On Monday I finally made it along to one of the British Science Association‘s sci-screen events in Edinburgh (after 15 years of peripheral involvement in science outreach I still can’t think of them as anything other than the BA).
These are a neat concept – they show a film at the Filmhouse with a relevant expert on hand to take questions (previous films have included Contact, A Clockwork Orange and Twelve Monkeys). Unfortunately they’re at 5:45 which is a bit of a challenge if you’re coming in from the provinces (and probably also for a lot of working people in Edinburgh).
This month’s film was Krakatoa: The Last Days, a drama-documentary about the massive volcanic eruption in 1883. I booked my ticket online in case I couldn’t get one (the last somewhat scientific film I went to at the Filmhouse was the Shackleton Antarctic footage that sold out the big cinema). However, I needn’t have worried. There were maybe a dozen people there when I went in (I think about 30 total).
I shuffled myself to the end of a row and took some surreptitious glances around. My problem: it has been really windy and wet and I hadn’t been able to find somewhere to eat my dinner yet. No way could I wait till after 8pm, I was hungry! The lights went down for the trailers and I pulled out my little tupperware with my little cake fork. Mmmm, tabbouleh. Just enough light to see what I was doing.
Then the trailers finished and the lights went up again. Oops! Eating weird homemade food from a box on my lap? Who, me? *Innocent look* Tabbouleh goes on the floor.
The speaker was the director of Our Dynamic Earth, Stuart Monro. His introduction was interesting but a bit on the wordy side. Didn’t feel like the advertised 10 minutes! He gave some general stuff about volcanos: the specifics of Krakatoa were pretty much covered in the film.
The film was made for TV and aired on the BBC in 2006 (I didn’t see it at the time). I thought it was a bit of a clunker to be honest. The information was pretty good and I could see what they were trying to do, but the acting was a bit “we are actors on a stage. Sometimes we have put ash on our faces and tried to act traumatised”.
I like that it was all based on first-hand accounts, although that did by its nature mean that it was slightly uncomfortably centred around European people. It did have significant advantages over terrible Hollywood films like Dante’s Peak: at least they let the dog die. And the horse. And some people you were supposed to have got involved with.
I feel like we had a book about Krakatoa when I was growing up, but I can’t really remember anything about it. I kept vaguely remembering things, but not enough to really know what was going to happen – the bit about the boat was what was clearest. It’s bugging me that I don’t know where I got any knowledge from.
Overall, the science of the film was pretty good and the effects weren’t too bad. A pretty decent BBC/National Geographic science programme that just didn’t really stand up to big screen movie viewing.
I finished the film kind of wanting to go to the loo and hoping there wouldn’t be too many questions, but the question session was actually really fun. They may have been quite a small audience but they were a really involved one! Stuart Monro did punt a couple of questions out to other experts there which was nice. It did feel like a proper discussion.
The next one is Enigma with an expert from the Museum of Communications in Burntisland. That I MUST see! And I’m really embarrassed now that I haven’t been to the Museum of Communications. It will be remedied. Watch this space.