Another Kind of Story-Telling


Last evening I went to see a film. Called “The Most Unknown”, it sent nine scientists on a ‘blind date’ to visit another scientist, in another country, in another scientific field. So, the woman studying slimes on cave walls in the U.S. travelled to Italy to meet the fellow studying dark matter (if we are correct that there is such a thing.) He in turn then flew to France to experience the work of a cognitive psychologist, to consider the nature of consciousness (which we all believe exists, because we have it, but we can only experience our own privately.). That guy went to Nevada in the U.S. to camp out and scoop mud teeming with extremophile life forms from hot springs. And on through the nine scientists- going deep under the ocean, sensing light from the ancient past cosmic activity to deduce how stars form, and finally to an island full of monkeys off of Puerto Rico. The best part was seeing eminent scientists good-naturedly struggling to understand the unfamiliar work of another, and being just gob-smacked by the wonder of it all.

Intrigued? Yes, it was fantastic. I worry that I might have fallen asleep if I had been watching from home, I admit. But in the beautiful Carnegie Institution of Science auditorium, it was easy to focus and appreciate, and then opt to stay for the panel discussion.

I am fortunate to live in the home of the Environmental Film Festival. (Nation’s Capital version- other cities have festivals, too.) Each year, for ten days, they sprinkle intriguing and challenging films throughout auditoriums over the city and nearby. The venues themselves are interesting- Carnegie Institution of Science, National Geographic Society, Embassy of France, Embassy of Finland, Freer Gallery of Art, and so on.

The films are either free or low cost ($10.). Every year I vow to take advantage and see more. You know, “when I retire, I’ll really…”.

But right now, immersed in this writing challenge and thinking of story-telling, I read the festival catalog with a different eye. Stories! Incredible, unimaginable stories!! Read a little of the catalog with me…

“An old farm dog recounts the true tale of Old Bet, the elephant at the start of the American circus.” (Title: The Elephant’s Song.)

“This dark and sensuous film takes us to a landfill in Ghana where electronic waste from the West is being recycled. It is an unforgettable experience, told by the workers themselves.” (Title: Welcome to Sodom.)

“… follows Lawrence, a Navajo coal miner and single father raising a teenaged, daughter, struggling with the part he plays in the irreversible destruction of one of their sacred mountains at the hand’s of America’s largest coal producer. Lawrence endures a life-threatening injury and confronts the deep spiritual sacrifice he made to provide for the people he loves. At the same time, his daughter, Caitlin, attempts to manage the expectations fo her traditional father while covertly playing on the men’s varsity football team and subsequently being crowned homecoming queen….”. (Title: The Blessing.)

Wow, you couldn’t make that stuff up, right?

Finally, I might even be tempted by; “an eye-opening journey with dust from the microscopic to the global scale. “ (Title: Dust Rising.)

Well, I I admit that last one might not be for everyone. But think of all the stories! The Environmental Film Festival has enlarged my sense of story, today.

6 thoughts on “Another Kind of Story-Telling

  1. The line that pops out at me is… “The best part was seeing eminent scientists good-naturedly struggling to understand the unfamiliar work of another, and being just gob-smacked by the wonder of it all.” The tone is spirited and fun. Knowing that you are a science teacher, I am especially happy to hear that you still have a sense of wonder about science and that you are still learning. I am sure you bring that enthusiasm to your classroom too.

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  2. I didn’t even know we had such a film festival here in DC. You make it sound like such fun – fascinating topics all, once you are sucked in.
    I love how you read the program offerings through the lens of story telling. I always wonder who writes the description for these kinds of things. Who knew that a landfill could be “dark and sensuous”? You always have an interesting take on things, different than mine, which I really appreciate.

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  3. Compelling – I found appeal even in the last blurb! You’re so right about the importance of storytelling to filmmakers, even at the Environmental Film Festival (fascinating!)

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