SCINEMA International Science Film Festival has brought the world of science and the magic of cinema together for another year.
Founded in 2000, the film festival has showcased science cinema to the world for more than 20 years.
From short films and experimental animations to scientific documentaries and films that make a social impact, the variety of films in this year’s festival provided a diverse and relevant mix of topics that currently face the world around us.
Running from August 1 to 31 each year, the festival shifted to an online format in 2020, broadening the reach for science film makers from all over the world.
The festival, which is operated by the Royal Institution of Australia, was founded with the aim of forging links between the sciences and the arts and accepts entries from all over the world.
To catch the science film festival before it wraps up for 2023, head to scinema.org.au
2023 SCINEMA winners:
Best Documentary/Film: Fields of Devotion, directed by Dena Katzen Seidel, Micah Seidel, United States.
Best Short Film: The Underground Astronaut, directed by Marleine van der Werf, Netherlands.
Award for Scientific Merit: Fungi: Web of Life, directed by Joseph Nizeti and Gisela Kaufmann.
Best Experimental/Animation: Wrought, directed by Joel Penner and Anna Sigrithur, Canada.
Best Online Format: Why do I always spill my coffee? directed by Rob Key, United Kingdom.
Indigenous/First Nations Award: Mamody, The Last Baobab Digger, directed by Cyrille Cornu, France.
SCINEMA Junior: Bee The Solution, directed by Charlotte Quintanar, United States.
Social Impact Award: Digital Energy Futures, directed by Sarah Pink, Australia.
Best Documentary/Film: Fields of Devotion, directed by Dena Katzen Seidel, Micah Seidel – United States
Fields of Devotion took out best documentary, with judges commenting “this film has it all in one tightly produced package – taking us from a very real world dilemma (reliable sourcing of food, especially in light of climate change), through laboratory and field trials to a successful solution.”
The example of sweet basil production in North America serves as an example of possibilities for other foods (and medicines) elsewhere around the world.
First-person narration – by industry and scientific experts – is broken only at the end when the interviewer asks why the scientists do what they do. This clever intrusion delivers a personal insight into the importance of science and scientists collaborating with industries in solving emerging global problems.
Best Short Film: The Underground Astronaut, directed by Marleine van der Werf – Netherlands.
Best short film went to The Underground Astronaut. The film is unique and original in the way it sheds light on complex soil fungi networks that few people would be aware of.
Judges said the film uses innovative audio and visual storytelling techniques to engage the senses, creating a vivid sense of these hidden networks underneath our feet.
This highly-engaging film gets the viewer thinking about intricate soil fungi networks and their crucial role in the broader ecosystem.
It raises questions about how these fungi will be impacted by climate change, and what role they can play in maintaining soil systems and the greater environments.
Award for Scientific Merit: Fungi: Web of Life, directed by Joseph Nizeti and Gisela Kaufmann.
Winning the award for scientific merit, Fungi: Web of Life explores the world of fungi, their vital role in ecosystems, and their potential applications.
A captivating and visually stunning film, judges said the film “exemplifies a narrative film making approach that is compelling, credible, engaging, and inspiring”.
The film fosters an understanding and appreciation of science while provoking action on environmental conservation and celebrates the beauty and diversity of fungi and leaves the audience with a sense of wonder and hope for the future.
Social Impact Award: Digital Energy Futures, directed by Sarah Pink – Australia.
The social impact award went to the team behind Digital Energy Futures.
Judges said the film articulates the many and varied ways in which technology and AI are shaping how we monitor, store and use energy.
But the film does not necessarily set out to ‘solve’ our energy puzzle, rather collecting and displaying the pieces to reflect wider scientific mechanisms at play: societal and housing trends, the endless possibilities of new technology, market forces and consumerism, policymaking, and even the shaping forces of climate change and public health events. We learn that the science of energy use is a multifaceted thing, and deeply personal.
Viewers might find some of their own energy eccentricities and preferences reflected back at them through the subjects in the film. Even if they don’t, the benefits and drawbacks of each tech-related choice is unpacked in a way that is relatable and insightful.
