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Miami-Based Independent Filmmakers Create Sci-Fi Film Festival

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From left to right: Edward Figueroa, Eric Swain and Troy Bernier. Photo provided by MiSciFi.

Science fiction will be celebrated in Miami this weekend.

The first Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival (MiSciFi) will take place January 17-19 at the Hyatt Regency Miami. Fifty films created by U.S. and international independent filmmakers are scheduled to be screened.

"These are not B films," said Troy Bernier, who created the film festival along with Eric Swain and Edward Figueroa, all are based in Miami.

They share the scientific field of hydrology in common: Swain is a civil engineer and hydrologist; Figueroa is a hydrologist; and Bernier's background is in geology, but he practices hydrology. So when not studying the properties of the earth's water and its movement in relation to land, the three work together on science-fiction themed independent film projects. I was able to speak with Bernier to get some insight on the festival.

"B movies can often be confused with low-budget," he said. "I agree people are not spending millions of dollars to make these films [in MiSciFi]. But when you look at the quality, they are par with what you watch on TV -- FX Networks, Syfy, Spike TV, ABC and NBC. You'll see a lot of the people in these films [in MiSciFi] have acted in some of the most popular films around."

He provided examples with the features, Dust of War! ; set in a post-apocalyptic American Frontier, the cast includes Tony Todd, best-known for his role as Candyman, and Gary Graham, who played Detective Matthew Sikes in the TV series Alien Nation; and the thriller Jake's Road, starring Eric Roberts.

The MiSciFi originators were inspired to create this venture by positive experiences at film festivals screening their film Planet X: The Frozen Moon (2011), made in South Florida, and Journey to Planet X (2012), a documentary by Brooklyn Underground Films about the making of Planet X. Journey to Planet X was screened the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, and EPIX acquired the documentary to air as part of the EPIX Docs strand.

Though Journey to Planet X won't be screened at MiSciFi, the closing film is a Brooklyn Underground Film production. It has to do with cryonics, when people with incurable diseases elect to have their bodies frozen upon death in hopes of being restored to life through future medical advances. It's called We Will Live Again, a short documentary about the operations of the Cryonics Institute, which screened at Tribeca in 2013.

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Tom Cruise makes a cameo in the short, Tribute to J.J. Abrams. Photo provided by MiSciFi.

There's also an element of hip hop at MiSciFi. Yes, you read that right. The music video turned short film, Tribute to J.J. Abrams will be shown Saturday at 9 p.m. Danish movie critic Johan Albrechtsen rapped for Abrams, film and television producer, screenwriter, director, during an interview and Abrams asked him to record it. He made a short with some of Denmark's leading hip hop artists that celebrates Abrams and his Star Trek films. Bernier mentioned that actors Tom Cruise and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau actually make cameos in the production.

The MiSciFi creators also made an effort to showcase local talent. They included a category for films made in Florida.

"There's some amazing talent in Florida," Bernier said. "As a filmmaker I seek these people out for my own films."

Also, in reaching out to the Miami community, MiSciFi offers Microdocs, a free community outreach session Saturday beginning at 10:30 a.m. It will feature a series of scientific programming from all parts of the world, from various scientific organizations and industries.

Bernier, Figueroa and Swain utilized a mathematical equation to select the films in MiSciFi. Each used 10 different parameters. And the films with the highest scores got into the festival.

"Eric likes certain kind of films, Ed likes certain kinds of films and I like certain kinds of films," Bernier said. "So that averages out when you put it into rubrics; it's in a formula so it isn't bias. The end result is films most people are going to like, which is what we want. At the end of the day, we have to sell tickets; we have to cover our operating costs."

He also said plans are in the works to make MiSciFi an annual event.

If You Go

What: Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival (MiSciFi).

When: Jan. 17-19, 2014.

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