2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ALIEN

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Dan O’Bannon

Alexandre O Philippe presents an expansive film essay on the origins of ALIEN.

Festival Section:

Sundance Program Description:

MEMORY was a script that Dan O’Bannon started in 1971, abruptly hitting a wall at page 29. But after the idea gestated for several years, it ultimately took the form of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece ALIEN.

Alexandre O Philippe’s documentaries – most recently 78/52 (2017), about Hitchcock’s PSYCHO shower scene – have interrogated cinema’s cultural ripples. If MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ALIEN were only a comprehensive account of Alien’s origins – ancient myths, comic books, HP Lovecraft, sci-fi movies, and parasitic wasps – it would still be fascinating. But how did ALIEN lodge itself so indelibly into our cultural imagination? Philippe’s real interest lies in the deep resonance of myths and our collective unconscious. The strange symbiotic collaboration between ALIEN creators O’Bannon, Scott, and HR Giger suggests a greater synchronicity across history, art, and storytelling, a synchronicity that gives us the Furies, creatures of Renaissance painting, and even chest-bursting aliens.

Propelled by a pure joy of cinema (and sociology), the film is strewn with unearthed archival material, designs, and story notes. It’s safe to say you’ll never think of ALIEN the same way again.

Some Background:

  • Alexandre O Philippe
    Past Sundance docs:


    Philippe is the creative director of Exhibit A Pictures, whose films explore film and pop culture, including docs on STAR TREK, STAR WARS, zombies, and Paul the Psychic Octopus.


  • Kerry Deignan Roy
    Past Sundance docs:


    Roy has produced Philippe’s last three films.


  • Robert Muratore
    Past Sundance docs:


    Muratore is also the project’s director of photography. He previously shot Sundance doc alum BEING EVEL (2015).

  • Annick Mahnert
    Past Sundance docs:


    Mahnert is the director of international programming at Fantastic Fest, as well as an acquisitions consultant, with a focus in genre films.


  • Chad Herschberger
    Past Sundance docs:


    Herschberger is a partner at Denver-based post-production house Milkhaus, and cut Philippe’s last three projects.

Executive Producers:

  • Diane O’Bannon

    O’Bannon is Dan O’Bannon’s widow, and oversees his unproduced and unpublished work.

  • Carmen Giger

    Giger is HR Giger’s widow, and serves as the director of the HR Giger Museum in Gruyères, Switzerland.

  • Leslie Barany

    Barany was HR Giger’s longtime agent, collector, and friend.

Assistant Editor:

  • Patrick Huber

    This marks the first Sundance project forn Milkhaus’ Huber.

Why You Should Watch:
Philippe offers a cinephilic meditation on one of the classics of American cinema and of the sci-fi genre. More than just a deep dive into ALIEN, this captivating project widens its scope to explore the film’s connection to mythology, popular culture, 1970s societal anxieties, and the collective unconscious. The doc will premiere as one of this year’s Day One screenings.

More Info:
For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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