Imagine Science in Dublin
The beauty of Dublin took me by surprise. Like many, my only previous experience of this energetic city was a stag night many years ago – a booze fuelled descent focussed more on being very, very male than on taking in the city.
Through more sober eyes, Dublin is a refreshing surprise, an antidote to London’s green but sometimes terse attitude. The Liffey, the river running through Dublin, affords endless waterside strolls; the people are fantastically warm, exuding a powerful confidence. More than anything, the place just feels alive.
An appropriate location, then, for the first European foray of the Imagine Science Festival – a yearly film festival usually at home on the other side of the Atlantic. And on its inaugural visit, I had the honour of judging the entrants.
It’s hard to avoid cliché here, but judging is hard: out of the 80 or so films being considered, it’s relatively straightforward to select around 20 that you like. But then you need to shortlist five. Five! In the end, alongside the others in the judging panel, weeks and months of other peoples’ work becomes a considered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ until we have, at last, the merry winners.
In addition to the festival’s main judging session, a mini-judging session focussed on the films made by a collaboration called Science Expression, in which UCD Research and film students from The National Film School, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology brought filmmakers and scientists together to make new films inspired by science. All the films shone but one, Invisible, was a corker and, I’m pleased to say, the other judges agreed.
After screening all of the five shortlistees from Science Expression, myself and the other judges sat before a full cinema to discuss the role of film in science communication, a subject met with great enthusiasm from both the public and a hardened ‘scicom’ crowd who’d taken a moment away from The Euroscience Open Forum to join us.
At the close of the festival, the overall winners were announced. This year, the two stand out films were The Periodic Table Table, a wonderfully quirky film and a beautiful and poetic animated short called, Slow Derek. Both films just nailed the essence of science filmmaking: fun, inspiring, entertaining.
In The Periodic Table Table, the childlike enthusiasm of the fatherly Theo Gray is impossible to resist as he explains the origins and evolution of his unique piece of furniture, a table containing the essence of the chemical universe.
Slow Derek follows the titular character in a voyage of awakening as his humdrum existence is shattered by the discovery of a remarkable fact about this dynamic planet.
Of the rest, a cinematic highlight for me was The Creator, Al and Al’s film about Alan Turing, a hero of mine. A fusion of CG, live action, poetry and abstract sci-fi, it’s a mind-blowing experience and, quite rightly, is attracting oodles of attention.
At the end of the festival, I grabbed the festival’s Founder and Artistic Director, Alexis Gambis, for an impromptu interview:
For me this festival is a miracle of curation. From the roving Google Cinema to an eclectic night of electronically enhanced music, from documentaries to sci-fi, from animation to feature films. Even James Watson showed up for a screening of Life Story! This festival simply hits every note perfectly. It’s not about didactic filmmaking, educational films and worthy ‘learning’, it’s all about storytelling and inspiring, it’s all about science being an integral part of the story.