Catch the best of the 2020 Imagine Science Film Festival that plunged into the many forms and shapes of migration. The flight of the arctic tern, the multi-generational travels of the monarch butterfly, the return of eels to the streams they hatched in. The arduous journeys of displaced peoples. Data systems in flux. The complex movements of cells, from embryonic origins to developed organisms.
Three animal lives entangle at the edge of the sea. Horseshoe crabs spawn on eroded urban beaches, migrating shorebirds seek sustenance at a midpoint, and humans attempt to make a difference in this age of mass extinction.
“A Demonstration” is a monster film with no monsters. Inspired by the existence of taxonomies of monsters at the heart of Early Modern European science, the film explores and reinterprets a way of seeing the natural world that is almost impossible to imagine from today’s vantage point. Early Modern naturalists were guided by a logic in which scientific truths were discovered through visual analogy. The word ‘monster’ comes from the latin ‘monstrare’, meaning to show, to reveal, to demonstrate. “A Demonstration” picks up on these themes in a poetic exploration of the boundaries of sight and the metamorphosis of form.
Experimental film EMPTY HORSES documents an encounter between two much celebrated and very deceased Hungarian film directors. Michael Curtiz (1886–1962), the Oscar-winning director of Casablanca, responsible for shooting more than 150 movies during Hollywood’s Golden Age, is recognised as one of history’s most prolific directors. Gábor Bódy (1946–1985), in contrast, was a pioneer of experimental filmmaking and film language, as well as a renowned academic theorist in his field.
Our two spirits are locked in to the metaphysical screening room of their minds and struggle to make sense of their new reality and its creative possibilities. With two fundamentally different cinematic approaches, a prickly dialog plays out between two geniuses as they hold forth on life, work and art, while we are immersed in an associative collage of Hollywood classic and avant-garde imagery. Curtiz’s and Bódy’s anecdotes and personal dramas illuminate universal and contemporary questions of filmmaking, as the experience of the collective filmic memory washes over us.
Empty Horses is a found footage experimental film, a tribute to filmmaking, loosely based on the biographies of the two directors. Its original script was written by Péter Lichter, Bence Kránicz and Gábor Roboz.
Sanzgiri’s father was 18 when India ousted the last remaining Portuguese colonizers from Goa in 1961. Combining 16mm with drone footage, desktop screenshots, and Skype interviews with his father, Sanzgiri utilizes various modes of seeing at a distance to question identity, the construction of memory and anti-colonial solidarity across continents.
You Play Here is a hybrid project exploring the themes of community, migration, and public space. Concerned with concepts related to migration, I created You Play Here in order to fully explore one question: does playing a sport in a public space work to create community and camaraderie amongst immigrant groups?
The project features an installation composed of an analogue map, made interactive with the use of an Augmented Reality (AR) application. This customized map displays New York City’s public spaces where two different immigrant communities gather to collectively play a sport. The interactive aspect of the project features miniature models of these public spaces, and documentary videos that appear on a tablet while navigating the map through the help of an Augmented Reality application. The videos showcase two groups of immigrants in the United States, highlighting their recreational activities, and the ways in which these activities connect to their immigration status.
The true story of Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman and his wife Arline. Following Richard’s death in 1988, a sealed envelope was discovered. Inside was a letter written by Feynman to his high-school sweetheart and first wife Arline, unearthing a private tragedy that he had suffered when he was just 28. This is a film about that letter.
Genomic technology is sweeping across society. 2016 was declared “Generation Genome” by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, who said in her opening statements of that year’s annual report: “Genomic medicine has the potential to save costs and improve quality of care by targeting treatment, maximising benefit and reducing side effects. For patients with rare diseases, it can shorten their ‘diagnostic odyssey’ helping to identify therapeutic options faster and improve outcomes.”
With the explosion of availability of genetic testing, both in healthcare settings and via the consumer market through companies such as 23andme and Ancestry.com, genomics is officially now relevant to all of us. Even if you choose to never partake in genetic testing yourself, the moment a biological relative has, information you are linked to becomes available in a database somewhere. The transition into the genomic era means that the definition of what constitutes a “patient” will likely have to shift as well, from the individual to the biological family.
Genetic counsellors are specially trained in how to make sense of a genetic test and how these tests impact a family. As a healthcare profession whose practitioners have expertise both in clinical genetics and in counselling, genetic counsellors have a distinct point of view on the genomic healthcare revolution taking place in the UK and elsewhere. They are responsible for “breaking down the jargon” of the genetic science while simultaneously providing their patients with very nuanced, patient-led counselling that accounts not only for the person sitting in their clinic room, but also that persons’ biological family members who may also be impacted by the genetic information.
