News

March 19, 2021

Cinemas across America join together to promote science with 8th National Evening of Science on Screen©

On March 24, independent theaters in 24 cities in 17 states to host in-person and online programs pairing films with science speakers

Amherst, MA • Astoria, NY • Athens, GA • Austin, TX • Billings, MT • Birmingham, AL •
Brookline, MA • Charlotte, NC • Columbia, MO • Hartford, CT • Iowa City, IA •
Little Rock, AR • Maitland, FL • Minneapolis, MN
• New York, NY • Omaha, NE • Rosendale, NY • San Rafael, CA • Santa Ana, CA • St. Helena, CA • Salt Lake City, UT • Sewickley, PA • Tucson, AZ • Tunkhannock, PA • Vineyard Haven, MA • Willcox, AZ

Brookline, Massachusetts (DATE) — The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Coolidge Corner Theatre announce the eighth annual National Evening of Science on Screen®, to take place on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Twenty-five independent cinemas in 17 states will participate in the National Evening, each hosting a program pairing a scientific lecture with a screening of a feature or documentary film.

Their purpose? To celebrate the power of cinema to promote understanding of science.

Due to widespread coronavirus-related theater closures, the National Evening will include virtual programming for the first time this year. More than half of the participants are presenting online Q&As—extending the reach of the event to a global audience and allowing viewers to watch multiple lectures from home at their convenience.

The 2020 National Evening of Science on Screen was cancelled as theaters across the country closed their doors to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Since that time, these dedicated cinemas have pivoted to provide robust online programming, keeping their audiences engaged and entertained.

The National Evening of Science on Screen is the annual showcase event of the nationwide Science on Screen grant initiative, which is funded by the Sloan Foundation and administered by the Coolidge. Grantee theaters run three or more Science on Screen events per year, creatively pairing screenings of classic, cult, science fiction, and documentary films with presentations by notable experts from the world of science and technology. One of the three screenings at each theater features a film that has been developed by or received a prize from the nationwide Sloan Film Program. Each film serves as a jumping-off point for the speaker to introduce current research or explain technological advances in a way that engages general audiences.

Over the past decade, the Sloan Foundation and the Coolidge have awarded a total of 274 Science on Screen grants to 96 independent theaters, museums, and arts organizations with film programs across the country, including 37 this year. (Participation in the National Evening is voluntary for each year’s grantees, not a requirement of the grant.)

“We're thrilled to join with the Coolidge Corner Theatre in celebrating the 8th National Evening of Science on Screen across America, especially in a year when both public understanding of science and support for independent theaters have proven so critical,” said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. "These showcase events, which pair expert speakers with popular titles such as Sloan-winning films Hidden Figures and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, demonstrate that science can illuminate films just as films can illuminate science. We’re especially proud that theaters are selecting recent Sloan-supported documentaries Coded Bias and Picture a Scientist and bringing attention to urgent contemporary issues.”

This year’s National Evening of Science on Screen movie-and-speaker pairings tackle topics from the proliferation of conspiracy theories in a time of epidemic (with Invasion of the Body Snatchers, at Ragtag Cinema), to the science of beer-making (Beerfest, Art House Cinema), game theory in Jane Austen’s novels (Clueless, Coolidge Corner Theatre), and the educational value of taxidermy (Stuffed, FilmScene). Other topics include:

  • The dark side of digital technology. At DCTV (New York, N.Y.) and Discovery Place Science (Charlotte, N.C.), insights from digital ethicists will accompany screenings of the 2020 documentary Coded Bias, which reveals the biases encoded in facial recognition systems. At Austin Film Society (Austin, Texas), psychology and cognition expert Arthur Markman will explain the brain science behind the deleterious effects of social media examined in the 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma.
  • Representation in STEM. Utah Film Center (Salt Lake City, Utah) and McWane Science Center (Birmingham, Ala.) are both taking on the lack of gender and racial representation in STEM, the former with a screening of the 2020 documentary Picture a Scientist and the latter with the 2017 hit feature Hidden Figures. On March 25, FilmScene (Iowa City, Iowa) puts a sci-fi spin on the theme in an online event discussing four science fiction features directed by women.
  • Sustainable solutions to climate crisis. In Rosendale Theatre’s (Rosendale, N.Y.) week-long online event, six experts will look at sustainable development through two takes on the inspiring story of William Kamkwamba: the somewhat cautionary 2013 documentary William and the Windmill and the heartwarming 2019 feature The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Arkansas Cinema Society (Little Rock, Ark.) will gather a panel of family farmers online to discuss the power of soil-building regenerative agriculture to offset greenhouse gas emissions, with the director of the new documentary Kiss the Ground. The Museum of Moving Image (Astoria, N.Y.) will revisit its 2020 online event that tapped the team behind Biosphere 2 and the 2020 documentary Spaceship Earth to examine that controversial project’s contributions to climate science.
  • The potential and ethics of genetic advances. During Cameo Cinema's (St. Helena, Calif.) online program, a geneticist will discuss how CRISPR gene editing technology could change the future of our species, paired with the 2020 documentary Human Nature. FilmStream (Omaha, Neb.) will present a pre-recorded online Q&A examining the ethics of cloning, with the 2010 indie sci-fi comedy Teknolust.

