It's all science, naturally

Updated: Oct 02, 2019, 08:25 IST | Shunashir Sen

A film fest highlights the role that science plays in conserving nature, amidst so much more


Greta Thunberg is a hot potato these days, given the sort of virulent divisiveness that her relentless climate activism generates. But Alexander von Humboldt had it way easier back in the 18th century. The German polymath and naturalist was one of the first people in history to highlight how human beings were digging their own grave when it comes to the environment. But his expansive theses didn't invite the vitriol that Thunberg does because "global warming" wasn't as contentious an issue back then as it is today. Yet, his overwhelming body of work is an important starting point to understand the confluence between science and ecological conservation.

And that's also why, on his 250th birth anniversary, Goethe Institut's Science Film Festival is themed on Humboldt, after whom Mumbai's resident penguins are named. The format of the fest is aimed towards inculcating a scientific temperament in schoolchildren. It's thus divided into two parts — screenings of films in schools across Mumbai along with accompanying workshops that align with the subject of each selected movie; and separate screenings for the public in Goethe Institut's library, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum. The Institut's Bangkok outpost conceived of this festival four years ago, before its Delhi and Mumbai chapters picked it up in 2017. The theme changes every year, and we asked Amruta Nemivant of the organisation to give us five picks from the current list of films. Here is what she chose.

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1. What You Can Get out of Broken Electrical Appliances

At the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, all the winners' medals will be made from recycled e-waste such as discarded phones and laptops. This process of repurposing electronic junk is a subject that lies at the heart of this series.

Pic/Doodle Productions Ltd
Pic/Doodle Productions Ltd

2. Messy Goes to Okido

It might sound Japanese, but Okido is actually a British Magazine that encourages kids to approach science as a friend. Messy, on the other hand, is a lovable but unruly TV series monster who finds himself in the world of Okido along with his pals, discovering all sorts of fun scientific facts in the process, such as where exactly echoes come from. This one's meant for early learners between the ages of five and eight.


3. Earth to Future: A Future Without Plastic

Today marks the day that the Mumbai airport will be free of single-use plastic items. It goes to show how the world at large has woken up to the irreparable damage that this toxic material can cause. Consider the fact that a whale died in Thailand with more than 80 plastic bags in its belly, and you realise how far-reaching our consumerism's implications are. This film further reinforces that.

Pic/Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen
Pic/Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen

4. The Malay Archipelago — In Search of Life

This movie traces the journey of Alfred Wallace Russel, a person who predated even Charles Darwin in positing theories about the evolution of species. Russel's adventures in the Malay archipelago, where he encountered all sorts of life forms, led him to ask questions like: where did we come from? How did we get here? And in doing so, he gave Darwin the impetus he needed to write his seminal book, The Origin of Species.

Pic/Terra Mater Factual Studios
Pic/Terra Mater Factual Studios

5. Earth: The Nature of Our Planet

It was in 2016 that people strolling along Juhu beach first noticed that the waves had turned into an ethereal blue colour. The phenomenon was due to bioluminescence, which microbes called phytoplankton are responsible for. This series sheds more light on them, as it does on other oceanic creatures.

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