Being Human: Mnemophrenia Q&A

What is the award-winning science fiction feature all about? And what is its relevance for our current situation?

  • Date

    Sat 14 Nov 20

mnemophrenia-main still

An award-winning science fiction feature, directed by an Essex film lecturer, is to feature in this year’s Being Human festival, with a free online screening and Q&A.

Being Human: Mnemophrenia Q&A
We caught up with Mnemophrenia director Dr Eirini Konstantinidou to find out more.

What is Mnemophrenia?

“Mnemophrenia is a fictional mental condition where people - due to their consumption of advanced Virtual Reality (VR) technology – are no longer able to distinguish between real and artificial memories.

“So, it’s a made-up word and a portmanteau of two Greek words - on one hand ‘mními’, an ancient Greek word for memory and on the other ‘phrenia’, meaning mind.

“Many people, when I have talked to them about the film, they tell me they had googled the word first, because they really felt this condition must actually exist. So I suppose we succeeded in making people believe it might be a real thing.”

The film itself was the product of your PhD. Having begun researching existing science fiction films, you switched to a ‘practice-based’ approach and made a film herself

How did this initial research affect the film you eventually produced?

“It was much easier for me to generate script ideas because I had already spent a couple of years reading and writing and exploring these theories. 

“So I had those theories and ideas as my first layer, let's say, and I had to then build everything I wanted to say based on those theories and ideas.

“The finished film is full of ideas, but I was also trying to make it as mainstream as possible. I wasn't interested in just attracting academics – I wanted a wider audience.”

The film features three interweaving narratives, showing the impact of advanced VR on different generations. It suggests potentially significant impacts from VR on real world relationships, but I get the impression you see potential positives as well as negatives.

“Yes, the majority of science fiction films, they are showing a dystopia, because it is more dramatic, more interesting.

“And the classic trope with science fiction films is ‘we will lose our humanity, we will all become like robots’.

“I was obliged as part of my PhD research to do something new, so I wanted to get away from that and say, well, maybe technology will make us more human in some ways, actually more empathetic. It might actually expand our horizons in some ways.

“I wanted to have that perspective in the film - people who see the benefit of this technology and feel they can actually utilise it for the wider good.”

Early on, you won an award at the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival. What impact did that have?

“Yes, we had our world premiere at Boston in February 2019. Boston is the oldest science fiction film festival in the US, so it was great first of all to have that exposure.

“We didn't know that we would be getting an award - it was announced on the night of the screening.

“Garen Daly, The Festival Director, because he really liked the film, he essentially created an award for it. He wanted to help us and boost the film itself, which was really nice."

Boston Sci-fi Film Festival Director Garen Daly said: “Need your faith in indie films restored? Look no further than Mnemophrenia. Compelling. Smart. Integrated. Great story. It bodes well for director Eirini Konstantinidou. She’s someone to watch.”

This recognition helped Dr Konstantinidou find a distributor - the film is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube movies and Tubi TV in the US.

On 17 November, it will be streamed live as part of the Being Human festival, with a Q&A to follow.

The festival's theme this year is New Worlds. Does your film have a particular relevance to the ‘new world’ we are living in?

“Yes, this film is about the possibility of people being lost in VR.

“Instead of reaching out to others, the characters in the film are becoming more isolated.

“In the current situation, everybody is stuck in their houses and we are only talking with each other through Zoom.

“Add in fake news and everything else and it's creating a monster in a way. Things like social media give the illusion of connection and communication, but many times it's just a facade. It's superficial, it's not real."

In the film, the characters “are losing touch with each other and they have to overcome that, in order to go to the other side where empathy and being in somebody else's shoes gives you a wider understanding and the community can come together.”

“If we want to be optimistic, maybe future generations will get lessons from our COVID times and from the social media boom that they will use to do something good.”

More information on how to join the screening of Mnemophrenia and Q&A that follows are available on the Lakeside Theatre website.