Science fiction meets non-fiction

Scifest Africa is all anyone seems to be talking about this week. The town is buzzing with students from across the country, who are here for South Africa’s National Science Festival. One of the events they have running this week is a film festival, and since that’s all my blog is about, I decided attend one of their screenings.

Cue the space soundtrack…

2001: A Space Odyessy is considered a cult classic, a movie that revolutionised the sci-fi film industry. The thing that makes this movie so iconic? It is realistic. The fiction part of science fiction would generally suggest otherwise, but director Stanley Kubrick’s attention to detail in the movie sets it apart. The very thing that had me falling asleep, the absence of sound for minutes at a time, is what makes this film real. In space there is no sound, it is simply a black void and a crushing silence, which is made abundantly clear in this film. In addition to this, the film pays attention to laws of physics and time. The way the ship and its passengers interact with their surroundings, the display of centrifugal force on the ship – are all very real and accurate. The journey to Jupiter is an extremely long one, and that is accurately depicted in the movie.

In the cinematic world science fiction isn’t always based on fiction. Some of the top sci-fi movies of today are rooted in real science. Oscar winner Interstellar is praised and loved for being grounded in scientific theories and facts. The in-depth research that was required for Christopher Nolan’s incredible work of cinematography is abundantly evident throughout this film. Its genius is appreciated best by those who take the time to see the facts beyond the fiction.

The blockbuster hit The Martian, an adaptation of Andy Weir’s incredibly researched and accurate novel, is praised as the most scientifically accurate film ever made. It’s easy to overlook the simplest things in a film but, in this one, there is immense attention to detail. From the crew’s duties to the protagonist’s survival techniques, it is all correct.

Movies have a tendency to forget all about the laws of physics and create their own worlds where anything is possible and, while those movies can be entertaining, sometimes seeing something real can be so much more rewarding.

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