28 August 2008

Science film awards celebrate excellence

Cosmos Online
Science documentary filmmaking was celebrated in Brisbane this week as the 2008 SCINEMA Festival of Science Film came to a close, and the winners of the international competition component were announced.
Kristian Lang and Wilson da Silva

Winner of the Best Student Film trophy, Kristian Lang (right), with Jury Chairman Wilson da Silva of COSMOS. Credit: Tina McCarthy

BRISBANE: Science documentary filmmaking was celebrated in Brisbane this week as the 2008 SCINEMA Festival of Science Film came to a close, and the winners of the international competition component were announced.

“We were thrilled by the high calibre of films we had to choose from this year,” said Wilson da Silva, chairman of the SCINEMA Jury after announcing the winners of the 8th festival at a rooftop party at Queensland Museum in South Bank, held to mark the close of a successful National Science Week.

Scottish film The Colour of Sound took out Best Film trophy “for the engaging way it conveyed a whole tapestry of science,” fellow judge Anna Littleboy of the CSIRO told the crowd.

Local filmmaker Vickie Guest was on-hand to accept her award for organ-donation documentary “Over My Dead Body”, and told Festival guests she was thrilled to have her film recognised.

Australia’s ABC TV took out three categories in the internationally competitive film festival, which received over 150 entries from 31 countries.

ABC TV takes the lead

Fillmmaker Richard Smith was named Best Director for his study of the journey of oil from its birth in the prehistoric past to its role in our greenhouse future, Crude, while Rory McGuinness took Best Cinematography for The Big Blue centred on the majestic blue whales, and producer/director Klaus Toft took the gong for Best Science Television for Thunderheads, a fast-paced and exciting documentary following a novel cloud-borne experiment.

The Jury noted that both The Big Blue and Thunderheads were among the final films produced by ABC TV’s Natural History Unit, a Melbourne-based powerhouse of documentary excellence which was disbanded by the national broadcaster earlier this year.

A young Victorian filmmaker, Kristian Lang, took Best Student Film for his 3rd grade class project Photosynthesis: How It Works.

Aside from Kristian’s age and aside from the film’s technical assurance, SCINEMA Festival Director Cris Kennedy announced to the party while presenting Kristian with his trophy, “the film got to the essence of successful science communication, which is to condense complex issues into a vehicle that explains science simply, and in a fun way.”

Kristian’s parents, who had flown with him from Melbourne, were on hand to watch the 10-year-old Ascot Vale Primary School student receive his first international film festival prize.

International winners

Other Festival winners included Spain’s Pablo Garcia-Lopez who took the Best Animation or Experimental trophy for his short film Expedition to the Brain, while the U.S. production The Brain Fitness Program took the Award for Scientific Merit.

The awards night brought the 2008 SCINEMA Festival of Science Film to a close. In its eighth year, the festival screened in 150 cities across Australia, as well as some sites in India, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

A partnership between CSIRO and COSMOS magazine, the Festival runs under the support of the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science and Research through its National Science Week program. Judges for this year’s awards included Susan Faulkner of Ronin Films, Anna Littleboy of the CSIRO as well as Cris Kennedy and Damian Harris (CSIRO) and Wilson da Silva, editor-in-chief of COSMOS and Cosmos Online.

The winners of the 2008 SCINEMA Festival of Science Film were:

Best Film: The Colour of Sound (Scotland)
Producer: Karen Smyth Director: Vince Hunter for La Belle Allee Productions
An exploration of the crucial role sound plays in our lives.
What the Jury said: “This was a beautifully shot, contemporary and relevant study of a whole tapestry of science, that was engagingly told.”

Best Director: Richard Smith for Crude (Australia)
ABC TV Science Unit
Crude is the story of the incredible journey of oil, from its birth in the prehistoric past to its role in our greenhouse future.
What the Jury said: “An ambitious ride through a spectrum of sciences, from history, palaeontology, geology and the atmospheric sciences, in a rollicking cauldron of sights and sounds.”

Best Cinematography: Rory McGuinness for The Big Blue (Australia)
Producer: Jeni Clevers, ABC TV
This blue-chip documentary reveals the secrets of the planet’s largest living creature, the Blue Whale.
What the Jury said: “A feast for the eyes focussing on one of our least-known treasures.”

Best Experimental or Animation: Expedition to the Brain (Spain)
Producer & Director: Pablo Garcia-Lopez
An animated journey, using Cajal’s original historical slides about the discovery of neurons.
What the Jury said: “The film explored the human brain as a Fantastic Voyage into a microscopic world that touched on the history of neuroscience, with an individual style that owed a debt to be Cajal and Jules Verne.”

Best Student Film: Photosynthesis: How It Works (Australia)
Producer and Director: Kristian Lang, Ascot Vale Primary School
A simple look at how photosynthesis works, made for the filmmaker’s 3rd grade class.
What the Jury said: “Aside from Kristian’s age – 10- and aside from the film’s technical assurance, the film got to the essence of successful science communication, which is to condense complex issues into a vehicle that explains science simply, and in a fun way.”

Best Science Television: Thunderheads (Australia)
Producer & Director Klaus Toft for ABC TV
Thunderheads follows an intrepid group of storm-chasers into the heart of a thunder storm to look for the role clouds play in climate change.
What the Jury said: “A film that gave you a sense for what science should be about – a quest, adventure, passion, perseverance and collaboration. This is what science television should be.”

Award for Scientific Merit: Brain Fitness Program (USA)
Producer: Lennlee Keep Director: Eli Brown for Santa Fe Productions
Based on the concept of neuroplasticy, the Brain Fitness Program shows the power of the brain to change, adapt and rewire itself.
What the Jury said: “For tackling a very new area of neuroscience – a confident film that covered its science well and left you with a sense of hope.”

Prix du Jury: Over My Dead Body (Australia)
Producer: Vickie Guest Director: Ian Walker for VizPoets
Stripped down to its sellable parts, the recycled human body can be repackaged and sold for around $200,000. Skin and bone form the dead are part of a new resources boom.
What the Jury said: “This film tells a challenging and important story in an offbeat way that engages the viewer and conveys the importance of organ donation.”

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