Culture Crossover: the films about tech at 2019's London Film Festival

Img: The Antenna. Credit: BFI/Stray Dogs

In our Culture Crossover series we pick up examples of projects that delightfully bridge the worlds of technology and culture. We'll be reviewing exhibitions, giving you a heads up on cultural events or talks coming up in the UK and highlighting the best techy art.

To read more instalments of the Culture Crossover series click here.

Technology seems to mediate everything we do, consume, and are. So it is little wonder that after the strong showing from last year, another tranche of films at the BFI's London Film Festival have science and technology as central themes, along with the related mystery, fatigue, and ethics that many of us are only just beginning to grapple with.

Read on for a selection of features at this year's LFF 2019 from the BFI, opening to the public at venues across London on 2 October, and keep an eye out for our follow-up coverage, including Techworld's pick of short films that meditate on technology.

La Belle Epoque

La Belle Epoque

Technology fatigue is, for sure, a reality - and it can be no coincidence that some former employees at the most prominent social media and internet companies limit the use of modern technologies for their children.

In La Belle Epoque from director-screenwriter Nicolas Kraus, an alienated husband, in sharp contrast to his psychoanalyst wife, withdraws from the modern era by paying for a bespoke reenactment service that allows its wealthy customers to pick an era of their choice to live in. Victor, played by Daniel Auteuil, retreats to the 1970s, reflected faithfully in set design, tone, and wardrobe.

Little Joe

Little Joe

Have we created a framework where there's an over-reliance on science - even to the point where it is a new type of faith?

While phenomena such as the anti-vax movement would suggest, perhaps, we haven't collectively gone far enough, a new joint Austrian, British and German production called Little Joe, directed by Jessica Hausner, takes a closer look at genetically engineered goods. In it, a laboratory creates a species of flower designed to induce happiness - but events soon go sideways.

The Antenna

The Antenna

Internet privacy advocates might remember the mass Turkish protests in 2014 responding to the country's increasingly stringent censorship laws. Blacklisting, information control, and close monitoring of not only potential dissidents – but all of us – are, of course, not limited to within Turkey's borders. It's a practically global experience.

While Orçun Behram's The Antenna is situated hyper locally within a high-rise block of flats, its themes will likely seep beyond the walls of the black sludge that accompanies the invasive government-sponsored monitoring programme. The BFI promises that The Antenna invokes the "corporeal preoccupations of early Cronenberg by way of Tetsuo: The Iron Man", an enticingly repellent prospect for viewers familiar with either.

Synchronic

Synchronic

Most designer drugs of the 21st century have frankly been a bit... underwhelming. Whether it's the £2-a-bag 'monkey dust' that the tabloids have recently obsessed over, the synthetic cannabis 'spice' epidemic leading to an alleged crisis in Britain's prisons, or those 'bath salts' that it was suspected by some online conspiracy theorists that Kony 2012 campaigner Jason Russell took before having a very public and very naked meltdown.

Anyway. This film from directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, sees two paramedics strolling through New Orleans, where they encounter deaths related to the titular designer drug Synchronic. According to the BFI, the film blends "heady metaphysics" with "relatable human emotion" and takes the viewer through a strange, foreboding journey.

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

Archivists rarely get much credit. In fact, hobby data-hoarders online frequently get flak about their obsessions - and it's not rare that large corporations who don't like IP slipping out of their control sue sites with digital archives. But these collectors surely do have a role to play in whatever mediums they choose to preserve: if it weren't for one such enthusiast, an ultra-rare videogame thought to have been lost forever wouldn't have been rescued.

Public access TV producer Marion Stokes was archiving her own footage long before mass consumer storage and the cloud made such endeavours easy. Stokes accumulated 70,000 VHS tapes, packed full of news broadcasts from the days of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis through to Sandy Hook in 2012.

Matt Wolf documents the endeavour in Recorder: The Marian Stokes Project. The BFI says that the film - with a score from Canadian composer and indie icon Owen Pallett - will "mesmerise everyone, from curious cultural historians to extreme analogue technology fetishists".

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