Dreams can come true. Or better, they can form the roots of empowerment. I'm a genetics and immunology researcher, that's why I went to the Sundance London Movie Festival. Controversial? Perhaps.
Robert Redford's Sundance Institute has always tried to bring alternative voices and stories to a wider audience, and the film festival is known as a platform for independent films, both fiction and documentary.
The event is a powerful argument for the potential of communication media to enhance cross-cultural understanding, collaboration and dialogue. Films have tremendous power to help us understand and shape the way we think about nature and ourselves.
I was simply blown away by watching Chasing Ice, www.chasingice.com a film by Jeff Orlowski that shows climate change in action using time lapse footage of ice loss in receding polar glaciers. Robots of Brixton, a short by Kibwe Tavares, is an exercise in architectural and visual imagination. Architectural reconstructions and historical images merge virtual stories with past events to enable comparisons and flip lessons from human history on their heads.
[embed width=420 height=240]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVLjqanqqVU[/embed]
First shown at Sundance in 1999, The Kindness of Strangers is a film by James Redford, Robert's son. He is Founder and President of The James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness (JRI), a nonprofit organisation dedicated to educating the public about the need for organ and tissue donation. The JRI works through film, educational outreach and the web. The organisation was founded in 1995, two years after James received a liver transplant. The Kindness of Strangers is the result of his gratitude to the donor.
As genetic science progresses in rapid technological leaps, and promises a new age of say, gene therapy cancer drugs, it is easy to forget the very real problems faced by people with genetic illness or those facing tissue matching treatment. The combination of computer intelligence to sequence the genome, and molecular science to understand body processes, continues to advance medical knowledge. Without basic human empathy and an evolved and caring society it could all be for nothing.
For me, Sundance is a demonstration of how expertise shapes and frames science communication - an important tool for engagement through the power of storytelling.
TEDx Brussels will take place on November 12th. Our theme is Bits/Atoms/Neurons/Genes (BANG). Book your ticket now.