The Trieste Science + Fiction Festival, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, takes off on October 27 until November 1 with the announcement of yet more main attractions to dazzle, amaze and stimulate the cosmic fantasy fans. We interviewed the mind behind the festival, its artistic director Alan Jones.
How did it all begin? Do you have a solid fan base in Trieste?
Alan Jones: This edition of the Trieste Science+Fiction Festival was founded in 2000 but it deliberately picked up the legacy of the original Trieste International Science Fiction Festival, the first genre film festival in Italy and one of the first in Europe, which took place from 1963 to 1982. Back then it was the most important science fiction and fantastic movie festival in the country mainly because icons like Arthur C. Clarke (author of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and Umberto Eco (‘The Name of the Rose’) would attend adding enormous weight to the event and focus press attention on the city. I’ve told this story a few times now but the very first movie poster I pinned on my bedroom wall as a teenager was the British one for Roger Corman’s The Man With The X Ray Eyes. On it was the fact it won a major prize in Trieste at the inaugural occasion. Cut to decades later and I am now the Artistic Director of the festival. So prophetic, fate or what? That’s the reason we will be showing the Corman classic as a major retrospective attraction this year. What is so great about the Trieste S+F Festival is the committed community that has grown up with it. Year after year – and I’ve been attending as a guest since 2002 – I’ve seen the same people for whom the Festival is the major highlight in their social calendar. That doesn’t happen unless you are doing something right and in my first year in this job, I made sure the program was packed with nothing but solid science fiction, whether it be old or new. Science fiction as a genre in movies, television, new media, literature, comics, music, visual and performing arts, whatever, is all about the future, the wonders of other worlds, of so far unknown possibilities. That’s why it remains so alive and so exciting.
What’s special about the 2023 edition?
AJ: Well, for one thing it’s the 60th Anniversary of the original festival and that in itself is a major cause for celebration. So we have pulled the stops out in terms of must-see movies from around the world and guests our amazing audiences will be thrilled to meet. 2023 is also the year the whole Artificial Intelligence debate has been ignited big-time. What does it mean for humanity? Are machines a threat? Should we really fear the technological advances being made to supposedly improve our lives? And we are addressing all of those issues with a retrospective of Steven Spielberg’s A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, plus an in depth discussion with Professor Linda Ruth Williams from the University of Exeter, in relation to her new book ‘Steven Spielberg’s Children’. Another major guest, Tom Paton, CEO of Pigeon Shrine and Empire Studios, is a world leader in the fearless and truly independent approach to the new A.I. creativity, merging technology and artistry in a unique workflow called ‘Synth Assisted Production’. It’s an innovative technique allowing an alternative to the long-standing studio system for big-budget filmmaking. So, along with an absolutely brilliant program of must-see new sci-fi movies, there will also be plenty of thought-provoking discussions at Trieste S+F 2023 as every on-trend subject will be raised.
If someone’s going to experience the Science + Fiction Festival for the first time, what should they expect?
AJ: That it takes place at the fabulous Teatro Rossetti on the Viale and in the more intimate surroundings of the Teatro Miela by the port. This year we are promoting the Miela-verse – at the Miela, obviously – because we want to create a destination space for all the cult curiosities and bizarre short films the S+F genre has on offer. That the S+F audience is one of the friendliest and most inviting in the world, regulars and newcomers alike will always find their safe space at the festival. That the festival isn’t just about movies, it’s about the video gaming industry, the business of film and education and a forum for people to speak about anything in the science fiction arena. I guarantee something for everyone.
Name three absolutely must-see movies in this 2023 edition.
AJ: Oh no, you want me choose just three? I shouldn’t play favorites but you really do not want to miss Jules, where Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley finds an alien in his garden after a spaceship crash. Then there’s Momolith that is creating quite a stir on the festival circuit at the moment about a disgraced journalist attempting to salvage her career with a podcast geared to solve mysteries and uncover hidden truths. Then there’s Restore Point, best described as the Hungarian Blade Runner. The event no one should miss is the William Friedkin Master Class hosted by top British film critic and friend of the late director, Mark Kermode. You will be totally gripped by Mark’s insight into Friedkin’s career, especially as he is the world expert on The Exorcist, currently celebrating its 50th year of shocking everyone rigid.
Any special guests to look out for in this 2023 edition?
AJ: Hopefully you will appreciate that as I write this many guests have yet to be confirmed mainly because of the SAG strike. But as you reported from Cannes this year, Tiromancino folk rock star Federico Zampaglione will be presenting the new Italian horror he directed in Rome earlier this year, The Well. Plus the headline actor of that shocker, superstar Claudie Gerini, will be here too. Federico is an old friend of mine so I was delighted when he accepted my proposal to premiere The Well at Trieste in the Spazio Italia strand as well as in the Melies Award competition. Director Ali Larter and producer Jane Giles will also be attending with their fantastic documentary SCALA!!! OR, THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE RISE AND FALL OF THE WORLD’S WILDEST CINEMA AND HOW IT INFLUENCED A MIXED-UP GENERATION OF WEIRDOS AND MISFITS, which proved such a hit at Bologna this year. I’m actually one of the people interviewed in it, so a no-brainer for inclusion really!