Inventing Tomorrow


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Inventing Tomorrow - Take a journey with young minds from around the globe as they prepare their projects for the largest convening of high school scientists in the world, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Watch these passionate innovators find the courage to face the planet’s environmental threats while navigating adolescence.
"It's between the subjects themselves that the magic happens." | Photo: Q190 Productions

As the commentariat fret over the rise of fake news, another significant trend seems to be going under the radar - people are watching less of the real thing. It's just too depressing, they say. The world is in so much trouble. What hope is there?

If you're in need of a little optimism, this documentary is a good place to start.

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Laura Nix has brought together the stories of young innovators from around the world. They're linked by their participation in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the largest event of its kind aimed at high school students. It's an event crucial to acquiring funds for further project development, but it's also an opportunity to network, finding mentors and making new friends. it's here that some of the world's most capable young people - from third world countries as well as developed nations - exchange ideas and lay the first building blocks of a future guranteed to challenge our expectations.

This is no fluffy little film about sweet kids with unlikely projects that make adults smile. It's the story of quite extraordinary individuals who are applying themselves to the problems they see around them in remarkable ways. Some are developing new chemical processes to reduce the quantity of pollutants produced by local industries. Some are developing methods to help populations adapt more successfully to recurrent natural disasters. They're doing their research with a thoroughness that puts many adult scientists to shame, testing their methods, exploring the potential political and sociological barriers to actualisation, and backing up all their claims with solid data. They're also meeting in hallways to practice standing and breathing properly so they can impress the judges, showing just a hint of childish shyness.

In a world where discussion of racism and international conflict is playing an increasingly prominent part in the news agenda, these young people interact as if such problems never crossed their horizons. The official language of the conference is English but not every attendee speaks it - instead they experiment to find mutually useful language so they can ask questions and enthuse about one another's projects. The thrill of discovering new ideas makes the effort more than worth it. We see them refining their own ideas in response, continually growing and learning. Most of them still lack some of the adult skills required to present their work in academic circles, but they're learning fast.

Nix's documentary isn't particularly sophisticated. We meet its subjects at home, learn about their ideas and the circumstances that gave rise to them, then see them at the conference making presentations and hoping to win funding. It's between the subjects themselves that the magic happens. They're hungry for knowledge, determined to turn their ideas into action, and full of promise for themselves and for the world.

The kids are alright.

Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2018
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A documentary about young people showcasing their inventions at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Director: Laura Nix

Year: 2018

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US, India, Mexico, Indonesia


Sundance 2018

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