By Christina Stock
The list of this year’s Roswell SciFi Film Fest was released on July 6 on Roswell Galacticon’s Facebook page.
With social distancing in place due to the pandemic and cancellations of the UFO Festival and Galacticon, the film fest was canceled, as well. This however, did not mean that the work of the national and international filmmakers, actors and crew was in vain. According to organizer Alan Trever, the judging took place without the usual audience previewing the films to give the People’s Choice Award.
The quality of films and variety this year was outstanding according to Elaine Mayfield, Galacticon and Roswell SciFi Film Fest organizer.
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In an email, Trever wrote that two of the selected films that made the cut were produced locally using local actors: “Witchwoods The Movie” and “Radio Silence.”
There is good news for fans of the festival and the indie films. Though it will take some time, but the selected films will be made available for the public to see and accessible via its Facebook page @RoswellGalacticon or directly on their website roswellfilmcon.com. Other films have been uploaded on their respective websites and social media sites.
The Best of Film Fest Award went to “Lab Rat,” with is the first available to view via Roswell SciFi Film Fest’s website. The film won three awards total. Reaching out to Nour Wazzi, director of “Lab Rat,” Wazzi wrote in an email, “Thank you so much for the multitude of awards for Best of Fest, Best Director and Best Cinematographer. We’re so humbled and grateful. Made on a tiny budget with diverse and emerging talent — 46% women, 54% men, 28% POC (people of color/minorities) — I can only hope that this will prove how many of us are capable if we are only given the opportunity. Here’s to many more kick-a– science-fiction stories to come.” The film was picked up by the YouTube channel DUST at youtu.be/1FuISHX_4WY.
In her biography, Wazzi shows an impressive portfolio. “Tipped as a future star on BBC’s 2017 hot-list, award-winning filmmaker Wazzi has worked in the industry for more than 13 years collaborating on and developing features — e.g. OSCAR nominee ‘Waste Land’ — and short films. Wazzi set up Panacea Productions in 2008 with the intention of making distinctive, thought-provoking and compelling films with strong commercial potential. She is building a slate of diverse, edge-of-seat thriller, horror and science-fiction TV and film projects that are also personal, moving and speak to the human condition — intending to marry U.S., UK and Arab talent.
“Most recently Wazzi directed ‘Scotch Bonnet’ and ‘The Package’ for the BBC mini-series ‘The Break’, available to view on BBC3. She also completed the Doha Film Institute (DFI)-backed short thriller ‘Baby Mine,’ that she co-wrote, produced and directed, starring Alexander Siddig (‘Kingdom Of Heaven’) two-time Olivier nominee Rachael Stirling (‘Salmon Fishing In The Yemen’), Grace Taylor (‘Marcella’) and Alex Ferns (‘Joyeux Noel’). Nominations include Best Film at Aesthetica and Best Directing, Best Cinematography and Best Editing at Underwire. She is developing the feature version with support from the DFI and Filmonomics scheme with BAFTA winning screenwriter Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan — who is penning two studio films with Warner Brothers and Paramount, to name a few.
“Wazzi has produced and directed a number of award-winning shorts that have found VOD, airline and international television distribution including the Film London-backed drama ‘Up On The Roof’ (2013) starring Maisie Williams (‘Game Of Thrones’), Michael Matias (‘The Bodyguard,’ West End play) and Earl Cameron (‘The Interpreter’), which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival and was selected at over 40 festivals. She also produced and directed the feature pilot psychological thriller ‘Shackled’ (2012), starring Emilia Clarke (‘Game Of Thrones’), and the Film London-backed ‘Habibti’ (2010) with Hiam Abbass (‘The Visitor’) and Jimmy Akingbola (‘Arrow’). Based on a story by OSCAR nominee Ari Folman (‘Waltz With Bashir’), the lighthearted, culture clash drama received its broadcast premiere on the BBC in 2012 and was selected at over 40 festivals.”
The short film “Lab Rat” plays in the near future: A group of scientists find themselves trapped in a laboratory and find out that one of them is a being with artificial intelligence — an A.I. — and it has been deceiving them.
“The Shasta Triangle” won Roswell SciFi Film Fest Best Feature Film Award with Dani Lennon winning Best Actress Award.
Director Barry W. Levy responded in an email after he found out about the award: “My wife and producing partner on ‘The Shasta Triangle,’ Helenna Santos, and I are thrilled to have won Best Feature Film at this year’s Roswell Fest. It has been a goal of ours to visit Roswell, but for the time being, this wonderful honor will have to do. Many thanks to Alan Trever and the whole team for putting it all together,” Levy said.
Levy didn’t only direct the film, but is also writer and producer. He looks back on a strong career in the industry that re-invents itself constantly. His biography states, “Levy is an award-winning filmmaker and actor. A dual U.S./Canadian citizen, he has garnered numerous festival awards for the movies he’s made, and enjoyed a diverse and extensive acting career. His award-winning feature length and short films have been shown on screens around the world, and he continues to please audiences with a style that entertains and makes people think.
