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Life in 2050: a glimpse into the future

Year One by Dan McPharlin from Life in 2050
Sci-Fi-London sets the dial to 40 years from now with a commission for visual artists to imagine the future

By Will Cantopher
BBC London

A butterfly flutters from the outstretched hand of a gleaming android; a hooded horseman rides through a machine-scarred landscape; a flying figure decorates the cover of a magazine entitled Jet Pack Quarterly.

Which image is closest to your vision of life in 2050?

The question is being asked by a London art gallery offering glimpses of the future through the eyes of designers and artists from around the world.

Work by AS-1 Projects from the Life in 2050 exhibition
Is this a highly evolved version of ourselves in 40 years time?

Another submission, the winner in an open-entry category by AS-1 Projects, depicts a pair of mannequin figures with extended limbs, who appear to be dancing in a domestic interior.

A futuristic sound system occupies the foreground while a robot dog perches on a desk and a family of spider pets scurries across the pristine floor.

Is this a highly evolved version of ourselves in 40 years time?

Like many visions of the future, it springs a surprise, evoking a wry smile or perhaps a shudder of fear.

Big-name preview

The exhibition, at Proud Central behind Charing Cross, has been created for the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival, opening on 28 April and now in its 9th year.

Science fiction tends to trade in the future and the festival shares the theme of life in 2050 and how it might feel.

For programme director Louis Savy this means better cars, computers and "greener more sensible products" around us.

But in 40 years time he wonders, "will the iROBOT be just a commonplace and will we live and shop in a world like Minority Report?"

Tom Cruise's psychic detective thriller, predicting a future that can be 'seen', was the festival's first big-name preview back in 2002 and gets a free screening this year.

Radio Free Albermuth, another Philip K. Dick adaptation, with singer Alanis Morrisette among the cast, will also feature.

Elsewhere, future possibilities abound.

Guillermo del Toro's Splice, positing a world in which human and animal DNA can be combined together, is the opening night gala, while Swiss film Cargo, a variant of the scary monster let loose on a spacecraft, will close the festival.

Still seen as 'niche'

Hungary's Transmission imagines a future where television and computers stop working.

And Bollywood makes its genre debut with Love Story 2050, a romance predicting a Mumbai full of robots and flying cars.

The six-day programme pays tribute to a range of styles and ideas with a focus on Polish sci fi and a documentary about the weaponisation of space.

Festival director Louis Savy
More films are being made with an SF edge - not all good, but a rise in the last two years certainly
Festival director Louis Savy

A series of talks and panel discussions will also explore the role of science and religion, art, humour and travel in 40 years' time.

Mr Savy, however, is far from complacent: the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival was started "because there wasn't one".

Nine years on it is an internationally recognised launch pad for genre movies.

Yet sci fi is still seen as 'niche', he says, despite it accounting for the most DVD sales.

Given the success of films like Avatar and the Peter Jackson-produced District 9, surely that is about to change?

"More films are being made with an SF edge - not all good, but a rise in the last two years certainly," he says.

"Avatar and District 9 have helped to widen the appeal but they still are not representative of the whole genre.

"For real people, SF is good when it is good," Mr Savy maintains.

"I hope investors will keep helping these films get made… just in case one breaks through."

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