Thursday, January 19, 2012

Attack the Bloc: Cold War Science Fiction from Behind the Iron Curtain

A screening series called Attack the Bloc: Cold War Science Fiction from Behind the Iron Curtain kicks off tonight at TIFF Bell Lightbox. It showcases early Russian and East European science-fiction films.

The series has been put together by Todd Brown, founder of the excellent website Twitch Film which specializes in genre and foreign. Included in the series are well-known classics such as Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris and Stalker, but also more obscure works such as Marek Piestrak's Test Pilot Pirxa, Herrmann Zschoche's Eolomea, and goofier, campy films like Richard Viktorov's To the Stars by Hard Ways, Gottfried Kolditz' In the Dust of the Stars, and Václav Vorlícek's Who Wants to Kill Jessie?.

Attack the Bloc: Cold War Science Fiction from Behind the Iron Curtain continues until April 6 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.


Discover the wild worlds of Soviet sci-fi in this mixture of acknowledged classics, exotic esoterica and outright pulp from the former Eastern bloc. Bearded ladies, post-apocalyptic wastelands, robot companions, vampire cars and outbursts of random dancing await. Join us, comrades!

The Cold War was the unquestioned Golden Age of science fiction, as the utopian hopes and apocalyptic fears of the post-Hiroshima age, and the rising tensions of a world dominated by two great superpowers, seeped into all avenues of popular culture. Yet while we are well-acquainted with the forms these futuristic fantasies took in the United States — from the energetic exploitation fare of Roger Corman to the philosophical speculation of Stanley Kubrick to the pop-culture mythmaking of George Lucas — and such other Western-aligned nations as the UK (Doctor Who, the Quatermass series) and Japan (Godzilla and his rubber-suited kin, the sunny Astro Boy and the dystopian Akira), we are considerably less familiar with the science-fiction offerings from the other side of the Iron Curtain.

The science-fiction tradition in the one-time Eastern Bloc was as rich and varied as anywhere in the Western world, and the region's film output is every bit as diverse as our own, ranging from art-house fare to populist comedies, hilariously cheesy space operas and grand adventures. And while there are some instances of open propaganda, there are also strains of sly satire — as well as evidence that the camp and excess of the swinging sixties didn't completely pass the Soviet world by. We present here a broad range of Soviet-era science fiction, a mix of acknowledged classics and outright pulp from Russia, the former Czechoslovakia, Poland and Estonia. Bearded ladies, post-apocalyptic wastelands, robot companions, vampire cars and outbursts of random dancing all wait within. Join us, comrades! — Todd Brown

Thanks to Daniele Terzoli, Trieste Science + Fiction Festival.

Events in Attack the Bloc: Cold War Science Fiction from Behind the Iron Curtain

Andrei Tarkovsky
A scientist investigating mysterious happenings at a derelict space station discovers that the planet below can transform memories into physical form — and bring the dead back to life. Andrei Tarkovsky’s philosophical sci-fi masterpiece was the Russian answer to Kubrick’s 2001.
Thursday January 19, 09:30 PM
Sunday January 29, 02:30 PM
Thursday February 2, 08:45 PM

I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen
Oldrich Lipsky
After a nuclear explosion renders all the world’s women infertile (and bearded!), a bold band of scientists determines to travel back in time to 1911 and assassinate Albert Einstein before he can concoct the theories that helped create the Bomb. This wild, cheerfully lowbrow Czech sci-fi comedy plays like Sleeper/Bananas-era Woody Allen.
Friday January 20, 09:00 PM

Andrei Tarkovsky
In a treacherous post-apocalyptic wasteland known only as "The Zone," a mystically gifted "stalker" guides two intellectuals to a mysterious room that it is rumoured can make wishes come true. The great Andrei Tarkovsky’s second sci-fi outing after the classic Solaris is an enigmatic and strikingly stylized odyssey into a world at once alien and disturbingly familiar.
Saturday January 21, 03:00 PM
Sunday January 29, 08:30 PM
Saturday February 11, 03:00 PM

Dead Mountaineer's Hotel
Grigori Kromanov
A hard-boiled cop investigates supernatural occurrences at an isolated mountain inn in this sly sci-fi take on the traditional film noir.
Sunday January 22, 07:15 PM

Test Pilot Pirxa
Marek Piestrak
A steely space pilot defies corporate interests that want to replace human space crews with lifelike robots in this gripping space adventure that intriguingly anticipates Blade Runner.
Tuesday January 24, 09:15 PM

Moscow-Cassiopeia / Adolescents in the Universe
A valiant band of teenaged intergalactic explorers blasts off to otherworldly adventure in this two-part "Kids in Space" epic.
Thursday January 26, 09:00 PM

Ferat Vampire
Juraj Herz
A doctor discovers that an auto company’s new race car prototype is fuelled by the blood of its drivers in this bizarre sci-fi horror thriller laced with anti-corporate satire and devilish black humour.
Friday January 27, 09:30 PM

The Great Space Voyage
Valentin Selivanov
Three schoolchildren are forced to take command of a space flight when their adult commander is quarantined in this inspirational sci-fi adventure.
Tuesday January 31, 08:15 PM

Who Wants to Kill Jessie?
Václav Vorlícek
A gorgeous comic-strip heroine is catapulted into the real world — along with the dastardly cartoon villains out to get her — in this hilarious, visually inventive postmodern comedy.
Friday February 3, 09:00 PM

In the Dust of the Stars
Gottfried Kolditz
Space travel is swingin’ in this campy, psychedelic sci-fi head-trip from East Germany, as a starship crew is seduced by the far-out music (and T&A) at a decadent space tyrant’s intergalactic pad.
Friday February 10, 09:00 PM

Herrmann Zschoche
An unidentified signal emanating from a far-distant star system embroils a scientist and an embittered cosmonaut in a high-stakes conspiracy in this engrossing sci-fi mystery.
Friday February 17, 09:00 PM

The Silent Star
Kurt Maetzig
A multinational crew discovers remnants from an ancient civilization on Venus, and evidence of a terrible catastrophe that could portend doom for the Earth, in this pioneering communist sci-fi saga from East Germany.
Thursday February 23, 09:00 PM

To the Stars by Hard Ways
Richard Viktorov
A beautiful female cyborg seeks the help of earthlings to rescue her home planet in this deliciously campy space opera filled with cosmic mercenaries, midget dictators and space-age leisure-wear outfits.
Friday March 16, 09:00 PM

Planet of Storms
Pavel Klushantsev
A starship crew explores the treacherous terrain of Venus — which features volcanoes, carnivorous plants, dinosaurs and lizard men, among other attractions — in this prototpyical Soviet space opera, brimming with impressive special effects.
Friday March 23, 09:00 PM

Ikarie XB-1
Jindrich Polák
The crew of a starship on a year-long exploratory mission in the Alpha Centauri system discovers that the greatest dangers lie within in this engrossing adventure, arguably the high point of the space-opera tradition in Czech science fiction.
Friday March 30, 09:30 PM

Piotr Szulkin
A manufactured man searches for his origins in a grim post-apocalyptic world in this futuristic, strikingly surreal re-imagining of the classic monster tale.
Friday April 6, 09:00 PM

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