June 14, 2019

Episode 5: The Novum

John Akomfrah, Yuri Ancarani, Rosa Barba, Neil Beloufa, Carola Bonfili, George Kuchar, Chris Marker, Nathaniel Mellors, Larissa Sansour, Jeremy Shaw

26-27 June 2019
6:30 – 8:30 pm
Cinema dei Piccoli, Rome

 According to science fiction writer and academic, Darko Suvin, a distinguishing feature of the sci-fi novel is the presence of the novum (Latin for new thing), defined as a “piece of information recognisable as not-true, but also not-unlike-true, not-flatly impossible.” A hypothetical “new thing” that can be imagined into existence, not through fantasy but by conjectural scientific means and innovation, plausible in some not-so-far-off future reality.

 Science fiction’s speculative narrative was embraced early on in film, and few genres stretch quite like it: from horror to the occult, from fantasy to the super hero. Pushing its literary boundaries even further, sci-fi film incorporates advanced science-based phenomena and technology, futuristic concepts, time travel, parallel universes, space exploration, alien worlds and extra-terrestrial life forms. Yet there is always something that remains rooted in the real: an uncanny look at the political or social issues of the day, philosophical musings on the human condition and on the current state of affairs. 

The late 1940-50s are considered the classic era of science fiction in the USA, its Golden Age. An age when these films drew on the political anxieties and public fears of the era, which included depersonalization, infiltration, occupation of the “other”, fear of nuclear weapons; when Cold War paranoia and the panic of imminent destruction gave rise to an unparalleled multitude of alien invasion movies and apocalyptic adventures. Common themes in movie making can often be seen as a mirror to the mood of the society in which the movies are produced, so perhaps it comes as no surprise then, that contemporary visual artists and filmmakers are tackling the sci-fi genre in more imaginative ways than ever. In our own uncertain present, when humanity is foreseen as under threat from sociological, ecological and technological adversaries of its own making, as it becomes increasingly more complex to discern truth from propaganda and fact from conspiracy, artists working within the science fiction genre push the boundaries of human experience to offer up possibilities for a different future.

Magic Lantern Film Festival is a semi-annual thematic investigation of the interstice between visual art and cinema. The festival aspires to act both as a tool for the dissemination of artistic languages that use film as an ideal medium with which to give form to the imagination, and as a moment of critical inquiry of authors, ideas and genres. Magic Lantern Film Festival is a project conceived and curated by Maria Alicata, Adrienne Drake and Ilaria Gianni.

This edition of Magic Lantern Film Festival, The Novum, follows Phantasmagoria, which examined the use of noir and horror tropes in artists’ films; Really, focusing on the biopic; Wonderland, which looked at how childhood imagery has been co-opted by contemporary filmic poetics; DO RE MI, an analysis of how both the musical genre and music video have been adapted by the language of the visual arts; Ready, Steady Play, a screening of music videos directed by artists, organised within the ambit of Videocittà; and our 2018 Christmas special screening of Pattini d’argento by PAD/Piccolo Artigianato Digitale.


Cinema dei Piccoli
Viale della Pineta 15, 00197 Rome
(Villa Borghese, Porta Pinciana entrance, at the top of Via Veneto)


Admission to the screenings is free and all are welcome, but seats for each evening are limited. Though it’s not necessary, we do recommend that you reserve your place by writing an email in which you specify your name and the evening you are interested in attending to the following address: info@magiclanternfilmfestival.org.

For additional information: