Science Films At DOCNYC

The annual documentary film festival DOCNYC will present its 2020 edition online, accessible by all of the United States, from November 11-19. From the over 200 films that comprise the program, 12 of the feature documentaries take on scientific topics. They are listed below, with descriptions quoted from DOCNYC programmers.

AN IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT, directed by Jens Meurer
“After Polaroid acknowledges the ascendancy of digital and announces it would shut down its last factory in 2008, eccentric Austrian scientist Dr. Florian Kaps becomes a man with a mission: to replicate the company’s famously complicated formula and revive interest in instant photography. But passion alone can’t make up for a lack of business acumen. Banding with other admirers of the analog past, he attempts to pull off the seemingly impossible—and make the world fall in love with real things again.”

RED HEAVEN, directed by Lauren DeFilippo and Katherine Gorringe
“What do humans need to be happy, healthy, and sane? A crew of six non-astronauts from all over the world, chosen for their ability to survive isolation, embark on a one-year mission in the Mars simulation station in Hawai’i in order to provide much-needed research for the future of space exploration. Survive, experiment, exercise, collect data, shoot, file surveys… repeat. How does their mood and mental health change over time in this prescient exploration of self-imposed quarantine?”

BABY GOD, directed by Hannah Olson
“For decades, Las Vegas fertility specialist Dr. Quincy Fortier was celebrated for helping thousands of couples have babies. His secret? Impregnating women with his own sperm, unbeknownst to them. Using a consumer DNA test, a woman discovers that Dr. Fortier is her biological father, setting in motion a quest to find her many half-siblings. Filmmaker Hannah Olson chronicles their struggle to understand the truth about themselves and the unusual man who fathered them all.”


IN SILICO, directed by Noah Hutton
“Director Noah Hutton embarks on a 10-year project following a visionary neuroscientist’s quest to build a computer simulation of a brain. With unprecedented access to the inner workings of a multimillion-dollar scientific project led by Henry Markram and a roster of characters that involves the who’s who of neuroscience, the audience is led on a journey that poses provocative philosophical, ethical, and scientific questions.”

TELEVISION EVENT, directed by Jeff Daniels
“On November 20, 1983, ABC-TV broadcast The Day After, a chilling fictional account of the aftermath of a nuclear war on a small Kansas town. More than 100 million viewers turned in, making it the highest-rated made-for-TV film in history. This came after weeks of buildup and, behind-the-scenes, intense controversy extending all the way to a White House in the midst of a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. With impressive access to the principals involved with the project and a trove of archival footage, Jeff Daniels revisits the improbable story of this anti-nuclear major television event and the impact it left on the Reagan era and beyond.”

LANDFALL, directed by Cecilia Aldarondo
“An intimate and lyrical portrait of trauma, resilience, and resistance in Puerto Rico at a time when economic, political, and ecological forces post-Hurricane María have created a breeding ground for new predatory colonial practices. Told through the experiences of a close-knit community of hopeful and politicized people and through the encounters with cryptocurrency traders, luxury real estate developers, and newcomers flooding the island, Cecilia Aldarondo’s film raises vital questions about identity, survival, and recolonization.”

THE REASON I JUMP, directed by Jerry Rothwell
“Based on the groundbreaking book written by Naoki Higashida when he was only 13 years old, this extraordinary film takes viewers on a sonic dive into the interior worlds and fascinating daily experience of the lives of five nonverbal autistic young people. Luminous and exquisitely wrought, this sensitive and empathic multi-portrait offers a highly cinematic portal into a rich human experience that will be new, profound, and illuminating for many.”

READ MORE: Disaster, Recovery, and Resistance: Cecilia Aldarondo on LANDFALL

ORIGINS OF THE SPECIES, directed by Abigail Child
“Abigail Child has been at the vanguard of experimental media since the 1980s. In her latest project, she offers viewers an eerie and exciting look into the present and future of artificial intelligence through the perspectives of robotics scientists, entrepreneurs, and a Black lesbian robot named BINA48. Exploring AI’s design, potential medical applications, and exploitation in the arena of sexual fantasies, Child’s thought-provoking film considers the emerging technology’s ethical and emotional implications, presenting a speculative not-too-distant future grounded in sci-fi.”

76 DAYS, directed by Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, and Anonymous
“Filmed in Wuhan, China by an independent crew, 76 Days covers the length of the city’s lockdown for COVID-19. The film’s suspenseful pacing and otherworldly imagery make it feel like a science-fiction thriller. The heroes are the front-line hospital workers who still manage to find humanity and humor even while fully encased behind PPE. Debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival, 76 Days was widely praised as “utterly compelling” (The Atlantic), “invaluable” (Rolling Stone), and “one of the best” at TIFF (The New York Times).”


WUHAN WUHAN, directed by Gong Cheng and Yung Chang
“When COVID-19 broke out in Wuhan, China, the city went on a lockdown, making it difficult to get a clear sense of what was happening. Award-winning filmmaker Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze) teams with a group of intrepid videographers to capture life at the epicenter of the pandemic. The portraits include a couple expecting a baby, quarantined families in a byzantine shelter, medical workers, and a psychologist. In a time when the world needs greater cross-cultural understanding, Wuhan Wuhan is an invaluable depiction of a metropolis joining together to overcome a crisis.”

MEDICINE MAN: THE STAN BROCK STORY, directed by Paul Michael Angell
“A whirlwind of a life takes Stan Brock to the Amazonian ranches of South America and around the world as a nature-television presenter. An incident at his hacienda in Guyana spurs the Englishman to pursue his true life’s work: providing healthcare to those in need. In this profile, Brock fights for Americans’ right to healthcare, as his nonprofit, Remote Area Medical, provides thousands of individuals with much-needed free medical and dental care through pop-up clinics.”

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