Last updated August 1, 2018 at 10:13 am
Kelly McInley reviews SCINEMA 2018 which continues around the country this June.
The 2018 SCINEMA International Science Film Festival touring program takes the best of the festival on the road. In a range of formats from animation or documentary, from laboratories to the beaches of Sydney or the forests of Canada, this year’s winners push the boundaries of inquiry and imagination.
The future of health
The wonders of technology are on show in the visually and technically impressive short ‘Virtual Humans’ which has the feel of an advertisement for a future in which unique virtual models of our bodies’ vascular, muscular and other systems allow for monitoring and tailored treatment – facilitating a program of individual ‘enhancement’. This is a wondrous vision which, if realised, would surely revolutionise healthcare. (However, this viewer couldn’t help wondering whether such specialised care would be available to only a privileged few with the means to pay for it.)
The future of work
Questions regarding the potential downsides of society’s uncritical embrace of technology are also raised by some of the films. Spanish short ‘Timelapse’ imagines a future in which neural implants free people from the nuisance of work – or, consciousness of work – albeit not without trade-offs. The hand-drawn animation and rap-like rhythm of poetry in Australian short ‘iRony’ take the viewer on a darkly-visioned ride through a dystopian view of society’s addiction to our devices and social media, and the control they exert on our emotions. On the lighter side, the charming animated short ‘KCLOC’ is a witty, philosophical exploration of individuals’ conceptions of time, whilst a sunny episode of ABC TV’s science program ‘Catalyst’ uses maths as a system for choosing the ideal surf spot, a very appealing real-world application.
Celebrating the hidden world of fungi
I found the two longer films, Best Documentary winner ‘Grassroots’ and Best Film ‘The Kingdom’, particularly engaging. Both productions have an outward, systems focus and each follows the work of passionate investigators as they seek to unlock the secrets of fungi. The work of Australian soil biologist Dr Peter McGee, on the ability of certain fungi to help return organic carbon to soils, has inspired agronomist Guy Webb and like-minded farmers to embark on their own project to utilise this technique as well as spread the word. The documentary ‘Grassroots’ tells their story and shines a ray of hope on the potential for biological solutions to some of the great challenges facing not only farmers but all of us – land degradation and climate change.
That the two winning films focus on fungi may be coincidental, but fungi and bacteria seem to be having a moment in popular health and culinary culture, as discoveries which have expanded understanding of the key role of many such organisms in our own health and that of other animals, plants and the environment more broadly have drawn our attention to the largely unseen but critically important world around (and inside of) us.
The spirit of inquiry is what science is about, and it is what drives each of the stories being told in SCINEMA 2018 – come along for a stunning ride.
SCINEMA International Science Film Festival is showing now around the country – Brisbane 6 June, Sydney 7 June, Canberra 13 June, Melbourne 14 June, Perth 21 June. Thanks to major sponsor BBC Earth.
*Disclaimer: the reviewer was supplied with a complimentary ticket.