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culture

Science and Cinema Collide at the Lightbox

TIFF launches a second season of its Science on Film series.

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Andy Serkis as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Image courtesy of Photofest.

Science on Film
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
February 27 to June 26
$180 for subscription, single tickets available on Wednesday, February 27

Having recently devoted screens to separate ongoing programs focused on books and food, the TIFF Bell Lightbox continues its busy subscription-series lineup with the Wednesday launch of the second season of Science on Film. Over the course of the next four months, six films will screen and then be discussed by noted guests and experts in various scientific fields related to each movie’s subject matter. With lectures, demonstrations, and Q&As, the series promises to be a unique viewing opportunity. Here’s a guide to the highlights.


Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Wednesday, February 27, 7 p.m.

The movie: An unexpectedly impressive reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise, this 2011 origin story sets the stage for what seems destined to be many more sequels and prequels. James Franco stars as a scientist who is working to cure Alzheimer’s—which his father (John Lithgow) is suffering from—by testing a new drug on chimpanzees. After he takes in a baby chimp, naming it Caesar, he begins to notice that his drug is causing the primate to develop extreme intelligence. With a brilliant motion-capture performance by Gollum himself (Andy Serkis), and a grand climax on the Golden Gate Bridge, Planet of the Apes is an engrossing and surprisingly resonant action film.

The scientist: Dr. Stephen Scherer, a geneticist who studied at the University of Toronto before co-founding The Centre for Applied Genomics (TCAD), Canada’s first human genome centre. His work in genetic variation was integral to sequencing the human genome, and he currently holds the GlaxoSmithKline-Canadian Institutes of Health Research Chair in Genome Sciences at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto.

What to expect: Aside from the Science Centre being on hand for an interactive audience demonstration involving real primate skulls, there’s sure to be a scintillating discussion of genetic engineering and bio-technologies.


Up in the Air
Wednesday, March 27, 7 p.m.

The movie: Jason Reitman’s follow-up to the much-lauded Juno bears more of a resemblance to the dark humor and caustic wit of his debut feature, Thank You for Smoking. The adaptation of Walter Kim’s novel follows professional corporate downsizer Ryan (George Clooney), who lives a solitary and transient existence as he flies from city to city to do his job: laying off employees at companies that have contracted for his services. Meeting fellow traveler Alex (Vera Farmiga) and growing close to Natalie (Anna Kendrick), his ambitious protege, forces him to re-examine his priorities.

The scientist: Dr. Barbara Killinger, a Toronto psychotherapist and a pioneer in the field of workaholism. Her book, Workaholics: The Respectable Addicts, has been published in nineteen countries and nine languages. She maintains a blog on the subject of workaholism for Psychology Today.

What to expect: Because Killinger’s Ph.D dissertation was the first empirical study of humour in psychotherapy, it’s a good bet that her lecture will be delivered with a touch as light as Reitman’s. Audiences can look forward to a visual representation of what an unhealthy amount of time spent at the office can do to the human brain.


Apollo 13
Wednesday, May 8, 7 p.m.

The movie: NASA’s Apollo 13 mission—the origin of the ubiquitous phrase, “Houston, we have a problem”—is brought to life with rousing performances and great attention to detail in Ron Howard’s 1995 crowd-pleaser. After being forced to abandon their mission to the moon because of malfunctioning equipment, Commander Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) and his crew navigate the difficult trip home with the help of Flight Director Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) and his team back in Mission Control Center.

The scientist: Astronaut Julie Payette, who has spent twenty-five days in space aboard space shuttles Endeavour and Discovery. With Endeavour, she became the first Canadian to participate in an International Space Station assembly mission.

What to expect: Payette will definitely dispel any myths about space travel perpetuated by Apollo 13 and other films, and she’ll also likely explain the logistics of (and inherent difficulties in) guiding Apollo 13 back to Earth. Given the timing, it could be an opportunity, as well, to provide some insight into Chris Hadfield’s mission aboard the International Space Station, and what he may be experiencing as Commander of Expedition 35.

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