“Voices of Genetic Counsellors — So Much More Than Just a Test” features four genetic counsellors from across England recalling particularly difficult cases they have dealt with in their careers, which have left a lasting impact on them.
It affects every aspect of our lives from the moment we are born, to the food we eat, the cars we drive, and the medicines we take. This object has helped send men to the moon, and satellites into space. It is an object unlike any other, the last of its kind. A literal constant in an ever-changing world, and the weight by which all others are measured. The Last Artifact follows the high-stakes race to redefine the weight of the world, and reveals the untold story of one of the most important objects on the planet: the kilogram.
Eight prototypes for a border wall stand on the US-Mexico border. To choose a winning design, Border Patrol officers and the military will attempt to climb, dig under, or breach the structures using techniques employed by immigrants and drug dealers.
The ‘mirror test’ is a behavioural science experiment in which an animal is presented with a mirror to see if they recognise their own reflection, or mistake the image for another animal. Corvid birds such as magpies and jackdaws have reportedly passed this test, yet it remains uncertain if the experiment proves that an animal is self-aware.
In Mirror Test, a jackdaw explores a domestic interior, flitting between shelves and disrupting kitchen counters. Images of Jacky exploring her environment are accompanied by an interview with Kerstin and Stephan Voigt, former residents of East Germany who live with the bird. Their conversation ranges from speculations on animal intelligence to ambivalent recollections of the reunification of Germany in 1990, recalling double lives within the GDR and the self-contradictions of the capitalist democracy that consumed the East.
In the cinema the projection screen often presents reflections on human behaviour. The jackdaw in Mirror Test is elusive and inscrutable, yet observing her still makes us wonder about the inner life of other minds, whether they’re human or avian.
Have you ever wondered how pictures are made? Obscura looks inside our camera to the creatures within, living lives defined by what they see through the lens. But what comes into focus when things change? The arrival of new camera components reveals the world is not as it seems. Are the photographs they produce really the whole picture?
What is behind the cinema screen? It is not surprising that cinema-in-the-cinema scenes are often used in horror films. For they irritate and unsettle by reminding us — the immobile viewers hidden in the cosy darkness — of our own questionable position. What if the forces of unlimited imagination penetrate through the canvas into our reality? What if the auditorium dissolves and with it the familiar laws of cinema itself? In a way never before seen, “tx-reverse” shows this collision of reality and cinema and draws its viewers into a vortex in which the familiar order of space and time seems to be suspended.
Revealing the molecular mechanisms that power your cells and tissues, converting food and oxygen into the flow of chemical energy that makes your body be alive. Created in collaboration with HHMI BioInteractive part of a new collection of free bio-molecular animations for science education and public exhibition, “Synthesis of ATP” combines advanced microscopy, accurate molecular models and cinematic animation to engage students and the public with inspiring biology in action at atomic scale.
Available only in the United States
This stunning otherworldly short film takes a deep dive into lichen, a species that confounds scientists to this day. Shot in macro 3D, Lichen offers us a look at this remarkable life form and asks what we might learn from it. Ancient and diverse, both an individual and a community, lichens can live in the most extreme environments, including outer space. This meditative film bridges science and philosophy, and the words of lichenologist Trevor Goward illuminate the terrain in poetic and thought-provoking ways.
Aquí y allá is an essay film that studies what being at home means. The filmmaker uses photographs, maps and Google Earth to connect places around the globe; not just from her own past, but also from the complex migratory history of her family that stretches back to Hitler-era Germany and Mao’s China. Reality and the virtual prove equally confusing: however much you zoom in, you never get closer to home.
Some days are light and some days are heavy.
Available only in the United States
Set in Istanbul’s venerable Cerrahpaşa Hospital, PHASES OF MATTER follows living and inanimate residents of this teaching hospital, moving from the operating room to the morgue, between life and other states, the real and the virtual.
THE COLONY is a story about sisterhood and the evolution of communication in two of the most social creatures on earth: humans and ants. In this film of a live performance, Mona struggles to reconnect with her estranged sister Hennie, and she turns to the ant colony for inspiration. With more than 500,000 ant sisters migrating, raiding, and even reproducing as one superorganism, an army ant colony appears to Mona as the paragon of successful social existence. Informed by scientific research on ant colonies, THE COLONY ventures into speculative fiction and includes projected animations and imagery alongside live spoken and musical performance. Funny, poignant, enlightening, and just the right amount of strange, THE COLONY aims to kindle a sense of awe and understanding of our diverse biological world, while using the ant colony as a lens for understanding the ever-present challenge of human connection.
