Last night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn to attend Night 7 of the Imagine Science Film Festival, a joint venture of Imagine Science Films and The Secret Science Club. Friend of the Bastard and all-around Good Guy Dr. Alexis Gambis is the genius behind the film festival and Secret Science Goddess Margaret Mittelbach (one of a pantheon of two) played the role of M.C.
The night began with a piece that caused a bit of controversy, a "musical" piece by French artist Luis Nieto, "played" on an electrified fetal pig, various dead lab rodents, and a dead frog. The bit was quite morbid, although the general intent was to demonstrate the role of electricity in the nervous system (I was reminded Luigi Galvani's "frog leg" experiment). Throughout the performance, one could hear a bemused bastard muttering "That's more messed up than a football bat" if one were close enough to said bastard. In the post-presentation Q&A, a visibly upset biology grad student asked Monsieur Nieto if he were aware of the possible repercussions of performances such as his, in light of the threats that researchers using live animals face- Smut Clyde touched upon this in a recent blog post... it's like he knew. Nieto's Locus Solus was a similar short, involving a pig's head attached to electrodes.
Now, onto the shorts which stuck out in my mind... the piece with photomicroscopy pioneer Roman Vishniac was dated, but sweet, and the imagery was beautiful. The scene in which Vishniac returns his "friends" to the pond from which he scooped them up was particularly charming. Vishniac's gorgeous footage of microorganisms played throughout the festival, bookending the other shorts.
Whiskey Water Trick was an amusing bit, and would be a great party stunt to pull off.
Periodic Table Table was a fun piece about a man who built the eponymous piece of furniture. It was a funny bit about a charming dreamer with an eccentric vision.
Flutter was a poignant short about an elderly, solitary butterfly collector. It was somewhat depressing, here's a man who is entranced by the object of his obsession, but he kills the very things he collects.
Insane in the Chromatophores, another Smut-approved piece, was shown in the festival.
Discovering Mount Gorongosa chronicled an expedition sponsored by Chicago's Field Museum to a mountain in a park in Mozambique. This gorgeous little film detailed the field work done by the museum staff and its African colleagues, specifically the collection of mammal and bird specimens, and the various pathogens which infect them. The scientists from Mozambique were an engaging group, their dedication to the conservation of their nation's natural resources (if the trees aren't preserved, the water won't be pure, as one of them observes) was heartening. This was, for me, the highlight of the festival.
Legs-Atavism was another highlight- a blackly hilarious film about a Russian scientist who is obsessed with "elongating" subjects (because the world's tallest man should be from the Soviet Union) until he has an epiphany... legs gotta go. While it was a screamingly funny "mockumentary", I read it as an indictment of the Soviet-era embrace of Lysenkoism and the persecution of actual scientists who didn't toe the party line.
X-Inactivation and Epigenetics and Superluminal Neutrinos in 5 Minutes were great, informative shorts which concisely summarized complicated scientific research.
Those were the standouts, I'm a little pressed for time, so I'll leave things at that. I'll see if I can hunt down embeddable videos in the next few days. All told, it was a great night, and I was very excited to hear that Dr Gambis is working on a feature length film. Hopefully, I'll be able to post a review of it in several months.