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First Computer Fear Film Festival aims to dispel terror of technology

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor (217) 333-2177;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The fictional birthplace of the world's first diabolical computer and the home of one of the world's top computer science programs is holding its first "Computer Fear Film Festival."

The University of Illinois, the home of Hal -- the cyberhero-turned-cyberpsycho from the movie "2001" -- is hosting the inaugural film festival Sept. 9 in the university's Foellinger Auditorium.

Nicknamed CF3, the festival seeks to "bring out in the open people's fear of computers -- of robots and hackers, of world domination by computers, of male domination of computer science and of technology replacing or threatening people," said Marsha Woodbury, the festival adviser. "By addressing our fears we can better adjust to the age we live in."

Festival events are free and open to the public. Woodbury, a UI faculty member in computer science, said that the organizers also hope to show the public "not only how many women are in computer science, but also why they are needed, and how welcome others would be."

With regard to the movies to be shown, Woodbury said: "Our motto is "The worse the film, the better" -- although some of these films are pretty darned good."

CF3 will have a different theme each year. This year's theme is robots. The movie schedule:

7 p.m., "Bicentennial Man," starring Robin Williams, (PG rating).

9:30 p.m., "Terminator," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, (R).

11:30 p.m., "Blade Runner," starring Harrison Ford, (R).

Before and after each feature film, short subjects featuring computer-generated videos and music will be shown, provided by the UI Association for Computing Machinery. ACM is the world's largest computer organization.

A series of events, including panel discussions, will precede the film festival. All free and open to the public, these events, to be held Sept. 8 in 404 Illini Union, include: 9:30 a.m., a film, "Minerva's Machine," and a discussion about women in computer science; 11 a.m., a panel discussion on computer fear.

In addition, demonstrations of projects from the UI Engineering Open House will be on display, including "Project Earthlight," by Andrew Wu, and a robotics demonstration by ACM.

The festival, presented by UI Women in Computer Science and ACM, is a takeoff on a popular annual UI event, the "Insect Fear Film Festival."

"Given that imitation is the greatest form of flattery," Woodbury said, "the CF3 openly borrows from the 'Insect Fear Film Festival,' but instead of playing on our fear of bees, ants and wasps, we focus on our fear of technology, science and change."

The CF3 Web site is CF3 sponsors include AT&T Expanded Cable, Blockbuster and artist Harry Kachline.