April 23: seen from a forestry road, a raven takes flight from a stand of pines. Behind it, in the middle of the woods, lies the carcass of a freshly killed deer. Obviously the work of coyotes whose songs can be heard at night. Surveillance cameras are set up awaiting their return. In the meantime, the regular visitors of these scenes come and go: ravens, vultures and other animals passing through. The months go by; the seasons transform the forest. The infrared cameras mechanically record the long parade of fauna that populate the area. By the end of the year, the accumulated images have given shape to a story. In parallel to our world, a deer has disappeared. We remain on the edge, distant witnesses to a continuing cycle. Left on the ground are but few traces, the last clues to an animal rite. Slowly, they are covered over by pine needles.
“Helfer” is about a young woman who is struggling with anxiety and recurring nightmares that she wants to end. She is seeking a helper, who offers an alternative solution, but in the process she must confront her biggest fears. The film details their relationship in a surreal world through symbolic events.
After Chernobyl tragedy, fifty thousand people were forced to leave their hometown Pripyat. Thirty years after the disaster, most of the things from Pripyat is stolen or wasted. One of the few things which has left are pianos, as they were too heavy to move away. Who would believe they are still able to play?
Sharks have gotten a raw deal. But don’t take my word for it, you can hear it right from the source in “Smiles”. This in an inside look into the world of Sharks with interviews from the majestic creatures themselves. They have been portrayed as monsters, lifeless eating machines and in some cases tornadoes of death, and they just want a chance to tell their side of things.
Available only in the United States
When the air-conditioners in the city of Luanda mysteriously began to fall, Matacedo (security guard) and Zezinha (maid) embarked on a mission to retrieve the boss’s AC by the end of the day. This mission leads them to Kota Mino’s electrical supply store, which is secretly assembling a complex memory retrieval machine.
Based on the handwritten accounts of Dr James Niven, public health officer for Manchester, England, this film tells the harrowing true story of the flu that decimated the world’s population immediately after the carnage of World war One. It is estimated that 50 million died in the three waves of infection that followed.
Available only in the United States
ONCE YOU KNOW is the intimate journey of director Emmanuel Cappellin across the abyss of a world at the edge of climate-induced collapse. His voyage into this uncharted territory is that of a whole generation turning to climate scientists, local democracy, grassroots initiatives, and mass rebellion in a courageous search for an exit.
Think this film matters? Please, consider supporting Once You Know’s crowdfunding campaign. Only with your help will the film reach more people: https://chuffed.org/project/extinctionrebellion-onceyouknow
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TESTFILM is a series of projects in which Telcosystems address the impact of new technological developments in digital filmmaking and their implications for the future of artists’ cinema. In TESTFILM #1 they explore the creative possibilities of the Digital Cinema Package (DCP) — the new global infrastructure for film projection in cinemas. By 2015, this digital standard had completely replaced analogue film projection around the world. Could one upset the default behavior of the DCP system and unearth its artistic potential? (A practice that has been an integral part of the history of cinema.) Or is the system designed to exclude any possibility of human intervention? If so, what happens to the history and the future of experimental cinema and the renegades who refuse to play by the rules?
Algeria, 1961. France has just detonated its fourth atomic bomb. A group of seven soldiers is sent to the point of impact to take samples and measure radioactivity. But the further they go, the more the Captain, a war veteran in his fifties, is confronted with the paradoxes of a changing world.
The Xochimilcan Axolotl is an endemic species to Mexico City. It’s currently critically endangered because of water pollution issues. Even though it’s a tiny animal, it’s extinction would affect us all. “Now I’m an Axolotl” tells the story of the demise of the Axolotl, repercussions and possible solutions.
Through interweaving dance and dialogue, Material Bodies is a sensual and cinematic look at the relationship between amputees and their limbs. This visceral and colourful short film explores how a prosthetic leg can be more like a piece of jewellery, a dance companion, or a part of you.
‘It was in 1894 that I first visited Ben Nevis. Young physicists were sometimes welcomed in the Observatory for short periods in the summer to take the place of observers on holiday. I offered myself for this work and it was arranged that I should spend a fortnight on the summit.’
This is Charles Wilson at the beginning of his career. His efforts to recreate atmospheric effects in the lab resulted in the first particle detector: the expansion cloud chamber. The sharp vapour trails of alpha and beta particles made for beautiful graphic pictures. I realised there are no images directly resulting from the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider as the research is based on statistical data. When I learned that the innermost sensor of the CMS detector is actually similar to the construction of a camera, I tried interpreting the data as images. Crude digital counterparts of Wilson’s historical images appeared.
