When looking through the Other Worlds Austin film schedule, I see a ton of amazing concepts and ideas; it’s full of films that I find intriguing, enthralling, that make my eyes light up and my brain start racing. Sci-fi films, by nature, go into the future/go to other worlds and defamiliarize the universal truths we live by today, which means before I even turn on a sci-fi film, based solely off the concept, I’m ready to dig into what a it is all about, what it represents, and how it’s commenting on a core component of how I and society function in everyday life.
In the mix of all the great films playing at the festival, you’ll find Vintage Tomorrows, which, on the surface, really isn’t defamiliarizing anything—it’s a documentary. And since documentaries are based in reality and a direct reflection of the way people function, documentaries don’t defamiliarize…
…which has got me thinking about if we need to stretch our definition of defamliarization. Purely on a surface level, Vintage Tomorrows doesn’t really fit with how we normally use the word on this website. Vintage Tomorrows is a documentary that explores the Steampunk’s origins and cultural impact and the movement it has inspired. The other sci-fi films we cover are about parallel universes, alternate realities, dystopian futures—Vintage Tomorrows is 100% our reality. It’s out of the ordinary, for sure, but people really do love Steampunk and live their lives through its ideas and aesthetics.
So what I’ve realized is, in the context of sci-fi genre, Vintage Tomorrows actually defamiliarizes the beauty and passion and art behind the sci-fi genre.
At its heart and taken at face value, Vintage Tomorrows is a great documentary that dives into the Steampunk movement and allows us to become part of its community of passionate supporters. Steampunk lovers don’t just reappropriate 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery—they dress Steampunk. They talk Steampunk. They live and breathe Steampunk. The very way they perceive the modern world and its advances goes through a Steampunk filter.
And, in a way…doesn’t that describe fans of the sci-fi/fantasy genre? Steampunk lovers are exaggerated forms of people who love sci-fi and fantasy films. I mean, yeah, people will dress up like stormtroopers and Harry Potter and stand in line at the movie theater for six hours, or they’ll dress like Captain America and Black Widow at Comic-Con, but they don’t usually outfit their wardrobes with sci-fi and fantasy gear and let the entire world constantly know how much they love their favorite movies and comic books.
Vintage Tomorrows represents something much deeper: It’s an exaggerated reflection of the passion these filmmakers and their fans hold for the sci-fi genre. While casual sci-fi fans are not as obvious as the lovers of Steampunk are, we do, in many ways, live and breathe sci-fi and appreciate it on a much deeper level. Steampunk aficionados created a world within our own that has its own culture and way of being and living—it becomes real life sci-fi. Maybe not a dystopian society, but a world that’s not like our own. By exploring it, Vintage Tomorrows is a documentary about how people create sci-fi in their life, that goes beyond the pop culture appropriation of fanboys and fangirls. Steampunk isn’t about dressing up as your favorite character from Star Wars or Marvel—it’s about an alternate lifestyle in an alternate world. And Vintage Tomorrows captures it perfectly.