Sunday, July 15, 2012

Imagine the science of films UCD dublin - a videojournalism futuresm



    Dr Alex Gambis had an idea, and some idea it was. Because three years later he's standing in front of an audience at the Lighthouse cinema in Dublin thanking them for making the Imagine Science Films Festival the success it is.
    Not bad for a project that started during his PhD.Forget the bit where your eyes glaze over; its science after all, or that it has no relevancy. 
    This was highly accessible and awe-inspiring with films, such as The Creator by Al and Al a prodigious award winning film making duo who write their own software programmes for special effects.

    Their latest film is on one of the world's most influential scientists, Alan Turing, who created the computer, as we've come to know it, and died at the tender age of 32 from eating an apple that was poisoned. 
    Steve Jobs, the audience learnt, admitted this was not the inspiration behind his logo.
    Turing, having saved humanity was ostracised for being gay and forced to undergo Jungian analysis and take oestrogen. He grew breasts.
    The debate was a stimulating discussion, in among others, science film making. Brian Greene, a professor in Maths who collaborated with Al and Al provided Hollywood anacdotes. 
    He's been an advisor on many films such as Deja Vu and spoke about is encounter with Hollywood film makers such as Jerry Buckenheimer and Tony Scott.
    After he told them the science, they still wanted to bend the rules. The entertainment business huh!
    My own interest in science is broadly two fold. Firstly I graduated in Applied Chemistry and secondly, my postgrad radio documentary was on Genetics and the human genome project after myself and family became the first test case in the UK to trial Professor Alec Jeffries DNA genetic fingerprinting.
    The Real New World
    Back to the conference, in One Hundred Mornings, a dystopic world devoid of technology becomes the setting for four stranded friends trying to see out their predicament. 
    This was bleak, and a powerful humanist film by Conor Horgan, (follow him on twitter) which in his words asked the question. "What if?"
    What if there was no technology, because there was no electricity and communications, such as tweeter, face book and the rest became null and void? 
    What then? This was a film that attempted that rare thing of not allowing you to park unequivocal unified emotions on one character. 
    In effect, this eschewed the Hollywood model, for the ambiguity of cinema verite - the life you could so easily lead. Watching this in the same week Obama was given executive authority to hit the kill switch on all communications and the Internet, this film is a stark, literally reminder of a future.
    If your acquaintance had the last morsel of food that could aid your survival, would you kill them for that food? 
    This tied in with an ensuing panel on the closing night which featured empathy as a theme and the panel  included the social entrepreneur, who when asked by a psychiatrist in the audience what she did, replied that her success was measured on completing social projects.
    Empathetic storytelling
    For the story tellers, here's one question I sought an answer. Can you be not be empathetic and tell great stories?  Film maker Alex Gabbay's ambitious and well made film addressed a larger question. Critics called this type of cinematic documentary, the New Talkies.
    Educationist love it, but broadcasters as Gabbay noted find them challenging. The audience somehow to the commissioner is still a luddite. Shame that! 
    But given Obama, mentioned in the film raised the stakes, when he spoke about needing empathy and was vilified on what appears to be a misunderstanding. Obama was not talking about sympathy, but empathy, we're likely to hear more about this particularly with an election looming.
    My query to the panel drew an interesting response from Gabbay in that news makers turn of empathy and as a former news producer/ reporter there's much in this.
    Sadly before others could get in their stride, the chair, broadcaster barrister Cynthia ni Mhurchu clumsily steered the question away to empathy and the affect on her children  - the only Achilles otherwise.
    Videojournalism, through my study, which should hopefully be released is all about empathy, but with a significant set of caveats, which I am looking forward to discussing in Tunisia and Cairo where I have been invited to lecture and train story tellers.
    Journalists tend to be less empathetic compared with documentary makers, and the future suggests we need more empathy in telling stories, which is problematic for the News-Macdonald industry of shovel the news out, or not.
    Two days ago, there were some of the biggest demonstrations in Spain and Mexico about austerity, but they went largely unreported.
    This was indeed a thought provoking event which I don't doubt that next year wherever the science festival is hosted will be even better. Like I said not bad for a Phd thesis and science films look like there on the up. Time to dust off my Kenneth W. Raymond.
    David Dunkley Gyimah graduated in Applied Chemistry, before pursuing Economics and then Journalism. He is a former BBC Journalist and is completing his PhD in storytelling. He is  presently a senior lecturer, and artist-in-residence at the Southbank Centre. You can find out more about his work, in videojournalism, and his designs including his website below here