Available only in the United States
A group of people wander over a field at the foot of a cloud-covered mountain range. Here and there, swings have been set up in the broad landscape and the people queue up obediently to sit on them for a few rounds. Sarah Francis returns to this scene again and again. In between, we follow a creation story from the beginnings of humanity to the establishment of religion, culminating in digital clouds that weave together facts and myths surrounding the moon. The moon is the quiet centre of this system; it floats over the people as their constant companion and at the same time becomes their property. From the first lunar landing via territorial partitioning to space as the “final frontier,” the same discourses of power, ownership, territory and nationality that determine life on earth also shape this celestial body. Kama fissamaa’ kathalika ala al-ard is a quiet, understated essay that weaves together images, texts and sounds into a dense mesh of signs. Humans may be at the centre here, but, as part of the universe, they are also infinitesimally small.
In Vitro is set in the aftermath of an eco-disaster. An abandoned nuclear reactor under the biblical town of Bethlehem has been converted into an enormous orchard. Using heirloom seeds collected in the final days before the apocalypse, a group of scientists are preparing to replant the soil above.
In the hospital wing of the underground compound, the orchard’s ailing founder, 70-year-old Dunia is lying in her deathbed, as 30-year-old Alia comes to visit her. Alia is born underground as part of a comprehensive cloning program and has never seen the town she’s destined to rebuild.
A failed marriage. A watchmaker. Meteorites. Time is uncomfortably relative in this Kerala town, and our hero struggles to make the perfect watch to keep up with the times.
Born and raised deep in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin, eighty-six year old fisherman Wilven Hayes has spent a lifetime living off the land. His tenacity and endurance is the stuff of lore. Wilven shares his love for the Atchafalaya as he grapples with the shifting environment of the basin and the conditions that threaten the existence that sustains him. OF THE BASIN is an intimate portrait of a unique environment, and a means to celebrate and honor Wilven Hayes, one of the last fishermen of the Basin.
From the Big-Bang, to understanding our place in the cosmos, we explore the Universe through the imagination of children. “The Universe Within” is a 4 episode series for kids made by kids, and the protagonists explain different astronomical concepts using metaphors invented by them, and create theories for the questions that have not yet been answered by science. Their explanations are illustrated by animations based on their own drawings so we can see how they imagine everything they are telling us about our Universe.
In the episode (The Beginning of the Universe) submitted for this festival, Joaquin (9) asks himself how the Universe began. He narrates a native Tehuelche myth about the Earth’s origins. Then, he explains the Big Bang Theory, using metaphors and drawings of his own. Lastly, he questions the theory and comes up with his own answers.
May 29th, 2019, celebrated 100 years of the eclipse observed from Sobral, in the interior of Ceará, which was the first experimental proof of the Theory of General Relativity, proposed four years before by German physicist Albert Einstein.
Fashion model Hinata wants to get at the bottom of her uneasiness but something is hindering her. A designer gives her advice, a doctor tries to get her attention and all claim to know what she needs. The result of an old trauma seems only to be the tip of the iceberg.
Available only in the United States
In the city water pump there are 8 clams. The lives of millions of people depend on them. In case of contamination of water supply, the clams will close and automatically shut off the water for the city. The main scientist-malacologist watches over the system’s operation.
The film is a philosophical essay on dependence people from nature and the world around them.
An old Cosmonaut lives the same kind of life now in his flat in a concrete panel apartment building as he did in his youth in a space station. As before, he still carries out heroic missions and misses his close relatives, who he left behind on his home planet. His close relatives see the situation altogether differently. Is this old man capable of coming to grips with the norms that apply in society? A cosmonaut will always be a cosmonaut. To the very end.
A group of mourners and a man spat from the depths of Hades build a boat from the debris of New Orleans to rescue their lost loved ones trapped beneath the sea.
A young filmmaker investigates the legend of Manivelle, an automaton gifted to Lebanon in 1945 that still haunts an abandoned mansion in Beirut. After being coaxed back out into the limelight, the people who knew him come forward to speak their mind, and the myth that Manivelle has constructed around himself starts to unravel.
