Science at Sundance: Tomisin Adepeju’s The Right Choice

At the start of Tomisin Adepeju’s short THE RIGHT CHOICE, the three characters are happy. A married couple sits together on a couch, holding hands, facing a purple lipsticked woman there to help them make a baby. This is the age of designer babies, when everything from skin color to sexual preference can be predetermined. Written by Vijay Varman (who also produced), THE RIGHT CHOICE turns grim as the counselor sardonically produces statistics about each potential choice to the progressively uneasy couple.

The sequencing of the human genome in 2003 has led to a number of technologies which makes THE RIGHT CHOICE a vision of a slippery slope into eugenics. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis can be used in clinics to select for embryos which are then implanted via in vitro fertilization. The tool is used to screen for diseases, but it is possible to select for a phenotypic trait such as height. With the introduction of CRISPR Cas-9 gene editing technology in 2013, it is now possible to alter the DNA of embryos–existing genes can be edited out or new ones inserted.

THE RIGHT CHOICE makes its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20 in Shorts Program 5, and plays through January 25. The film stars Michelle Greenidge, Krystine Atti, and Obi Iwumene. It is one of 17 short films in the Festival and one of four from the UK. Director Tomisin Adepeju has been nominated for Best Emerging Short Film Director by the Screen Nation Digital Media Awards which celebrates black British media makers.

For more on gene editing on screen, see Lynn Herhsman Leeson’s TEKNOLUST and watch her discuss it with Columbia University’s chair of biological sciences Stuart Firestein.