with the annual Marathon (better known as “the ‘Thon”) which unspools science fiction classics and a few schlock disasters for 24 hours straight, starting at noon on Feb. 16. Harryhausen returns for a screening of director Cy Endfield’s “Mysterious Island” (1961). In it, Civil War prisoners escape in a balloon and land on a remote isle populated by giant mutated animals. Ray Harryhausen created some of his most memorable creatures for the film. Other movies in the ‘thon include “Soylent Green” (1973), Mel Brooks’s “Spaceballs” (1987), and “Tarantula” (1955).

Go to www.bostonscifi.com.

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