“Metamorphoses” is a documentary on the human need to transform and understand changeable natural reality. The Botanical Garden is a kind of laboratory for an artist, a researcher and a scientist. The changes to its space which they observe make them interact with it. To each of them their actions have a different meaning and bring a different effect. “My mind carries me to speak of bodies changed into new forms” Ovid
Exploration between the characters and the filmmaker. A quest into a universal existential problem, how to inhabit the world. Members of a family leave their home and in the middle of the Cuban Sierra Maestra struggle to find a new one. During this process, they inhabit scenes of routine life in the middle of nature, outside of a closed space between four walls, place and concept they long and project. It concludes with the departure of the patriarch and the already palpable absence of a father with a dark gaze who dreams of going far away from his country in the pursuit of something different, becomes a reality. Contemplative meditation of internal torment.
In Brazil, the inhabitants of Teewald, a German colony founded at the end of the 19th century, are still proud of their Germanic roots. Starting with the text of German-Turkish researcher Ilhami Paker, which uses irony to analyse different migratory movements, the film questions the complex process of constructing a national identity.
Spaces expand or disappear. Oceans become deserts. Rock erodes to sand and dust and human kind is passing by all this. Since the beginning of our existence, we are constantly moving from one place to another, fleeing hunger, war or the forces of nature, but also driven by a sense of longing for change. “At the Bottom of the Sea” traces forms of migration, interweaving them with geological and archaeological cartographies. In magical tableaux, the film draws a cinegraphic melancholy where a border fence is not even useful for a comma on earth’s timeline.
Available only in the United States
“How thin is the human skin? What does it hide behind? The leather bag of apocalypse.”
Bile is an introspective essay on the notion of the human body as political metaphor. Layer-by-layer the film digs down in order to reach answers to the proposed questions: what is body, what is illness and finally, what is death. A journey through the history of medical imaging and a reflection on the recent death of the director’s mother in the decorations of post-Soviet Russia. Getting under the skin of the viewer, the film attempts to comprehend the complex subject of corporeality. The title Bile refers to the physical and mental conditions of the human being. In fact, black bile comes from the old Greek for melancholy: melas cholè.
Wandering between the scientific and the psychedelic, “Earth’s Answer” is a reflection on the meaning of images, their nature and durability (and a homage to the poem “Earth’s Answer” by William Blake).
We follow the thread of the thoughts of a man who could be just well an astrophysicist, CERN archivist or a musician. In his mental and sensorially graphic journey, the narrator leads us in a reflection on the infinitely large and the infinitely small, memory and machines, entropy .. and worlds in formation…
Janus 2155 is 8 minutes video. This video is a scientific fiction that uses images from a real scientific experiment based on a very small optomechanical object. It invites the viewer to follow the production of such an object until its laboratory experience. The narrator’s point of view (voice over in the film) is in the distant future, as if the images we are looking at are the last traces or the scientific archives of the 21st century. One of the main questions of this video is based on the status of the scientist seen as the craftsman of a new world. The question is not what the scientist is producing, rather to understand the place and role of science in the 21st century.
2020 Nobel Prize laureate Emmnauelle Charpentier discusses her hybrid identity, nomadic life and career, jumping off CRISPR-Cas9 to discuss broader elements around mobile elements and migration around the science.
Directed by Alexis Gambis / Cinematography by Yosuke Eddie Hosoi / Editing & Animation by Gergo Vargo / Music by Garreth Chan
Two immigrants recount the changes brought about by their journeys to the U.S., paralleling that of cells migrating in response to a wound.
A living organism to host, extend, connect, and express our senses. The Octopus Network is our attempt to capture the boundless motion of human senses, thoughts, and emotions that are constantly flowing around us — transported over invisible waves that dance to the vibrational rhythm of electromagnetism, one of the four fundamental forces of Nature. We explored the spectrum in which physical boundaries become virtually boundless. During this exploratory journey, we met distant strangers that felt closer than ever. We switched roles, we stretched our senses, we created virtual spaces that gave us a sense of natural equilibrium, collectiveness, togetherness, and sensorial flow.
ISFF13 Symbiosis 2020
Fathom, a unit to measure depth. A medical-science trajectory toward understanding the deep complexity of distorted minds and the perception of the ones who suffer it.
ISFF13 Symbiosis 2020 Winner
How many neurons do you need to recognize your mother? “A Sentimental Science” explores the limitations of our understanding of how our experience is encoded in neural activity.
Nanodoctor — iterations 1 to 3’ is an imaginary promotional film from the near future explaining the migration of information inside living organisms through molecules, and how the real time monitoring of those molecules will allow the diagnosis and rapid resolution of a crisis inside the human body or, in other words, illness. The film then expands on this idea of migration by presenting a reflection on the current reconfiguration of information/misinformation via the internet. How is misinformation disintegrating trust and confidence in science and how is the rapid spread or migration of this misinformation causing real world crisis such as scepticism in medicine, vaccines or climate science?