The 24 cinemas participating in the 2021 National Evening of Science on Screen are: Amherst Cinema, Amherst, Mass.; Arkansas Cinema Society, Little Rock, Ark.; Art House Cinema, Billings, Mont.; Athens Ciné, Athens, Ga.; Austin Film Society, Austin, Texas; California Film Institute, San Rafael, Calif.; Cameo Cinema, St. Helena, Calif.; Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline, Mass.; DCTV, New York, N.Y.; Dietrich Theater, Tunkhannock, Penn.; Discovery Place Science, Charlotte, N.C.; Enzian Theater, Maitland, Fla.; FilmScene, Iowa City, Iowa; Film Streams, Omaha, Neb.; The Frida Cinema, Santa Ana, Calif.; The Loft Cinema, Tucson, Ariz.; Marthas Vineyard Film Society, Vineyard Haven, Mass.; McWane Science Center, Birmingham, Ala.; MSP Film, Minneapolis, Minn.; Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, N.Y.; Ragtag Cinema, Columbia, Mo.; Real Art Ways, Hartford, Conn.; Rosendale Theatre Collective, Rosendale, N.Y.; Utah Film Center, Salt Lake City, Utah; Willcox Theater and Arts, Willcox, Ariz.

For a complete list of Science on Screen events taking place on March 24, please visit scienceonscreen.org/national-evening/2021.


About the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a New York based, philanthropic, not-for-profit institution that makes grants in three areas: research in science, technology, and economics; quality and diversity of scientific institutions; and public engagement with science. Sloan's program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience and to bridge the two cultures of science and the humanities.

Sloan's Film Program encourages filmmakers to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Over the past two decades, Sloan has partnered with some of the top film schools in the country—including AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA, and USC plus public film schools—and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production, along with an annual best-of-the best Student Grand Jury Prize. The Foundation also supports screenplay development programs with the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, SFFILM, Film Independent, the Black List, the Athena Film Festival, and the North Fork TV Festival, and has helped develop over 30 feature films including Tesla, Radium Girls, Adventures of a Mathematician, One Man Dies a Million Times, The Sound of Silence, To Dust, Operator, The Imitation Game, and The Man Who Knew Infinity. The Foundation has supported feature documentaries such as Picture a Scientist, Coded Bias, Father of the Cyborgs, In Silico, Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, The Bit Player, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Particle Fever, and Jacques Perrin's Oceans. It has also given early recognition to stand out films such as Son of Monarchs, Ammonite, The Aeronauts, Searching, The Martian, and Hidden Figures.

The Foundation has an active theater program and commissions about twenty science plays each year from the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, and the National Theatre in London, as well as supporting select productions across the country and abroad. Recent grants have supported Charly Evon Simpson’s Behind the Sheet, Bess Wohl’s Continuity, Lucy Kirkwood's Mosquitoes, Chiara Atik's Bump, Nick Payne's Constellations, Lucas Hnath's Isaac's Eye, and Anna Ziegler's Photograph 51. The Foundation's book program includes early support for Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, the best-selling book that became the highest grossing Oscar-nominated film of 2017 and a social and cultural milestone.

For more information about the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, visit sloan.org or follow the Foundation on Twitter and Facebook at @SloanPublic.


About the Coolidge Corner Theatre

The nonprofit Coolidge Corner Theatre is a premier American independent cinema renowned for its curated feature film programming and innovative signature educational, cultural, and entertainment programs. A beloved movie house, the Coolidge has been pleasing audiences with the best in cinematic entertainment since 1933. In addition to premiere theatrical engagements of independent film and art house releases, the Coolidge presents numerous special programs including: Science on Screen, high-definition live broadcasts from London’s National Theatre and world renowned opera and ballet companies, Big Screen Classics, midnight screenings, The Sounds of Silents®, and weekend kids’ programs. The Coolidge has won numerous awards and honors for its creative programming.

For more information, visit coolidge.org.

