“Science on Screen” film series.
All movies from 7pm at Digital Gym Cinema
This presentation is part of Dissecting Visions of Identity and Care in the Future, a four-part film series made possible by the Sloan Foundation’s Science on Screen initiative. Each film will be paired with a guest speaker.
May 9: Children of Men (May 9)
May 16: “Technolust”
May 23: “Coded Bias”
May 30: “Safe”
This week Digital Gym Cinema launched a film series called Science on Screen. The first film is Children of Men by Alfonso Cuaron. The series is part of Dissecting Visions of Identity and Care in the Future. Each film will be paired with a guest speaker.
Screen Science uses cinematic futures to explore a current range of issues from race to artificial intelligence.
‘Children of Man’
Refugee studies researcher Şevin Sağnıç will be the guest speaker presenting Children of the People on May 9.
“When I first saw the movie years ago, it was just a futuristic sci-fi movie,” Sağnıç said. “Now that I look at it as someone who studies refugee migration, it’s even more amazing. But it’s no longer futuristic or science fiction. Even though it’s set in a dystopian future, it’s pretty much a reality for millions of people today, and I’m really interested in discussing that with the audience.”
Sağnıç studies international migration with an emphasis on refugee migration as well as gender and how women and people of color are ignored in migration data.
One thing that struck her about the film was the normalized violence depicted in the background.
“You see people in the cells, in the subways, in the stations, and it’s such a normal thing. People are just walking around,” Sanich said. “It was something that was very dystopian or maybe kind of past for us, but it’s happening today in our most liberal modern societies, with children, with people of color, with undocumented migrants, with refugees. So it was kind of science fiction, but now it’s reality. And when you look at these refugee camps, the refugee camp in the movie, how overcrowded it is, how inhumane the conditions are, and how people are actually left to fend for themselves, it’s a shame that this is the reality for millions of people today.”
But the film is not without hope, and the film’s narrative can make audiences sympathize more with the people it portrays.
“It makes us empathize more and maybe look deep within ourselves to understand what brings us hope,” added Sagnic. “That’s one of the main questions the film deals with. There’s all this despair and hopelessness, and within this violence and the terrible conditions they’re subjected to, they’re trying to make sense of what’s going on and find what it means for them to have hope for the future. And very cleverly, the boat they’re on is called Tomorrow. So what brings hope, what brings a reliable tomorrow for us is the question I really want to discuss with the audience. “
Teknolust (2002) ORIGINAL TRAILER
Next week’s Teknolust stars Tilda Swinton as scientist Rosetta Stone, who creates three self-replicating automatons that she clones from her own DNA. But in order to survive, they need the male Y chromosome found in sperm, and deception ensues. The theme proposed by the series is: “Personal Encryption: The IRL Performance of Identity and Sexuality in a URL (Exploring how the anonymity of web spaces allows people to express gender, sexuality, race, and desire more openly.”
And that totally intrigued guest speaker Max Shaffer. They are in UCSD’s Integrative Studies program, where they combine music technology and gender studies. They saw the film as ahead of the curve when it came out in 2002.
“Maybe parts of it have this kind of fun hacker aesthetic from the 2000s,” Shaffer said. “It’s like parts of it feel absurd, but it’s also kind of on the nose of the questions that are being asked everywhere, from the AI talk to the genetic engineering questions around CRISPR.” So it feels a little bit like a hacker movie or a post-‘Matrix’ movie. And it does it in that kind of artsy but low-budget kind of way. But at the same time, it presents some pretty serious questions around these concepts like: Can you patent life? Can you you’re patenting a genome, which people are you still trying to actually figure out if you can do? Can you have something like these children born by accident from something like AI technology, from genome technology that maybe reaches a level of humanity that makes you you wonder if you’re even allowed to parent him or if he’s allowed to control him.”
Shaffer, who will speak in the film through one of their online avatars, also sees the idea of anonymity coming into the film.
“It goes into anonymity in an interesting way,” Shaffer said. “In the sense that the characters are almost anonymous because they have many bodies, if that makes sense. It’s not like everyone goes out wearing a mask. It’s not like a digital avatar. They’re sort of nameless, but they’re all sort of clones. So, I think it’s something interesting to look at, especially in the context of what I do, which is a lot of appearing in different places, as different bodies, as different people. What does it mean to have that kind of flexibility to maybe explore yourself? Can you have a bunch of different ways of existing at the same time without them having to be different characters? Can they all be contained in one being, yet exist in the world at once? Kind of like these clones that I think a lot of us are used to in a lot of ways, especially with digital forms, but even before that just from our ability to code-switch or move between communities or whatever.”
As someone who works in the field of gender studies, Shaffer is also interested in the gender fluidity of the enigmatic Swinton in the realm of film.
“Fluidity is an interesting concept in the film, because at the same time that there are very fluid movements in sexuality, there’s also a very clear sort of biologically driven, hetero timeline that goes on,” Shaffer said. “All the characters find some man in the world to be with, and they need the biological matter to sustain themselves. So, on the one hand, there’s this very rigid, almost biological view of it. But on the other hand, there’s this rivalry I see that Tilda Swinton’s character, or one of her four characters, can essentially reproduce asexually and have three kids all by herself.”
Shaffer added that the film suggests that “every person deserves the ability to take care of themselves. They deserve their own face, they deserve their own stuff. It shows all these different ways that you can exist and find a way to thrive in different ways, but it also comments on maybe the fact that with tons of new medical technology being developed, maybe there are actually more ways to go about it, than we even knew. And it’s okay to dream really big. When I switched to estrogen, I had to go put my sperm in a freezer bank if I wanted to keep it. And I remember just thinking, I wonder in 20 years what I could do with this. But maybe you’re watching a movie like this, and maybe there’s something really weird that I can do with that in the future.
These are the kinds of ideas and questions that will be discussed every Tuesday in May for Science on Screen at Digital Gym Cinema in the East Village.