Film about growing babies in pods wins Sundance science prize
The Pod Generation, a Sci-Fi movie starring Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones and academy award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, aired at last week’s Sundance Film Festival. It was named this year’s Feature Film Prize winner of the Science-in-Film initiative, an award given by the Sundance Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Set in a not-too-distant future, the Pod Generation follows a couple as they decide to forgo natural child gestation to instead grow their baby ex utero, in a pod, developed by a private billion-dollar technology giant called Pegazus. The film explores the psychological implications the couple faces as they outsource childbirth to a new technology and to a powerful company.
Director Sophie Barthes said she wanted to create a film that explores our ever-changing relationship to technology.
“Technology, per se, is not the target, because I think, you know, we need it, there is no going back, and it's going to progress exponentially. But our consciousness doesn't progress as fast as the technology. So there is a discrepancy, actually, between the fact that we are not fully ready for some tools. And I just wanted to explore that with the film. Like is our relationship to technology a little unhinged? Is it something healthy? Is that the kind of future we would want? So for me as a filmmaker it's just about asking those questions. I don't have the answers. And I'm not here to lecture, or to do propaganda, or to have a very specific opinion. I just want to raise ethical and philosophical questions about the future,” Barthes said.
In a commodified film industry where box office revenue potential often decides the selection of major motion pictures, Barthes said Sundance allows smaller budget movies that don’t fit into certain categories, see the light.
“Yeah, I mean, I think Sundance is the antidote to the commodification of the film industry, because the programmers are very thoughtful about inviting all kinds of films. The diversity of films this year, and themes, it was pretty incredible. And it's very refreshing to see movies that would not be made in the studio system. Sundance is the place where the 'in-between-movies' can exist where they don't really fit a specific category. And I think that's super important for the health of the film industry, that film makers are able to have that creative freedom,” Barthes said.
Doron Weber, director of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, says the organization is a nonprofit with a mission to bring science and the arts together and to translate scientific content for the public. He says the film sits squarely at the heart of the organization’s mission.
“So this is a film that engages very deeply and refreshingly with scientific and technological ideas. So it's obviously an easy fit. And as we see from Sophie's film, I mean, the question of what is technology? What is human? That distinction is now at the center of what defines us, what decisions we're going to make. Sophie shows in a very, I think, satirical and original way, there are benefits and risks. It's always a balance or a trade off. Her film, in addition to being this big question of technology, it's also about parenthood, and how we reproduce, which is also one of the ways we define who we are,” Weber said.
Weber says The Pod Generation was chosen as this year’s winner by a committee of six scientists and artists including the comedian, Jim Gaffigan.