Science + Cinema initiative pairs scientists and filmmakers

Oct. 21 event to be held during the Chicago International Film Festival

Lisa La Vallee
Director of CommunicationsOffice of the Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories

The University of Chicago, together with the Chicago Council on Science and Technology, the Chicago International Film Festival, Columbia College Chicago Cinema Art + Science and other regional partners, has launched a new science film initiative that involves special programming and the introduction of special divisions in the 2015 festival for narrative and documentary films with science-related themes.

The kickoff event, “Science + Cinema: New Screen Frontiers,” will include clips and commentary from a galvanizing panel of prize-winning filmmakers and scientists, including UChicago faculty members Peggy Mason, professor of neurobiology; and Mark Oreglia, professor in physics. The scientist/filmmaker teams will talk about their collaborations and the potential film has to bring attention to scientific research and advancements. The program will include a meet-and-greet with filmmakers and scientists looking to collaborate on future projects. The discussion will be followed by a brainstorming session—a chance for scientists to share their own big-screen experiments and to network with potential collaborators.

The event will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 21 on the eighth floor of Film Row Cinema, Columbia College Chicago, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Register here for film tickets.

“We are very pleased to be involved in this exciting new effort,” said Donald Levy, vice president for Research and for National Laboratories, and member of C2ST’s board of directors. “Film is a powerful medium for telling stories about the impact of science in our everyday lives. By partnering with other research institutions, C2ST and the Chicago International Film Festival, we hope to connect filmmakers and scientists across the nation who will go on to create future science-based films that educate the public and inspire young people to pursue careers in science.”

Following are the film sections that will be discussed:

Head Games
Head Games will be discussed by Peggy Mason, professor of neurology at UChicago; and filmmaker Bruce Sheridan, professor and chair of Columbia College Chicago’s department of Cinema Art + Science. “Head Games lays out the history of head trauma, concussions and the NFL within the context of other organized and professional sports. Watching the film, I was struck by the rapid progress in awareness and knowledge that has been made from 2006, when dementia pugilistica was thought to be a rare issue for a small number of ex-boxers,” said Mason. “Back then, having your clock rung during sports was just a fact of life and rite of passage. The reality of how devastating hits to the head can be is brought home as the viewer painfully watches a relatively young retired football player struggle to name the months of the year in order.”

Terra Incognita
Terra Incognita’s dialogue will be held by Maria Finitzo, director and producer of the film; and John Kessler, the current chair of Northwestern University’s department of neurology and clinical neurological sciences. Terra Incognita features the story of Kessler and his daughter Allison, an undergraduate student at Harvard University. When Kessler’s 15-year-old daughter Allison was injured in a skiing accident and paralyzed from the waist down, he decided to change the focus of his research to look for a cure for spinal cord injuries using embryonic stem cells.

The Believers
A conversation about The Believers will take place between Mark Oreglia, professor in physics at UChicago; Clayton Brown, the executive director and producer; and Monica Ross, the artistic director. “The Believers focuses on scientific passion...and frailty,” said Oreglia. “What can make rational scientists with a good track record pursue an idea like cold fusion in spite of growing evidence to the contrary? How can celebrated scientific elders turn young colleagues away from their better judgment?”