Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (2020)

Streaming in our Virtual Movie Palace starting Friday, September 25!

NY Times Critic’s Pick! A month after receiving a fatal diagnosis in January 2015, Oliver Sacks sat down with filmmaker Ric Burns for a series of filmed interviews in his apartment in New York City. For eighty hours, he talked about his life and work, battles with drug addiction, homophobia, a medical establishment that long shunned his pioneering work on cognitive disorders, and his abiding sense of wonder at the natural world and the place of human beings within it. Drawing on these deeply personal reflections, as well as nearly two dozen interviews with close friends, family members, colleagues and patients, and archival material from every point in his life, this film is the story of a beloved doctor and writer who redefined our understanding of the brain and mind.

114 minutes. Documentary. NR.

Watch a Science on Screen Q&A hosted by The Coolidge Corner on Sept. 30 at 8 PM EST, featuring filmmaker Ric Burns and public-heath expert and best-selling author Atul Gawande. 

2019-2020 Series - Past Screenings

Picture A Scientist (2020)

Played in our Virtual Movie Palace in June 2020

Picture A Scientist chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter scientific luminaries – including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists – who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all.

97 min. Documentary. NR. 

With a special post-film discussion with director and Michigander Sharon Shattuck and film protagonist and geologist Jane Willenbring, Associate Professor, Geosciences Research Division, UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Watch the post-film discussion on our YouTube channel.

The Bit Player (2018)

Thursday, March 5 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan

A film by Mark A. Levinson, director of the award-winning Film Particle Fever. In a blockbuster paper in 1948, Claude Shannon introduced the notion of a “bit” and laid the foundation for the information age. His ideas ripple through nearly every aspect of modern life, influencing such diverse fields as communication, computing, cryptography, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, cosmology, linguistics, and genetics. But when interviewed in the 1980s, Shannon was more interested in showing off the gadgets he’d constructed — juggling robots, a Rubik’s Cube solving machine, a wearable computer to win at roulette, a unicycle without pedals, a flame-throwing trumpet — than rehashing the past. Mixing contemporary interviews, archival film, animation and dialogue drawn from interviews conducted with Shannon himself, The Bit Player tells the story of an overlooked genius who revolutionized the world, but never lost his childlike curiosity.

90 min. Documentary. NR. 

With a special post-film discussion with film protagonist and U-M alum Claude Shannon (BSE Electrical Engineering 1936, BSE Mathematics 1936), who has been called the Father of Information Theory.  Watch the post-film discussion on our YouTube channel.

General Magic (2018)
Wednesday, February 5, 2020 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan

Multi-award winning feature documentary GENERAL MAGIC is the untold tale of how a great vision and epic failure changed the world. The ideas that dominate the tech industry and our day to day lives were born at a secretive Silicon Valley start-up called ‘General Magic’, which spun out of Apple in 1990 to create the “next big thing”. General Magic shipped the first handheld personal communicator (or “smartphone”) in 1994. The film combines rare archival footage with powerful honesty from the “Magicians” today, reflecting on the most influential Silicon Valley company no one has ever heard of.

Featuring legendary members of the original Macintosh team, along with the creators of the iPod, iPhone, Android, and eBay, this is the story of one of history’s most talented tech teams, who after a great failure, went on to change the lives of billions. 

Documentary. 92 min. NR. 

With a special post-film discussion moderated by UM Dean of Engineering Alec D. Gallimore; School of Information Professor Elliot Soloway; and Tony Fadell, UM alumni and iPod inventor, iPhone co-inventor, Nest founder, and Future Shape principal. Watch the post-film discussion on our YouTube channel.


Autonomy (2019)

Tuesday, December 10 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan

Celebrated journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell leads the first comprehensive documentary look at self-driving cars in Autonomy. The film is a cinematic exploration of the world of automated vehicles — from their technical history to the personal narratives of those affected by them to the many unanswered questions about how this technology will affect modern society. Autonomy features interviews with industry pioneers and scenes with cutting-edge “AVs” in action around the world. Inspired by a special issue of Car and Driver, Autonomy reinforces the context of where the “car” meets the coming revolution in mobility, presenting an essential primer on the subject and how it will affect you.

Documentary. 82 min. NR. 

With special guest Benjamin Kuipers, Professor, Computer Science and Engineering, for a post-film discussion.

About the speaker
Benjamin Kuipers is an American computer scientist and artificial intelligence researcher. He is best known for his work on computational models of cognitive maps, robot exploration and mapping methods, the qualitative simulation algorithm QSIM, and foundational learning methods.


Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (2018)

Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan

Join us for this special encore screening! A stunning sensory experience and cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive re-engineering of the planet, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is a years-in-the-making feature documentary from the award-winning team behind Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013) and narrated by Alicia Vikander. The film follows the research of an international body of scientists, the Anthropocene Working Group who, after nearly 10 years of research, argue that the Holocene Epoch gave way to the Anthropocene Epoch in the mid-twentieth century as a result of profound and lasting human changes to the Earth.

Documentary. 87 min. NR. Presented in English, Russian, Italian, German, Mandarin, and Cantonese

With special guest Professor Adam Simon from UM Earth and Environmental Sciences.