The first Dublin Sci-Fi Film Festival kicks off today

Classics such as ‘Barbarella’ and ‘The Fifth Element’ to get big-screen outings

It’s about time. This weekend we welcome the inaugural Dublin Sci-Fi Film Festival. There are other events a bit like it. But David Desmond, DSFF director, finally gives the capital a dedicated science fiction event. The bash will haunt the post-apocalyptic quarter of Smithfield (okay, it’s not really post-apocalyptic) with new releases, restored classics and innovative shorts.

Events kick off with a 20th-anniversary screening of Luc Besson's irresistibly vulgar The Fifth Element. The film has divided fans and critics since its release, but nobody can dispute the visual ambition on display. Jean Paul Gaultier and Jean "Mœbius" Giraud helped the director craft a future world that still floods the brain with its flash and flair. Milla Jovovich is the avatar who falls beautifully into Bruce Willis's airborne cab. Was it so long ago? Is it so far in the future?

There are three good reasons to revivify Paul Michael Glaser's The Running Man. Firstly, the adaptation of Stephen King's speculative story remains a dystopian gem. Secondly, it is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Thirdly, it really is set in 2007.

“By 2017 the world economy has collapsed,” the opening credits reveal. “Food, natural resources and oil are in short supply. A police state, divided into paramilitary zones, rules with an iron hand.” It’s just like Trump’s America. Isn’t it?


Well, it's not really. But the tale of a brutal reality TV show – where criminals such as Arnold Schwarzenegger must evade assassins – does offer a few warning as to where we might end up. The Running Man closes the Dublin Sci-Fi Festival on Monday in the Generator Hotel – across the square from the Light House.

Among the most exciting of the Irish premieres is that for Amat Escalante's much discussed The Untamed. When it won the Silver Lion for direction at last year's Venice Film Festival, more than a few critics had trouble explaining what it was they had just seen. Best known for harsh social-realist works such as Heli and Sangre, Escalante tells us the story of a young woman raising two boys in a forbidding industrial city.

So far, so Escalante. But the picture also has to do with a many-tentacled creature that seems to embody human and anti-human sexuality. Variety noted similarities with Andrzej Zulawski's stubbornly cultish Possession. Seek out The Untamed in the Light House on Saturday afternoon.

Closer to home
Among the programmes of shorts, we find domestic entertainments such as Fergal Costello's Zenith and Nicolas Courdouan's Radha. There will be a late-night screening of Roger Vadim's Barbarella starring Jane Fonda (left) – an undeniable influence on The Fifth Element – an equally welcome unearthing of the 1956 classic Forbidden Planet and the Irish premiere of the documentary Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex. That last film groans with footage from such pictures as Gremlins, Terminator and Jurassic Park.

There's more where that came from. The first festival packs a nicely varied programme into a busy few days. And the focus on one corner of the city should help encourage the communal spirit on which all such bashes thrive. We expect great, erm, Things to Come (and other science fiction references).

  • The first Dublin Sci-Fi Festival runs in Smithfield from May 5th-7th.
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