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The Citizen Recommends: Science on Screen

Bryn Mawr Film Institute kicked off its 2nd spotlight on the sciences this week

Bryn Mawr Film Institute kicked off its 2nd spotlight on the sciences this week

What do you get when you mix dinosaurs, the deaf, chess, technology, dance and a beloved Main Line movie theater? A science-themed film festival, of course.

Starting this week, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute is running its second Science on Screen program, an initiative that brings science-themed movies of all kinds to theaters throughout the U.S. For the next couple of weeks, BMFI will air a lineup of popular films, documentaries, short films, and a “mockumentary” too. All films will open with introductions by notable figures with scientific backgrounds, and include post-film discussions and activities. The last time BMFI held the program was 2013.

Last year, 36 theaters aired 130 films as part of the effort, which gets its funding from The Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The hope is not to treat science as something abstract and obscure, but rather as something that tells us more about ourselves and the world we experience around us,” says Mazer.

The hope is not to treat science as something abstract and obscure, but rather as something that tells us more about ourselves and the world we experience around us,” says Jacob Mazer, BMFI’s special programming manager.

This year’s roster includes Jurassic Park, Computer Chess, a Deaf Short Films Program and Over the Limit. The Jurassic Park screening included a post-film discussion led by the famous science writer Don “Dino” Lessem, who advised Steven Spielberg on creating accurate dinosaurs during the film’s production.

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Jurassic Park may be the most well-known of the films, but Mazer is confident that the lesser-known ones will be hits too; he highly recommends Over the Limit on May 2nd, a sports documentary that follows Russian rhythmic gymnast Margarita Mamun as she trains for the 2016 Olympic Games. The documentary focuses on the mental struggles that often come with  relentless athletic training regimens. After the screening, Polina Kozitskiy of the Philadelphia Rhythmic Academy and sports psychologist Dr. Joel Fish will lead a discussion about the psychology of athletic training.

The Deaf Short Films Program on April 25th is a series of short films made by deaf artists and starring deaf actors, which spans comedy, romance, drama and more. American Sign Language and spoken English translations will be available for all audiences.

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“The world of deaf cinema is not that well recognized in the greater cinema landscape, but that’s an injustice—it’s a world with an incredible wealth of talent, and tons of excellent directors and performers,” Mazer says. “BMFI aspires to be a space for the community, and that includes the local deaf and hard-of-hearing population.” Melissa Draganac-Hawk of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf will lead the post-film discussions.

Computer Chess, screening on April 18th, is a mockumentary about a tournament between computer programs playing chess. Set in the 1980’s, it was shot on analog video cameras to more authentically capture the 80s aesthetic. Dr. Frank Lee, Director of Drexel University’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio, will stay for a post-film question-and-answer session.

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For those on the fence about which ones to check out, Mazer offers these Rotten Tomatoes-worthy summaries: “Computer Chess is about our relationship to technology, something that’s part of all our lives. The Deaf Shorts Program is deeply engaged with various types of expression and communication. Over the Limit is about the psychological dimension of sports. Jurassic Park is about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are cool.”

So is science…and film—making the intersection of the two even cooler.

Thursday, April 18 to Thursday, May 2, $12.50 for adults, $8 for children under 18, and $10 for seniors over 65, 824 West Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr

Photo via Bryn Mawr Film

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