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Series looks at collision between technology and cinema


Matt Heistand
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Associate humanities professor Robert Pross talks to a student about the day's lecture. On Friday, he will discuss the portrayal of science in cinema as part of the Arizona International Arts Festival.

By Rebecca Missel
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 5, 2000
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After decades of special effects and spectacular visions, the Arizona International Film Festival combines the worlds of science and film in "The Science and the Spectacle" program, beginning tomorrow.

"People need to distinguish between science fiction and science fact - they need to understand that there is psuedo-science and real science," said Charles Geoffrion, chairman of "The Science and the Spectacle" program. "We're interested in what's happening behind the scenes and in front of the lens."

Every year the festival highlights different areas of film, and in honor of the new millennium, they teamed up with faculty members in the UA's College of Science to create the program.

"It was a joint collaboration from the beginning," said Alaina Levine, the program's publicist and communications director for the physics department. "We are in love with science, and we want the public to share our passion because we love movies too."

Geoffrion, who is also associate dean of the College of Science explained the importance of science in creating believable movies.

"Computer science, special effects and digital technologies have revolutionized the industry," he said. "The role science has played in films is not only the wonderful things we've seen, but also what happens behind the scenes."

A major part of the program includes a series of panel discussions from faculty members. Richard Poss, associate humanities professor will be presenting at the discussion this Friday on the topic of "Mars in the Movies."

"The discussion will examine several movies that involve Mars, and deal with the counterpoint between fictional portrayals and what science knew about Mars at that time," he said.

At the heart of Poss's lecture are his theories on human colonization of Mars in the future.

"Society is beginning to understand that Mars is the next great frontier, and the logical place for large numbers of people," he said. "I hope to use the cinematic martian settings as grounds for discussion of the actual martian environment that I believe we'll be living in in the future."

The other main objective of "The Science and the Spectacle" is an effort by those in the scientific community to dispel rumors and educate the public.

"Often times scientists are portrayed as quirky, eccentric and even evil," Levine said. "They (the movie industry) take scientific facts and go way beyond reality into fantasyland."

However, she did not think that all representations of science in film is inappropriate.

"Although the movie industry gets science wrong, it often works for science anyway because people get interested in studying," Levine said.

What sometimes begins as fantasy in the mind of a filmmaker, turns into reality within a few decades.

"Some science fiction from the 1930s and '40s is now fact," Geoffrion said. "Cell phones are not far from Dick Tracy's wristwatch."

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