Science and the Silver Screen

Science fiction and scientific facts collide at the BMFI.

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“Science on Screen”
Bryn Mawr Film Institute
$7 for Students
April 17, 2013 – May 16, 2013

Science films captivate audiences everywhere, but how much of what is seen on screen is realistic? This spring, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute is bringing together science fiction and scientific facts in their Science on Screen series, funded by a grant through the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation based on the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s pairing of films with science and technology speakers. Each film will be introduced with a short lecture delivered by an expert on the film’s scientific matter, speaking to how the film’s science compares to reality.

The series includes Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Wreck-It Ralph (2012), Babette’s Feast (1987), and Future Weather (2012). Although the selection may seem random, curator Valerie Temple explained that there was a method to the madness. “The film selection was tailored to the speakers we wanted to use. We selected interesting people who have done interesting work, and then paired the films with the people.” For this reason, Temple explained, this series is fascinating to science-lovers and movie-goers interested in the science behind what they see on the silver screen.

The series starts on April 17th, with the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark (dir. George Lucas), the story of the rugged, sarcastic Indiana Jones’s adventures in search of the Ark of the Covenant. Dr. Harrison Eiteljorg II, who has been described by Temple as a “real-life Indiana Jones,” will introduce the film. Dr. Eiteljorg received his Ph.D. in Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania. He has worked on excavations at Pompeii and the Acropolis of Athens (among other sites), and is apparently quite a personality. The screening will also feature movie-themed giveaways, including toy snakes and an adventurer’s hat and whip set for a lucky raffle winner.

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The series shifts on May 7th, to more recent film, Wreck-It Ralph (dir. Rich Moore), an animated film about an arcade game villain tired of being the bad guy. Prior to the film, computer game designer Halsted Larsson will give a brief introduction about the independent video game industry. Larsson co-founded Final Form Games in 2006, whose first release, Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, was recognized at the 2011 Independent Games Festival.

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Next, on May 14th, Danish film Babette’s Feast (dir. Gabriel Axel) examines social sciences. The French-language film tells the story of a life-changing bountiful banquet given by a French political refugee to two elderly sisters in a remote Danish costal town. After living a pious life, the sisters take in a refugee who expresses her gratitude through this feast, and as a result of her kindness opens their minds to cultures outside of their own. The film is shown on 35mm with English subtitles, and will be introduced by Dr. Solomon Katz. Dr. Katz is the director of the W.M. Krogman Center for Childhood Growth and Development at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a leading expert on the anthropology of food. Later, audience members will be treated to their own feast, catered by Hot House Coffee.

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Last, the BMFI is showing independent film, Future Weather (dir. Jenny Deller), an environmentally conscious coming-of-age drama about a teenaged environmentalist who must build a new life with her grandmother after being abandoned by her mother. Dr. Raluca Ellis, the Franklin Institute’s chief Environmental Scientist, will introduce the film with a discussion on her research on climate change. The film was shot around Philadelphia by local writer-director Jenny Deller, and will feature a special Q&A session with producer Kristin Fairweather. The series promises to provide new insight into some of our favorite science fiction films.


Kailey Kluge is a junior International Area Studies Major at Drexel University.


All images courtesy of Bryn Mawr Film Institute