Science on Screen Film Series

Pairing STEM-themed films with expert-led post-film discussions
The Science on Screen program is an initiative of the Coolidge Corner Theatre, with major support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Michigan Theater’s Science on Screen program is also sponsored by Arbor Research Collaborative for Health.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch

Thursday, November 14 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.

Autonomy

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.

The Bit Player

Tuesday, January 14 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. 

Claude Shannon, the film’s protagonist, is a U-M alumnus (BSE Electrical Engineering 1936. BSE Mathematics 1936) and has been called the Father of Information Theory. The film will be followed by a Q&A panel with Electrical Engineering and Computer Science faculty, Profs. Alfred Hero, David Neuhoff, and Chris Peikert, as well as special guest director Mark A. Levinson.

General Magic
Wednesday, February 2, 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 special guests for a post-film discussion TBD.

Human Nature

Date Wednesday, March 18 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan

From executive producer Dan Rather and director Adam Bolt, the co-writer and editor of the Oscar-winning film Inside Job, comes the story of the biggest tech revolution of the 21st Century. And it isn’t digital, it’s biological. A breakthrough called CRISPR has given us unprecedented control over the basic building blocks of life. It opens the door to curing diseases, reshaping the biosphere, and designing our own children. Human Nature is a provocative exploration of CRISPR’s far-reaching implications, through the eyes of the scientists who discovered it, the families it’s affecting, and the bioengineers who are testing its limits. How will this new power change our relationship with nature? What will it mean for human evolution? To begin to answer these questions we must look back billions of years and peer into an uncertain future.

107 min. Documentary. NR. 

With special guests for a post-film discussion TBD.

To Dust

Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan

Grieving the recent death of his wife, Shmuel (Géza Rohrïg), decides that, in order to move on, he must understand the science behind the decomposition process of his wife’s body—despite the blasphemy inherent in any scientific inquiry. To assist his sinful pursuit, he seeks out Albert (Matthew Broderick), a community-college biology professor who Shmuel enlists to teach informal science lessons. These soon grow to include homemade experiments and a road trip to a body farm, and, as their macabre misadventures and unlikely friendship grow ever more peculiar, the odd couple prove they will stop at nothing to satiate their curiosity and, ultimately find Shmuel the peace he seeks.

92 min. Drama. R. 

With special guests for a post-film discussion TBD.