Above all else, Digital Energy Futures is a film that is designed to engage the viewer. It invites us to consider our own lives, our choices, the daily systems and habits we rely on, and exactly what degree of innovation we’re willing to accept.
The accounts given by the families featured act as both window and a mirror, and show that energy use is a personal subject. Learning how different – or similar – your life and preferences are to someone else’s evokes an emotional reaction, or at least a state of contemplation. This film is a great example of that.
Best Experimental/Animation: Wrought, directed by Joel Penner and Anna Sigrithur – Canada.
Taking the 2023 Best Experimental film or animation was the visually stunning short film, Wrought.
Wrought takes us on a journey through the often-overlooked world of decay. Exposing various aspects of transformation and their functionment through absolutely stunning imagery.
Judges said it is a tastefully orchestrated venture that leaves you mesmerised as it flows from composition to composition with ease.
We are shown the beauty of change through processes we usually dread or disgust, which does a tremendous job at shifting the perspective and piquing interest.
In our current plastic-filled and technology-focused world, this resonates particularly strongly and allows us to reconsider the natural steps that are essential to the cycle of life.
Wrought asks interesting questions and provides even more interesting answers. Its subject is universal and presented under its best light. Highly nourishing food for thought, just don’t let it sit too long.
Best Online Format: Why do I always spill my coffee? Directed by Rob Key – United Kingdom.
The highly engaging short clip, Why do I always spill my coffee? won this year’s film for best online format.
The two-minute film brings the scientific principles of frequency and resonance into the very real world of coffee drinkers.
It is easy and fun to watch with personal narration and simple graphics explaining why it’s easy to spill coffee when walking, and ways to avoid it.
The audience is invited to comment and participate further by doing their own experiment with coffee. This could open the door to an exploration of more scientific principles via other clips from the same producer.
Indigenous/First Nations Award: Mamody, The Last Baobab Digger, directed by Cyrille Cornu –France.
The award for best Indigenous/First Nations science film went to Mamody, The Last Baobab Digger.
A beautifully produced film, Mamody, The Last Baobab Digger tells the gentle story of Mamody and his community in the Madagascan plateau – explaining through personal anecdote and first-hand observation the vital relationship between the people, the scarce rain that falls each year and the precious baobab trees they have used as water tanks for more than a century.
Through the story of Mamody and his community, the audience gains an appreciation for the ecology of the Madagascar plateau, especially the baobab tree. The viewer gets to learn things we would otherwise not know about the collection and use of water by the people of the plateau and its arid forests.
SCINEMA Junior: Bee The Solution, directed by Charlotte Quintanar – United States.
Aimed at the youngest of aspiring filmmakers, SCINEMA Junior is for films that are created and produced by those who are 17 years or younger.
Bee the Solution, A compelling and informative student film by Charlotte Quintanar, is this year’s SCINEMA Junior winner.
With a clear structure and stunning visuals, Bee the Solution fosters understanding of bee decline and encourages action to support the vulnerable pollinators.
It is an engaging and educational science film that the judges say will have an impact. The film’s emotional appeal and expert commentary make it impactful and trustworthy, with an excellent choice of expert cast.
The close-up framing of the bees and their environment creates an emotional response by creating audience empathy with the bees, and a concern for their health and appreciation of the natural world.
There are a range of experts who provide their commentary, and the positive steps that are given can be followed by the audience. There are both emotional and logical arguments provided for ensuring the health of the bee population, and the soundtrack complements the film well too, with a mixture of the recognisable “Flight of the Bumblebee” to a sombre reflection when the consequences of a bee-less environment is shown – an evocative scenario that we want to avoid.
That’s a wrap for 2023
While that’s a wrap for SCINEMA 2023, we look forward to bringing science films to the world audience again in August 2024.
SCINEMA’s goal is to celebrate the power of the moving image to inspire the young, satisfy the curious, explain the baffling and ask the impossible.
Any member of the public can host their own SCINEMA Community Screening for free during August in support of National Science Week!
Whether it’s at your school, library, in your local pub or even in your lounge room, you can host your own public or private event. All you need is a screen, computer, access to the internet and an audience (popcorn optional).
For more on how to get involved, head to the SCINEMA website.