Miami International Science Fiction Festival Offers Out-Of-This-World Fun for Nerds of All Kinds

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Every great scientist was once a kid, and every kid, as it turns out, is really a great scientist.

"When you're young, you know how to explore, innovate and investigate," says FAU doctoral student and geologist Troy Berner. "As children, we're born with these instincts, and it's society that abandons them as we get older."

Generations of kids who hate science class have led the so-called "brain-drain" of the U.S, but how do you make science sexy? That's easy - give the kids science fiction.

Bernier grew up in the sci-fi glory days of Star Wars and Star Trek, and it had a direct effect on his chosen career path. He wants to share his love for fantastic films and scientific research with audiences young and old, and therefor, he invites all of Miami to the second-annual MiSciFi Fantastic Film Festival Friday, January 23, to Sunday, January 25.

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Bernier founded the festival, alongside fellow scientists and sci-fi buffs Eric Swain and Edward Figueroa, after finding his own success in the sci-fi film industry. He and Swain worked together on the homegrown Planet X: The Frozen Moon, and were themselves the stars of surrounding documentary, Journey to Planet X. The co-founders love for fan-made and fantastic films of all kinds pushed them to give amateur and professional filmmakers alike a place to come together and let their voices be heard.

"There's so many amazing fantastic films that are created that are never seen, even if you put your film on YouTube," Bernier says, "you're still competing against millions of other films. So, we see the festival as a way for filmmakers to bring their work to the surface."

What constitutes a "fantastic" film? Most film festivals focus on dramas, comedies, and all manner of films firmly-rooted in some kind of realism. The filmmakers can be quite "serious," but Bernier and friends want to see more cheese. MiSciFi features films of total fantasy, anything from the future to space travel, underwater adventure, supernatural horror, and more.

Bernier argues it's just as important to showcase such imaginative films as their more direct counterparts. After all, the impact of science fiction on our everyday lives is inarguable.

"I would not be surprised if you could correlate scientific achievements with the fantastic films that were created during those days," he says. "Just look at why we have the cell phone. This is a direct influence of the guys at Motorola saying 'man, we can make a phone like that' after watching Star Trek."

The weekend is split into two parts: Friday and Saturdays regular showings and discussions, and a special Sunday adventure in the Everglade's Big Cypress park.

For the main attraction, strap yourself in for 60 films, including 53 fantastic films, and six "microdocs" exploring true-to-life fantastic scientific endeavors in a way even the layest of laymen can appreciate. The microdocs are free and open to public screenings, so even if you don't want to spend any money on fest tickets, you can still participate and learn something new.

But wait, 53 plus six is only 59. That's because there's one last film hopping around the festival, a re-edit of the popular '60s Hercules films, dubbed over with new comedic dialogue Bernier promises is hysterical.

"I fell out of my chair it's so freaking funny."

But the screenings are only half the experience.You'd be remiss not to take in the impressive array of panel discussions, offering incredible insight into many aspects of the creative film-making world. Hear from professionals and experts on subjects from screenwriting to drone cinematography, color grading, film law, social media, villains, monsters, set design, the history and impact of sci-fi, and more. With a sponsorship from the American Film Institute, rest assured you're getting a quality education at a steal.

"Why wouldn't you want to immerse yourself in something that will probably make you a better human being? It's going to open your mind," Bernier says. "We encourage people to bring their kids. They can get exposed to it, and you can have a conversation later on. It might encourage your kids to do better in school, expand their imaginations, expand their horizons, and expand what they really want to do."

Come Sunday, those willing to pay $20 for food and water will be guided by Bernier, Swain, and Figueroa on a journey into Florida's environmental jewel. These guys work in the Everglades and know where the real cool stuff can be found. It's like exploring something out of sci-fi, but it's in our backyard.

To get things started, Bernier and crew offer two trailer screenings and pre-parties. Join the MiSciFi team at Kill your Idol Tuesday, Jan. 20, for sci-fi themed cocktails and half-price drinks from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., then stay for a very sci-fi DJ set from Bernier. Those in the downtown area can head to Gramps in Wynwood Wednesday, Jan. 21, for the trailer screenings, following by a discussion and screening of sci-fi classic Blade Runner.

It's the perfect lead up to a weekend full of extraterrestrial insanity.

"Whether you're a filmmaker or someone who enjoys fantastic film, don't miss it," he says. "You're going to really enjoy this."

MiSciFi Film Festival, Friday, January 23, to Sunday, January 25, at Hyatt Regency, 400 SE Second Ave., Miami. Tickets vary from free to $45 plus fees via miscifi.com. Advance trailer screenings at preparties Tuesday, January 20, at Kill Your Idol, 222 Española Way, Miami Beach; and Wednesday, January 21, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami. Pre-parties are free of charge. Call 323-909-2795 or visit miscifi.com.

Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

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