NATIONAL EVENING OF SCIENCE ON SCREEN — Wednesday, March 24, 2021
PROGRAMS BY CINEMA
Show times vary.

The world-changing thinking of Claude Shannon [online] (March 23)
Amherst Cinema • Amherst, Mass. amherstcinema.org
Computer science professor Lee Spector discusses the profound influence Claude Shannon's thinking has on our understanding of life and the universe, and how his unconventional thinking allows us to make computers out of objects like marbles and dominoes, water pipes, and lasers.
The Bit Player (2018) — A film about Claude Shannon, father of information theory: a playful genius whose name is largely unknown though his work revolutionized nearly every aspect of modern life.

How the soil can save us [online]
Arkansas Cinema Society • Little Rock, Ark. www.arkansascinemasociety.org
During this live, online Q&A, Kiss the Ground Executive Director Ryland Englehart discusses regenerative farming practices and the importance of sustainable farming with a panel of family farmers—including the owners of the first organic farm in Arkansas—and moderator Jack Sundell of Little Rock’s The Root Cafe.
Kiss the Ground (2020) — Activists, scientists, farmers and politicians turn to regenerative agriculture to save the planet's topsoil.

Brewing up science [in person]
Art House Cinema • Billings, Mont. arthousebillings.com
Thirsty Street Brewing Company brewmaster Shea Dawson leads an intoxicating post-film discussion on the science behind beer.
Beerfest (2006) After suffering a humiliating loss in a secret and centuries-old beer-games competition during a visit to Germany's Oktoberfest, two American brothers assemble a team of U.S. brew-lovers and return to Germany for a rematch.

STRAY at Athens Ciné [online]
Athens Ciné • Athens, Ga. athenscine.com
Program details to come.
Stray (2021) — This immersive look at the lives of stray dogs on the streets of Istanbul examines human society through their eyes and ears.

Social media and the mind [online]
Austin Film Society • Austin, Texas austinfilm.org
In this live, online event, psychology and cognition expert Arthur Markman explains the scientific basis of social media’s effects on the mind.
The Social Dilemma (2020) — Tech experts sound the alarm on the dangerous human impact of social networking.

Cinema as crystal ball [online]
California Film Institute • San Rafael, Calif. www.cafilm.org
Filmmakers, especially those who tell stories of possible futures, are much like fortune tellers. Among the questions they attempt to answer are, “Where is humankind headed?” “How will we get there?” “What is a science-fiction filmmaker’s responsibility to realism and truth?” And, “How much science does a film need to have to be considered science-fiction?” In this one-time-only, live-streamed Science on Screen event, graphic artist and award-winning short filmmaker John Harden presents three very different shorts from across his career, some humorous, some heartbreaking, each using science to explore the possibilities and problems that may await our species in the near-to-distant future. John guides us through the thought processes behind each film, and the real science that makes each one a little more than mere fiction.
Sci-fi shorts of John Harden: La Vie D'Un Chien (2005), The Story of Sputnik (2009), and New (2015) — Three shorts by John Harden—some humorous, some heartbreaking—use science to explore the possibilities and problems that may await our species in the near-to-distant future.

Searching for life across space and time [online]
Cameo Cinema • St. Helena, Calif. cameocinema.com
Geneticist Megan Hochstrasser explores the ethical questions raised by CRISPR, the technology that gives us the ability to manipulate the human genome. Could it possibly transform our future as a species?
Human Nature (2020) — CRISPR gene-editing technology opens the door to correcting, even designing, DNA. But should we walk through it?

The game theory of Jane Austen [online]
Coolidge Corner Theatre • Brookline, Mass. coolidge.org
UCLA Economics Professor Michael Chwe, author of Jane Austen: Game Theorist, finds common ground between the study of how people make choices and the writing of that early 19th-century English novelist. In this free, live-streamed Science on Screen Q&A, Chwe considers Amy Heckerling's cult comedy Clueless (a loose adaptation of Austen's Emma) and the misadventures of Cher and her Beverly Hills pals as they party, shop, and meddle in the love lives of their friends and teachers.
Clueless (1995) — In this 1990s cult classic, Jane Austen's Emma is reimagined as a Beverly Hills high school Queen Bee whose efforts at matchmaking prove clueless.

Big Brother and the Big Apple [online]
DCTV • New York, N.Y. www.dctvny.org
In an age of artificial intelligence and surveillance, what is being done to protect our civil liberties and stop bias in algorithms? Can data science be used for the social good? New York digital privacy and accountability activists Tranaé Moran and Daniel Schwarz weigh in with what is happening in NYC.
Coded Bias (2020) — An exploration of the implications of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini's startling discovery that racial bias is written into the code of facial recognition algorithms.

OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE sneak preview and discussion [in person]
Dietrich Theater • Tunkhannock, Penn. dietrichtheater.com
The Dietrich, WVIA TV, and local physicians and medical students lead an extended sneak preview and discussion of the new PBS American Masters documentary Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, to be broadcast on WVIA TV April 9.
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (2019) — A documentary exploring the life of neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks—an old-fashioned polymath and natural historian who redefined our understanding of brain and mind.

Breaking down bias [in person]
Discovery Place • Charlotte, N.C. www.discoveryplace.org
Is your vision of artificial intelligence utopian or dystopian? It might depend on your gender or the color of your skin. Digital ethics expert Steven Tiell looks at the digital bias that surrounds us.
Coded Bias (2020) — An exploration of the implications of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini's startling discovery that racial bias is written into the code of facial recognition algorithms.

THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP at Enzian Theater [in person] (March 23)
Enzian Theater • Maitland, Fla. enzian.org
Program details to come.
The Science of Sleep (2006) — A man entranced by his dreams and imagination is love-struck with a French woman and feels he can show her his world.

The right stuff: The educational value of taxidermy [online]
FilmScene • Iowa City, Iowa icfilmscene.org
In this live, online presentation, museum director Liz Crooks and research collections director Cindy Opitz discuss the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History's collections and the art and educational impact of taxidermy. Trust us, they know their stuff!
Stuffed (2019) — An exploration of the surprising world of taxidermists: passionate artists who push creative boundaries while revealing the importance of preserving nature.

The future is female: Sci-fi [online] (March 25)
FilmScene • Iowa City, Iowa icfilmscene.org
While the sci-fi genre is filled with fierce female characters (Ellen Ripley, Leia Organa, Sarah Conner, Uhura), traditionally women have not had the opportunity to tell sci-fi stories. But when female filmmakers imagine a world outside of this world, they create entirely different views of the future—utopias and dystopias with depth, complex relationships between humans and machines, and a sensibility unique to the genre. This online FilmScene 101 "mini" will explore four science fiction films directed by women and their impact on the industry and audiences: Deep Impact (1998, dir. Mimi Leder), Fast Color (2019, dir. Julia Hart), High Life (2019, dir. Claire Denis), Strange Days (1995, dir. Kathryn Bigelow).

Clones are people two [online]
Film Streams, Inc. • Omaha, Neb. filmstreams.org
In this pre-recorded, online Q&A, medical scholars converse about parthenogenesis, modern genetic technologies, the ethics of cloning, and the depiction of clones in the film.
Teknolust (2010) — A bio-geneticist has created a type of Self-Replicating Automaton, which looks like a human being, but is in fact part machine and part living organism.

ERASERHEAD at The Frida Cinema [drive-in]
The Frida Cinema • Santa Ana, Calif. thefridacinema.org
Program details to come. Speaker: Psychiatry professor Amir Raz.
Eraserhead (1977) — David Lynch's surreal first feature is a bizarre and disturbing look into a man's fear of parenthood.

The Secrets of Scent [online]
The Loft Cinema • Tucson, Arizona loftcinema.org
In this free virtual event, neuroscientist John G. Hildebrand discusses the unexpected and surprising ways in which olfaction, the sense of smell, influences the behavior of animals, from bugs to humans.
Perfumes (2019) - In this fragrant French comedy, a talented and temperamental creator of world-class perfumes begins having trouble with her sense of smell, leading her to seek help from an unlikely source in order to restart her esteemed career as a "professional nose."

Conducting scientific research in a pandemic [in person]
Marthas Vineyard Film Society • Vineyard Haven, Mass. mvfilmsociety.com
Infectious disease biostatistician Martha Nason discusses the process of fighting a pandemic.
Contagion (2011) — Director Steven Soderbergh’s disaster thriller follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days.

Women and girls in STEM: Challenges and opportunities [in person] (March 25)
McWane Science Center • Birmingham, Ala. www.mcwane.org
STEM-equity experts Samantha Elliot-Briggs and Calvin Briggs discuss the challenges and opportunities for women and girls—particularly women and girls of color—in STEM and STEM education.
Hidden Figures (2017) — A team of African American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program's first successful space missions.

The science and emotion of extinction [online]
MSP Film • Minneapolis, Minn. mspfilm.org
Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science Curator of Birds Nick Mason discusses animal population declines and detectability, the false hope of ‘de-extinction’, and ongoing conservation priorities. Mason highlights the importance of natural history collections and continued scientific collecting in conservation, ending with a brief tour of the research collection at the LSU museum.
Ghost Bird (2009) — The mythos of a possibly-glimpsed extinct woodpecker grips a small town in Arkansas hoping to reverse its misfortunes and a tireless stream of bird-watchers and scientists searching for the Holy Grail of birds.

