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An image of HAL 9000 from "2001: A Space Odyssey." Image credit: René Spitz, https://www.flickr.com/photos/renespitz/6085714636 [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/)]

Out of this world

Sci-fi film series explores the science of how imagination takes flight into other dimensions.

July 10, 2017

By Cory Phare

Science fiction feeds the imagination and helps explore possible futures, hopes and fears, and the unfolding of technologies. And at this year’s Science Fiction Film Series, it’ll all be on the big screen.

The series brings together MSU Denver, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Film Society to screen and discuss classic and recent science-fiction films to help better understand the medium, the individual films and the science (or lack thereof) in each work.

Vincent Piturro, chair of MSU Denver’s Film and Media Studies Program, hosts the series and discusses each film from an artistic perspective in a post-screening Q&A session while an expert considers the science depicted. It has become one of the most successful and longest-running film series in Denver.

A fictional alien city. Image credit: James Joel, https://www.flickr.com/photos/98701585@N02/9262561366 [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/)]

Piturro says this year’s series features only one film set (in part) in outer space — “2001: A Space Odyssey” — and one film that shows aliens — “Arrival.”

“A common misconception about science fiction is that it is all about aliens, outer space and/or the future,” he says.

“But that is not necessarily the case. Science fiction really tells us more about our world today than it does our future world and the lineup of films this year speaks to that notion. Science fiction is less about technology and more about a humanistic approach to our everyday lives.”

The series provides a unique experience for the audience and a chance for them to directly interact with experts in science and art.

“I am now on my sixth feature for the Sci-Fi Film Series, and I have been very lucky to have co-hosted so many incredibly thought-provoking entries,” says Ka Chun Yu, Ph.D., the museum’s curator of space science. “‘Arrival’ continues that tradition as one of the best science-fiction films of the 21st century and as one of the greatest cerebral sci-fi movies of all time.”

He describes the film and short-story source material of its base as marrying science-fiction themes. The scientific discussion will explore first contact with aliens, linguistics and inter-/intra-species communications, he says.

“The ending of this visually beautiful work is simply elegiac perfection,” he adds.

Nicole Garneau, Ph.D., curator and chair of the museum's health sciences, says the series can sometimes be a breeze for a geneticist.

“Some years, though, it takes me into the deepest and darkest places, places where humanity, science and art meet," she says. “‘A Scanner Darkly’ falls decidedly in this latter category. It requires repeated viewings and brings into question the very foundation of humanity and ethics in a world of both technology and surveillance and physiological and psychological addiction. Definitely one for the memory book.”

This year’s lineup:

  • “2001: A Space Odyssey” with Steve Lee, July 12 at 7 p.m., at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science IMAX theater
  • “The Lobster” with Jeff Stephenson, July 19 at 7 p.m., in the Ricketson Auditorium at Denver Museum of Nature and Science
  • “The Host” with Frank Krell, July 26 at 7 p.m., at the Sie Film Center
  • “Arrival” with Ka Chun Yu and special guest Andrew Pantos, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m., at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science IMAX theater
  • “A Scanner Darkly” with Nicole Garneau, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m., at the Sie Film Center

For tickets, contact the Denver Film Society or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

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