Science Fair (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Movies and documentaries, in particular, have the ability to introduce viewers to a world they know nothing about. I’ve been teaching now since 2006, and I had never heard of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Directors Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster made Science Fair (2018), a film that follows several students from various parts of the world as they compete in their state or national science fairs in order to make entry into Intel ISEF.

Science Fair in a compelling look at the lives of students dedicated to science

Costantini and Foster do an excellent job in structuring the story of the competitors. The nine students the film follows are introduced in chunks by geographic locations. We spend a section of time with each before moving onto the next. It could have been structured chronologically, cutting back and forth between all nine kids…however, had the film been structured in that manner, those frequent interruptions could have been confusing, or could weakened each of the individual stories the audience gets. It’s the kids that make this film so compelling.

The nine personalities chosen to be focused upon are all unique and compelling. While I don’t have the names of the students in front of me, they each had some fascinating story. The subjects of the films come from a variety of backgrounds. Two came from a very poor town in Brazil, and developed a potential cure for the Zika virus. One girl from a predominantly athletic-focused high school used brain waves to do something that, if I’m being honest, I didn’t totally understand. In fact, the movie doesn’t try to explain their projects in every instance, but rather shows you the journey that they are on. These kids are dedicated and passionate, and will likely be the ones who shape the world in the coming years.

Seeing this world, a part of my world that I didn’t even know existed, is a major reason to watch documentaries. There are some that can be a little dry or long-winded that casual movie watchers just won’t sit through. However, the directors of this film found subjects who are compelling and full of personality. The screening I attended at SXSW was often full of laughing or crying as the film went on. The audience was generally rooting for the students to succeed, and if any bumps occurred, would react accordingly. In many ways, this film feels like a narrative, which makes it more palatable for general audiences.

Final thoughts…

Science Fair works. It is inspiring and captivating while offering insight into a world that has been in existence for years. More schools need to attempt to compete with the inventions and projects that are on display in this film, which could be revolutionary – and they’re being made by children. Science Fair earns the Must See rating.

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