Reimagining the future: Biosphere 2's contributions to climate science
Museum of the Moving Image • Astoria, N.Y. www.movingimage.us
In this online Q&A, Spaceship Earth director Matt Wolf and NYU environmental scientist Andrew Reid Bell consider the making of this superb film, sustainable models of living, the consequences of isolation, and how we might think differently about engaging with the world when the coronavirus pandemic ends.
Spaceship Earth (2020) — The story of one inventive, small group of people who originated as the “Theater of All Possibilities” and tried to model a more sustainable world. Living for two years isolated inside of a self-designed closed ecosystem called Biosphere 2, this group of eight entered into the unknown, hoping to re-emerge into the world with information and ideas about how to change it.

The believing brain: Paranoia and conspiracy thinking in an epidemic age [in person]
Ragtag Cinema • Columbia, Mo. ragtagcinema.org
Psychology professor Ines Segert discusses the brain science behind our attraction to conspiracy theories.
Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978) — ​ In San Francisco, a group of people discover the human race is being replaced, one by one, with clones devoid of emotion.

The intersection of art and math [online]
Real Art Ways • Hartford, Conn. www.realartways.org
In this recorded online panel discussion, originally recorded for a March 10, 2021 event, artists Chris Klapper and Patrick Gallagher, mathematician Timothy Goldberg, and musician Rachael Elliott discuss M.C. Escher and how his work has influenced each panelist’s professional practice.
M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity (2018) — Diary musings, excerpts from lectures, and striking images offer insight into the life and work of Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher.

Thinking about promise: A story of hope from an under-resourced nation [online]
Rosendale Theatre Collective • Rosendale, N.Y. www.rosendaletheatre.org
From March 15 to March 31, Rosendale Theatre presents a free series of online mini-programs related to William Kamkwamba and the windmill he built to save his Malawian family from famine:

  • Visit to a Green Energy Lab with sustainable-technology expert Doni Wulandana, who is experimenting with turbine engines.
  • Students from Purdue Polytechnic, a STEM-focused high school in South Bend, Indiana, share their solutions to a design challenge posed by teacher Andrew Goodin and inspired by The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and William and the Windmill.
  • Understanding Book Donation Programs with Wendy Saul, former President of the International Book Bank, the organization that sent the book on energy that inspired William to his library.
  • An African Perspective on Williams Story features Shereen Osoff, a native of Zimbabwe and now executive director of JASS (Justice Associates) and her colleague Joanne Sandler, formerly of the UN.
  • Filmmaker Cameron Zohoori talks about differences between scripted and documentary presentations of story, using The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and William and the Windmill as examples.

Then on March 24, all of the featured experts will join together for a live online Q&A.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019) — A boy in Malawi helps save his village from famine by building a wind turbine after reading about them in a library book.
William and the Windmill (2013) — William Kamkwamba navigates the opportunities and challenges of international fame after he creates a power-generating windmill from junk parts to save his family from famine in Malawi.

Utah women in STEM [online]
Utah Film Center • Salt Lake City, Utah www.utahfilmcenter.org
Three Utah women working in corporate and academic science and technology converse about their experiences as female STEM professionals in the state.
Picture a Scientist (2020) — Through their personal stories and thoroughly researched data, three scientists discuss the deeply entrenched problems of sexual harassment and gender inequality against women that are no less prevalent in science than they are in pop culture and corporate America.

The role of balloons in measuring the atmosphere [in person]
Willcox Theater and Arts • Willcox, Ariz. willcoxtheater.com
Meteorologist James Glaisher's steps to measure temperature and humidity at the highest levels of the atmosphere were some of the earliest work on measuring weather variables above the ground. At this event, meteorologist Jeremy S. Smith discusses:

  • Tethered balloons, kites, and the use of free-flight balloons with expendable meteorological instrument packages through the early 1900s
  • Mid-century work with balloons and attaining higher altitudes, plus the use of balloons for measuring weather in the developing world of space launches during the 1960s
  • How routine balloon launches have turned into a network of upper-air measurement sites, not only across the U.S., but much of the world, and where we are today
  • How modern data allows us to see a 3-D view of the atmosphere take shape, and how it builds not only a current real-time picture of the weather, but also feeds into the physics that run our weather and climate forecast models

The Aeronauts (2019) — Balloon pilot Amelia Wren and meteorologist James Glaisher find themselves in a fight for survival while pursuing scientific discoveries in a gas balloon in the 1860s.