The Spring 2023 edition of CSUN’s Cinematheque film series, Are you a Replicant? VFX, Sci- Fi, and the Meaning of Life, initiates in dazzling fashion with a screening of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner on Wednesday, February 22, at 7 p.m. in the Elaine and Alan Armer Screening Room, our state-of-the-art 130-seat theatre located in Manzanita Hall. Dianah Wynter, Professor of Media Theory & Criticism and former Chair in the Department of Cinema and Television Arts, conceptualized this season’s series, which engages with deep philosophical quandaries and existential explorations through the science fiction film genre.
When asked about the scope of her selected slate of classic and contemporary films, Professor Wynter said, “Since the inception of the genre, science fiction writers have used narratives as vehicles to explore our humanity, what it means to be a human being, the ethics of human relationships, and the murky and now inescapable relationship with technology. Our campus community is made up of thinkers who I believe will enjoy engaging with these provocative concepts and ideas through cinema.” Wynter and her collaborator on this series, new CSUN lecturer Dr. Jake Bohrod, have assembled a slate of pioneering films like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Don Siegel’s Invasion of The Body Snatchers, and the Wachowskis’ The Matrix, exemplifying the kinds of gripping and impactful experiences that have defined the genre. Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the last film of the franchise directed by George Lucas, delivers a powerful visual and emotional experience while wrestling with the fateful question of what human beings are willing to do for love and power.
Another important facet of this series is the role that visual effects (VFX) play in realizing filmmakers’ visions of worlds that do not exist. Selected films illustrate how technologies are deployed in service to the stories they make possible. Cyberpunk and time-travel films like Ghost in the Shell, Arrival, and Robert Rodriguez’s recent adaptation of Alita Battle Angel highlight technological advances in motion-capture, real-time VFX, and virtual production that allow filmmakers to tell stories in more complex and nuanced ways.
Wynter has lined up many incredible guest speakers for pre-screening talks that will elucidate and expand our understanding of the philosophical underpinnings and VFX tools that enhance the impact of select films. To discuss technologies that brought these visions to the screen, Wynter has enlisted professionals from leading VFX companies like Halon NEP, Lux Machina, Tau Films, and ROE Visual. (ROE Visual is so invested in the power of VFX they generously donated resources and support to install a 21-foot LED Virtual Production Wall in our CTVA facilities to help students achieve their own fantastic visions.) To further round out Cinematheque’s roster of guest speakers, Wynter secured commitments from professors and scholars of art, philosophy, and emerging media to reflect on thematic concerns and provocative questions posed by film narratives on the human condition. Wynter notes that “these films and discussions will give voice to the audience’s musings on where we are, where we’re going, and how advances in science, technology, and artificial intelligence are changing us on a cellular level and calling into question what it means to be human.”
The films will screen most Wednesdays at 7 p.m., with Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner initiating the series on February 22. To learn more about what is forthcoming, please visit the Cinematheque website available here.