In August 1903, the first ever science film was only a minute long, and starred cheese mites crawling through a piece of Stilton, magnified through a microscope and broadcast in black and white. Science films have come a long way since then.
Showing just how far we've come, the 4th Annual Imagine Science Film Festival will take place October 14th-21st throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The festival is the largest to date, including 80 films from 15 different countries. Aging, immortality, and space are the program themes, with evenings devoted to avant-garde science shorts, documentaries, real footage from lab experiments, discussions about humanizing science through its depiction in film, and an afternoon of child-friendly science based films.
The festival will open at the Museum of Moving Image and will feature the movie Mr. Nobody, a Belgian sci-fi drama starring Jared Leto and Diane Kruger. The film illustrates the great potential for fusing imagination with science. It's the year 2092 and "Mr. Nobody" is the last living mortal at the age of 117. He recounts the different stages of his life, and in doing so reveals the nature and fallibility of human memory. Oddly enough, the movie was never given US distribution, so this will be its New York premiere. The movie is directed by Jaco Van Dormael and is stylistically reminiscent of The Tree of Life in terms of its non-linear narratives.
A few other gems particularly caught my eye. Controlled Experiments (The Bell House, October 17th at 8pm) includes rare and unseen footage from real science experiments. The video pieces are The Chosen and We Rule. The Chosen follows a parade of ants as they move around the forest and descend to the heart of their colony beneath the earth. We Rule combines video, photography, drawing, and sculpture, and features the biological research of the Liquid Jungle Lab off the Pacific Coast of Panama. The film shows the eerily human-like behavior and personality traits of various wildlife, including parrots, insects, and howler monkeys.
Another gem is the Genetic Attraction event on October 16th at the Museum of the Moving Image. The theme is romantic relationships and each film gives a different perspective on attraction through genetics, pheromones, technology and evolution. The films raise a lot of important issues relating to attraction, such as the ways technology is redefining our modern romance.
In addition to showcasing provocative and enlightening films, there will also be important panel discussions. On October 20th, science journalist and blogger Carl Zimmer will moderate a panel discussion about the potential of film to humanize science and break down misconceptions through the creation of alternate narratives. Panelists will include Dr. Sean Carroll (Evo-Devo HHMI scientist), Dr. Heeger (leading neurocinematics specialists), Valerie Weiss (scientist and award-winning filmmaker), and Dr. Darcy Kelley (neuroscientist at Columbia University and Sloan consultant).
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Follow Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sbkaufman