Coolidge Corner Film Series Goes National — With Zombies!


“Science on Screen,” a homegrown film series that started at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, is going viral.

Well, maybe not viral — but it is spreading to six to eight art houses nationally thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The series, now in its seventh season, creatively pairs feature films and documentaries with notable science, technology and medical experts.

For instance, Harvard psychiatrist Steven Schlozman delved into the theoretical brain structures of ravenous, flesh-eating zombies after a screening of the classic horror film “Night of the Living Dead.”

The series also matched a cognitive scientist with Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still” with a roboticist and “Fight Club” with a biological anthropologist.

Representatives from the Coolidge and the Sloan Foundation launched the new initiative this week at the Art House Convergence, a meeting of independent cinemas from around the country. It takes place each year in Utah in the days leading up to the Sundance Film Festival, which kicked off Thursday.

"People always respond to science and technology when it’s presented in an entertaining fashion."

Doron Weber

Elizabeth Taylor-Mead, associate director at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, curates “Science on Screen." In an e-mail from Utah she explained that the series has evolved a great deal since it began in 2005. From the start, though, Taylor-Mead knew she wanted it to be different.

“I was keen to move it away from a formulaic model where the film chosen is about exactly what the speaker is presenting,” she wrote. “There were other programs around the country that matched films and science but none were very playful.”

This imaginative approach appealed to Doron Weber, vice president of programs at Sloan.

“People always respond to science and technology when it's presented in an entertaining fashion,” Weber said, also via an e-mail from Utah. “And there's a hunger to understand this stuff because we live in an increasingly scientific and technological world.”

Taylor-Mead can’t wait to start distributing the new grant money to other art houses around the country so they can grow their own series.

“These communities may not have an MIT or Harvard in their midst,” Taylor-Mead explained, “but leaders in the areas of science, technology and medicine find this program 'cool' and give them access to present their work to a new audience — not only an academic audience.”

Besides that, she wrote, “EVERYONE loves movies! Every community has a local college. There are science departments, there are companies that employ people doing great research, there are innovators all over the country. And there are audiences who are delighted to be entertained and informed, but not in a ‘green vegetables — this is good for you’ kind of way," she said. “Long live cinema!”

This program aired on January 21, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Andrea Shea Correspondent, Arts & Culture
Andrea Shea is a correspondent for WBUR's arts & culture reporter.



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