“‘The Shasta Triangle’ is Levy’s second feature and is currently distributed by Giant Pictures and available on all major streaming platforms.
“His first feature ‘Spook’ (2003) was the first Canadian feature to ever be accepted into the prestigious Shanghai International Film Festival in 2003, but was prevented from screening. The film was a political hot potato in his home country due to its explosive expose of Canada’s covert involvement in the Vietnam War, and the over 40,000 Canadians who secretly served there. Spook went on to win numerous festival and grand jury awards in the U.S.
Over the years, he has portrayed serious acting roles like the ill-fated pilot of ‘Flight 93,’ but also hammed it up in ‘Scary Movie 4,’ gotten scientific on ‘The X-Files,’ and kicked butt in ‘Scandal,’ ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Arrow,’ as well as in Stephen King’s ‘Riding the Bullet.’ His broad range as an actor gives him the ability to play everything from hard-nosed killers to warm-hearted dads, and everything in between.
Levy was also part of international video artist Stan Douglas’ ‘Win, Place, or Show’ (1998), which was screened at every major museum and visual arts establishment in the world, including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York.
Levy has also worked as a radio broadcaster, and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of British Columbia. He makes his home between Los Angeles and Vancouver with his wife, producing partner and actress Santos.”
In his statement, Levy said, “Like most people who tell stories, I’m very curious. Telling stories helps me figure things out while entertaining people. This leads me to read, research and travel to places that I hope will give me answers. Most of the time though, they lead to even more questions.
“The heroes and heroines of ancient stories are fascinating. Ever since I saw Ripley in ‘Alien,’ I’ve longed for more modern heroic tales led by women. ‘The Shasta Triangle’ propels five diverse women into the chaotic center of a smart sci-fi adventure inspired by mind-benders like ‘Annihilation,’ ‘The Endless’ and ‘Coherence,’ Levy said.
“Never have there been more questions about what’s ‘real’ in our world, as we see in concepts like simulation theory, multiple dimensions, the Earth’s ley lines, hot spots and mysterious ‘sounds,’ Levy said. “The U.S. Air Force has stopped denying that their aircrafts have locked on to, and tracked, various UFOs that we can now see evidence of online.
“I have personally witnessed two UFO events, survived working in a haunted radio station, travelled to Egypt twice to try and figure out how that civilization was built, and what the real purpose of the pyramids, tunnels and temples were, and have had numerous other experiences in my life that I simply can’t explain. I’ve also felt what I felt, smelled what I smelled, heard what I heard, and been stopped in my tracks by a force I could not see but would not let me pass. And I want answers,” Levy said.
“For now though, I am just going to have to take comfort in telling stories that we now call ‘science-fiction,’ until we get to the place where we can call them science-fact. Until then, let me tell you a sci-fi horror story that will rock your perception of reality. Let me tell you about ‘The Shasta Triangle,’” Levy said.
Best Short Film Award went to “Encounters.” The short film has two directors, Luke Pilgrim and Brad Kennedy. In an email Pilgrim wrote, “We’re extremely excited to hear that our movie, “Encounters,” won the Best Short Film Award at the Roswell SciFi Film Fest. It means a lot to us that our alien sci-fi film was not only accepted into the festival but awarded the prize for best short film in the UFO mecca of the world.”
“Since making ‘Encounters,’ we have adapted it into an anthology series, and episode two of ‘Encounters,’ titled ‘The Dinner Party’ will be released online on Aug. 7. You’ll be able to check it out at sozobearfilms.com and be sure to follow our social media @sozobearfilms on Insta, Facebook and Twitter. We also host an indie film podcast called ‘Friends From Film School,’ which you can watch on our YouTube channel or listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Google Play,” Pilgrim said.
Pilgrim and Kennedy’s production company is one of the newest ones, being founded in 2016. However both directors have a strong film background.
Their biography says, “Georgia natives Pilgrim and Kennedy are Sozo Bear Films. As a directing team, they have produced four short films and a myriad of commercials, music videos and documentary-promotional films since their creative partnership began in 2014. In February of 2016, they took a major step and started their own production company, Sozo Bear Films, named after their cats. Within a month, they were producing films full time. The duo thrives in producing shorts that have the look and feel of full length features. As filmmakers, Pilgrim and Kennedy have found their niche in science-fiction. The pair has explored topics such as robots, outer space and technology.
“Their Sozo Bear mantra is to tell creative, cinematic stories and the pair strive to produce compelling films that people can connect with by embracing the human element that is integral to good filmmaking.”
The story of “Encounters” focuses on a selfish teenager named Eli, who tries to avoid “family time” at all cost. However, after an encounter with an otherworldly entity, he quickly learns that he should have been careful when wishing to evade his family.
The other films awarded are “Invaders from Above,” Best Animated Film Award; “Tacit Blue,” Best Visual Effects Award; “Circle of Stone,” Best Costume and Best Make Up Award; Best Actor Award went to Mark Joy for his performance in “Where There’s A Will;” and Best Young Actor Award went to Jaylin Fletcher for “Postmarked.”
For more information, visit roswellfilmcon.com.