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Film Review: Science Fair

20 October 18 words: Adam Ridgley

Nine high school science geeks give us an important revision session on why we should love science in this extremely likeable documentary...

Directors: Darren Foster and Cristina Costantini

Running time: 91 mins

National Geographic’s documentary captures the annual gathering of 1,700 of the best and brightest young minds from across the globe, competing at the 2017 International Science and Engineering fair (ISEF). Appropriately dubbed the “Olympics of science fairs”, these young science prodigies must present their projects and answer the questions of the judges as they examine each booth, with the goal of being named the “best in fair”.

The film follows a diverse group of nine high schoolers and one teacher who unashamedly embrace their talents, each with the belief that they have the potential to not just win but make real difference in the world. We follow these students as they go through the difficult qualifying process to make it to ISEF and their journey in the week leading up to the presentation. The general belief and optimism displayed by the teens makes Science Fair extremely easy, and at times heart-warming viewing.

A love letter to science that reminds us why we should all have more time for it

These wonderful high schoolers do teach us key lessons along the way. While the film is ultimately an hour and a half of science love, it does not shy away from facing the harsh realities it faces in an increasingly indifferent world. This is largely illustrated through Kashifa Rahman, who the filmmakers make a key point of highlighting how her achievements are never acknowledged by her school or her peers. 

Science Fair does highlight a lot of the apathy society can feel towards science and brilliant minds like Kashifa. That’s not to say that the film shames us for not caring, but instead it serves as a love letter to science that reminds us why we should all have more time for it.

Ultimately Science Fair captures a positive feeling as it introduces us to the next generation of scientists. Although the concepts the students are presenting are complex, the filmmakers smartly focus on the overall brilliance of what they are doing, rather than the details of it. Science Fair is a cheerful reminder to appreciate and support the bright minds around us, ultimately leaving us with the message: “these young minds, have a special way of looking at old problems.”

Did you know? Science Fair won the Festival Favourite award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival

Science Fair is screening at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 25 October

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