September 4, 2003 - October 31, 2003
The film component of Gene(sis): Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics, on view in the BAM Galleries August 27 through December 7.
Almost since the inception of cinema itself, film artists have entertained the idea of the genome. The earliest examples, dating back to 1914, were social problem films that proposed eugenics as a handy solution, but pursued their course with bad science. As genomic research clarified, cinema too began to more fully picture the cultural import of genetic discovery. Genetic Screenings is a ten-part survey of the more provocative and successful feature films, documentaries, and experimental shorts that have engaged the genome as either focus or foil. From the controversial 1932 feature Island of Lost Souls, in which grotesque experiments accelerate animal evolution, to 1994's loopy The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb, centered around a genetics lab; from the fearsome fable of 1977's Demon Seed, in which a supercomputer creates its own scaly offspring, to the more recent Teknolust, which sees multiplying possibilities in its cloned characters, these intriguing films show how advances in genetic theory are popularized over time, then dispersed as cultural entertainment. To twist the helix a bit further, beautifully conceived documentaries tell the troubling history of the eugenics movement (Homo Sapiens 1900) and of one man's obsession with crossbreeding (Hybrid). Finally, each evening's feature is accompanied by experimental shorts chosen for their genomic themes and proving once and for all that we've located the gene for visual creativity.
Curated/Notes by Steve Seid
Thursday, September 4, 2003
7:30 a.m. ISLAND OF LOST SOULS
Introduced by Dale Hoyt. Charles Laughton is magnificently degenerate as H.G. Wells's Dr. Moreau in this essential 1932 horror film, evolutionary experimentation with an erotic subtext. In its compassion for the freaks of scientific progress, "the film's subversive spirit surfaces with a real vengeance."—Time Out. With Hoyt's Transgenic Hairshirt.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
7:30 a.m. THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF TOM THUMB
Combining pixillated humans with models, Dave Borthwick, famous for Creature Comforts, has created a quirky fantasy "where Eraserhead and Pinocchio meet."—The Guardian, U.K. With animated shorts Hello, Dolly!, The Donor Party, and Metronome Heart.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
7:30 a.m. GATTACA
Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman inhabit a future not racist or sexist, but genomist. "An Orwellian story presented with a cool, eerie precision like Peter Greenaway's...a handsome and fully imagined work of cautionary futuristic fiction."—N.Y. Times. With short One Breath.
Thursday, September 25, 2003
7:30 a.m. HOMO SAPIENS 1900
In a beautifully conceived documentary, Peter Cohen (The Architecture of Doom) presents a disquieting history of the eugenics movement—"the dream of a measurable man" masking a nightmare. With short Eight Men Called Eugene.
Thursday, October 2, 2003
7:30 a.m. UNDEREXPOSED: THE TEMPLE OF THE FETUS
Kathy High's audacious hybrid fiction looks at the emerging "fetal environment" and the effects of its incubating ideology on women. With shorts Replication, Hatching Beauty, and Stories from the Genome.
Thursday, October 9, 2003
7:30 a.m. THE SNOWFLAKE CRUSADE
It's not easy being a chip off the old double helix in Megan Holley's comitragedy of cloning. "Wonderfully literate, funny, and tender."—Tod Booth, S.F. Indiefest. With shorts Man's Search for Happiness and Stop Cloning Around.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
7:30 a.m. TEKNOLUST
Lynn Hershman Leeson in Person. Biogenetic engineers have feelings, too. This one does something about it. Tilda Swinton is cloned in this franken-farce, "the hippest 'cyber-fi' movie ever."—B. Ruby Rich. With short Copy Shop.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
7:30 a.m. HYBRID
Grand Prize winner at the 2001 Slamdance festival, Hybrid documents one man's obsession with crossbred corn in a wry, enchanting reflection on human nature. A "tricky and tremendous film."—N.Y. Times. With short Bug Girl.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
7:30 a.m. DEMON SEED
Greg Niemeyer in Person. Donald Cammell's exercise in techno-trauma features a supercomputer determined to use Julie Christie as the vessel for its brainchild. With world premiere of Niemeyer's short Organum.
Friday, October 31, 2003
7:30 a.m. THE FLY
The classic 1958 tale of scientific hubris and transgenic terror, complete with insectoid prosthetics, fly's-eye optical effects, and Vincent Price at high pitch. Help me! Help meeee!