OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Science Fair

The multitudinous effects of competition on the adolescent brain

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Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster’s joyful documentary can’t help but inspire hope in these grim times as it follows nine science-obsessed teenagers in the lead-up to the esteemed Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, an arduous competition where the winner stands to pocket a cool $75,000 and perhaps change the world.

Poster for the competition doc Science FairCo-director Costantini was an ISEF contestant herself, which helps account for the empathetic treatment accorded the film’s whiz-kid subjects, all of whom come across as fully rounded – and fully human – characters while competing with 1,700 fellow neophyte scientists from 78 countries. Among the contestants profiled are Brazilians Myllena Braz de Silva and Gabriel de Moura Martins, who are working on a genetic mutation to combat the Zika virus; German aeronautics novice Ivo Zell, who has designed a more fuel-efficient plane wing and built a prototype aircraft; and Muslim-American Kashfia Rahman, who combats sexism, intolerance and indifference to pursue her research into brain function in risk-taking adolescents.

If there is one underlying commonality among these kids – other than their exceptional intelligence, of course – it is a quiet, almost self-effacing, determination to succeed and to help make the world a better place. Costantini and Foster capture this spirit perfectly, resulting in a wonderfully humane and profoundly positive documentary.

– Vancouver International Film Festival

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