Adelaide SCINEMA 2017 Film Review

  Last updated June 29, 2017 at 3:32 pm

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Here we are back again for the 2017 SCINEMA International Science Film Festival, supported by major sponsor BBC Earth.

At 6.15pm the doors for the cinema opened up. It wasn’t long before the cinema filled up to almost full capacity. The anticipation and murmurs around a film festival is always different to seeing a typical film. There’s a lot of excitement from not knowing what to expect from a variety of films. Will they be hit and miss? Will they be the best films you’ve seen all year?





We were treated to 8 different films out of over 1200 films that were submitted, as Lisa Bailey, our programs manager at Australia’s Science Channel introduced.

Different to most film festivals, SCINEMA shows all the winning films in one screening per city. Pleasantly, the 8 winning films fit neatly into a 2-hour session. Most of the films included a personal video from the directors of the films which added a special touch to the festival.

Starting with Nex (Award for Technical Merit), this was a beautiful magical film that showed a stylised microscopic look at what happens when a fungus attacks a rhinocerous beetle. This short film was over very quickly but it set the standard for the films to follow.

Einstein-Rosen (Best Short Film) deserved its prize. The best thing about short films is that they have incredibly clever plots to create a story in a short amount of time. Writer, director and producer Olga Osorio deals a double blow of cleverness by introducing the theory of wormholes and space-time travel in 9 minutes. Despite being in Spanish, it was easy to follow the story. It was heartwarming and touching with lots of smart, funny one-liners thrown in. More laughs than The Big Bang Theory. It was highly relatable with sibling banter and the unexpected twist. Delightful for audiences of all ages, regardless if the little ones may not be able to follow the science. One of my favourite moments involves a pet turtle.. Well, you’ll just have to watch it to find out why.

From Spain, SCINEMA took us to Pakistan with Pangolins in Peril – A Story of Rare Scales (Award for Scientific Merit). I already have a lot of love for pangolins so I was already won over. To witness so much footage of the rare, endangered pangolins – and in such a close up, intimate manner – was amazing in itself. The film showed not only the conservationists working to protect these animals but also was hard-hitting and confronting by approaching everyday Pakistanis who have a misguided view of these animals and even the hunters of these animals. It was a spectacular film that truly highlighted the story of rare scales.

The Purple Plain (Best Director) was beautiful on the big screen. It was clear to see why this won Best Director. This film was inspired by the true story of the Mercury 13 women, the first women who tested for space flight in the 1960s but unfortunately never made it to space. The art direction created a real sense of what it was like to see the point of view of the women that had to undergo these tests and try to prove themselves. It flitted between the feel of vintage film and modern day. It blurred fiction and factual history with occasional excerpts of real vintage space footage. This untold story was given justice and I’m sure inspired a lot of young future scientists in the audience.

The story of the largest Ebola outbreak in history was shown in Think Like A Scientist: Natural Selection in an Outbreak (Best experimental/animation film). This film featured exceptional stories of those who were there at the frontline of the 2013-15 Ebola epidemic. It was a wonderful story that looked at the science behind this outbreak, how the Ebola virus is able to mutate through natural selection – it portrayed this with some clever animation. It also showed the humanity behind the scientists and healthworkers during this epidemic. I’m always amazed by the work in dealing with disease outbreaks and this film really gave them due credit.

Fix and Release (Best Documentary) revolved around the amazing work done by the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre where they fix up freshwater turtles and then release them into the wild. This film wasn’t afraid to delve in, and almost everyone in the audience cringed when they saw a turtle whose shell had been completely crushed in. And you know what else was crushed? The hearts in the crowd. I think it’s safe to say everyone wanted some of their own “chelonian therapy” (a concept introduced in the film where it’s therapeutic to look after turtles of which their scientific order is Chelonian).







Test Tube Babes (Special Jury Award) kept up the siblings theme. Two 16-year-old twin IVF sisters from the UK explained the process of IVF in a hilariously, tongue-in-cheek manner. Complete with props of a paw paw, syringes and lots of fluids! There’s no comedy award but if there was, this would win it. The audience laughed the whole way through at the frank, in-your-face dialogue. An excellent example of making science accessible through comedy. And a great example of film from talented young people!

OWSIA (Darkened Water) (Best Film) explored the central Iranian city of Yazd. Despite being a UNESCO heritage site, it was an untold story that I was not aware of. It highlighted the corruption and bureaucracy that prevents one of the world’s oldest aqueducts from providing clean water to the city. It added a sombre, serious mood to the screening. It was shocking to see people play the blame game despite lab tests showing the high level of pollution at the points where the aqueduct passes through residential areas and the city’s major hospital. It really instilled an appreciation for the access to clean water we have here in Australia and the inequality around the world. The last film of the festival, it will leave you thinking about what could be the solution. Could the solution lay in science perhaps?

With applause after nearly all the films, it was clear the the program and the winners were all well-deserved. It’s wonderful to see the variety of depictions of science in film, whether it’s pulling at heart strings, exploring the humanity of effect of science in providing water or fighting disease outbreaks, or making you laugh.





SCINEMA International Science Film Festival will continue to screen around Australia this June 2017, so don’t miss out!



  • BRISBANE – Thursday 8 June, Palace Barracks – 6:30pm local time

  • SYDNEY – Wednesday 14 June, Palace Verona – 6:30pm local time

  • MELBOURNE  – Thursday 15 June, Palace Cinema Como – 6:30pm local time

  • CANBERRA – Friday 16 June, Palace Electric Cinema – 6:30pm local time

  • PERTH – Monday 19 June, Cinema Paradiso – 6:30pm local time


Tickets are $20 + bf. See the trailers and much more at bit.ly/SCINEMA2017

Sign up to the SCINEMA newsletter to stay in the loop about future films and festival news. Be sure to follow SCINEMA International Science Film Festival on Facebook too.

If you’ve already seen the films, remember to vote for your favourite film at scinema.australiascience.tv/vote

Thanks to major sponsor BBC Earth and venue sponsors University of NSW and The University of Queensland.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get all the latest science.




About the Author

Kelly Wong
Contributing editor for News + Events and the online producer at Australia's Science Channel. I have a background in immunology, food blogging, volunteering, and social media. I'm passionate about creating communities on social media and getting them excited about science. I enjoy good food and I am on an eternal mission to find the best ice cream. Find me on Twitter @kellyyyllek

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Science and technology is as much a part of our cultural fabric as art, music, theatre and literature. They play a significant role in our daily lives, yet, in a world dependent on science, we often take them for granted. Australia’s Science Channel believes every citizen has a right, and a responsibility, to be informed, and our mission is to create programs to bring that about.


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