Given the incredible increase in science’s popularity over the past decade or so (thanks to the likes of Prof Brian Cox and social media pages like IFLScience), it’s only natural that our film-watching habits have evolved to reflect our interests. As the release of Christopher Nolan’s 'Interstellar' neatly syncs up with the much-reported activities of the Philae lander, Edinburgh’s annual Biomedical Ethics Film Festival examines issues closer to home, this year focusing on ‘The Moral Status of the Embryo’.
Using three films as conversation starters (the Palme d’Or-winning ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days’, short documentary ‘The Great Abortion Divide’ and Oscar-winning ‘Juno’), the festival aims to provoke discussion and debate between the audience and a panel of experts from the fields of bioethics, science, law, medicine and politics.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, Fri Nov 21, 5.45pm
Director Cristian Mungiu won the Palme d’Or for his second film, a tense drama about a young woman, Gabita, who’s looking to secure an illegal abortion in late-1980s Romania. Not only a great starting point for a discussion on the ethics of termination then, but also for discussing those secondary parties affected by the decision to abort: Mungiu opts to make Otilia, Gabita's companion, the protagonist, rather than Gabita herself.
The Great Abortion Divide, Sat Nov 22, 1.30pm
A half-hour ‘Panorama’ documentary investigating abortion legislation in the UK and Ireland, followed by a 19 minute doc entitled ‘Conversations: Ethics, Science, Stem Cells’, which aims to explicitly provoke conversation and debate on the topic.
Juno, Sun Nov 23, 1pm
Picking up a Best Original Screenplay gong for Diablo Cody at the 2008 Academy Awards, Jason Reitman’s teen pregnancy dramedy is divisive, with whip-smart, overly affected dialogue that rubs some people (including our reviewer at the time) entirely the wrong way. Still, it’s a much-needed lighter-hearted counterpoint to ‘4 Months…’, and especially interesting when you consider it was held responsible for a rise in teen pregnancies after its release (in what Time magazine coined ‘The Juno Effect’).
The Biomedical Ethics Film Festival takes place at the Filmhouse from Fri Nov 21-Sun Nov 23. For more info check out the Filmhouse website.