Daniel Abella is the founder and director behind the Philip K. Dick International Film Festival, which just held its third annual event this January at Tribeca Cinemas, NYC. I spoke with him about Philip K. Dick’s ongoing, reality-bending influence on cinematic expression.
J: What compelled you to start a Philip K. Dick film festival?
D: I have been a big fan of Philip K. Dick since learning he was compared to Jorge Luis Borges by Ursula LeGuin. After reading VALIS, Ubik and The Divine Invasion, I found a writer of great depth approaching some modern day philosophers. Philip K. Dick represents a distinctive voice that speaks of a bygone era in science fiction where humanity is prized and valued. My first film feature The Final Equation(1) was inspired by Philip K Dick’s mind bending 2-3-74 experience of meeting an alien intelligence he called VALIS. Based upon the good reception of the film it occurred to me that other filmmakers may want a forum to express their ideas and stories. Hence The Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival.
Do you believe there’s a shift in public consciousness coinciding with P.K.D.’s growing popularity?
There is a growing apprehension that reality is many and not a unified narrative like the mainstream media would like us to believe. The great divide in this age is the dialectic between fundamentalist reading of reality and the gnostic version. In Philip K. Dick, we see a resolution of this conflict through constant questioning of one’s belief systems. Philip K. Dick foresaw an age where technology would become clutch to our ever diminishing humanity. People recognize him as a writer who valiantly champions humanity and provides possible resolution to the modern predicament of our times.
Rudy Rucker coined the term “transrealism,” and P.K.D.’s stories arguably fit that uncanny bill like no other. Is their “weirdness” what makes them so uniquely translatable into cinema?
The technology dimension of Philip K. Dick’s stories lend themselves to the modern cinema. The bridge, human and technology as in the case of Androids in Blade Runner, virtual reality in Total Recall or parallel dimensions in The Adjustment Bureau make the stories adaptable to the modern screen.
Every few years we see new film adaptations – just this month with the festival, Amazon released a Man in the High Castle pilot, and in 2014 John Alan Simon directed Radio Free Albemuth. What makes Philip K. Dick so relevant today?
Philip K. Dick’s heroes are the everyday folk who struggle to understand a world that is very complex and unsettling. His characters don’t have all the answers in a yes/no format but deal with ambiguity which is typical of the human experience.
Which films really stood out for you this year?
Two short films that screened in this year’s festival Mat Owen’s Turn On (2013) and Etienne Gravrand’s The Fischer Case (2014) stand out as excellent examples of Philip K. Dick-inspired shorts.
Read more about this year’s winners at the PKD Film Festival, and follow them @PhilipKDickFest.
(1) The Final Equation, directed by Daniel Abella
Featured image credit: Steve Booth
*This interview was originally published on Reality Sandwich. Also see my interview with Erik Davis on Philip K. Dick’s “High Weirdness” in VALIS.
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