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UI Computer Fear Film Festival to be held Sept. 8

Jeff Unger, News Bureau
(217) 333-1085;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — This year’s Computer Fear Film Festival at the University of Illinois not only promises to be bigger than last year’s inaugural event, it’s guaranteed, thanks to the marquee lineup.

The annual festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Sept. 8 (Saturday) with a showing of "Iron Giant" (rated PG), followed at 8 p.m. by "Colossus: The Forbin Project" (PG). A third film, "Demon Seed" (R) is to begin at 10 p.m.

Admission is free; the movies will be shown in Foellinger Auditorium.

"The point of the festival is first and foremost to have fun, and while we are doing that, to learn more about how movies portray computers – as opposed to reality, whatever that is," said Marsha Woodbury, festival adviser and UI faculty member in computer science. "We want to encourage discussion about the issues, too, as we did last year with our exploration of artificial life."

"Iron Giant," a 1999 animated film about a boy in Maine who befriends a huge extraterrestrial robot that eats automobiles and chews on live wires, features the voices of Jennifer Anniston and Harry Connick Jr.

"Colossus" (1969) centers on a computer of the same name built by the United States to keep watch on the nation’s nuclear weapons. A hitch develops when Colossus teams with a similar computer built by the Soviet Union.

Julie Christie and Fritz Weaver star in "Demon Seed" (1977), the story of a rogue computer system that refuses to obey commands and acts independently, striking terror into a household – and, more than likely, many audience members.

This year’s festival theme is artificial malice.

"The idea is to see how machines in movies pose a threat to society when we cede control to them or give them power to harm or threaten people," Woodbury said. "The funny part is that we fear computers only when they look like Colossus. Today people get into their cars without the least computer fear, yet our vehicles have scads of computer chips. We fly and take trains and go on cruises, totally putting our trust in the computer technology that helps to control the process. Our toys, our phones, our microwaves, even our singing greeting cards have computer chips. What if they all decided they were sick and tired of us?"

Short subjects featuring computer-generated videos and music provided by ACM will be shown before and after the movies.

The festival is sponsored by the Computer Fear Group, the UI Association for Computing Machinery, and Women in Computer Science, with support from Coca-Cola.

Pizza will be available outside Foellinger Auditorium.

The festival Web site is