AFO 57 knows its winners, which popular science documentaries are the best?

5. 5. 2022

International Competition, Czech & Slovak Competition, Short Film Competition. And the Palacký University Student Competition. All of these categories have already been announced at the 57th Academia Film Olomouc. According to our juries and viewers, which films rule the current popularisation of science?

The International Competition jury highlighted three films that were in this year’s strong selection. Two thematically very different documentaries shared special mention My Garden of a Thousand Bees follows the huge success of Honeyland in the field of popularising beekeeping, but also thematically captures the pandemic situation and the need to find new passions in a suspended era. Pleistocene Park, on the other hand, takes viewers on a fascinating trip to Siberia, where an aging scientist, Sergei Zimov, and his family try to prevent the permafrost from thawing. But the Award for the Best International Science Documentary Film in the International Competition goes to the documentary Fathom. Director Drew Xanthopoulos follows two female scientists as they research whale communication. The film is equally concerned with the research and communication of scientific facts and the lives of the scientists themselves, who have chosen to devote their professional careers to this topic.

The Czech & Slovak Competition has two award-winning films. Special mention goes to the short film Czechia Deforested. This visually captivating student film opens up the issue of Czech forests, which may be irreversibly damaged by bark beetle. How can we try to restore them? The winner of the Award for the Best Czech & Slovak Science Documentary Film is none other than Ivo Bystřičan and his episode from the Industria series, subtitled Manufacturing War. The film playfully depicts the situation of Tomáš Baťa’s factories in the pre-war era through archive work and animation. Far from being a dull analysis of the workings of one company, it is a comprehensive historical excursion presenting the shape of society at the time.

And as for Short Film Competition? Peter Galison and his charming miniature Shattering Stars received special mention. He re-opens the question of black hole research, this time in animated form and through the story of the Indian scientist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who first discovered and described black holes. The winner of The Best Science Documentary Short Film Award was The Problem of the Hydra. This intense experimental short takes viewers out of their comfort zone through the articulation of existential questions that keep people awake. Being at the centre of the action? The microscopic animal, the common marmoset!

And not to be outdone, The Palacký University Student Jury Award goes to the documentary Carbon – An Unauthorised Biography. Nowadays primarily perceived in negative connotations, the gas is the protagonist and de facto presents his life story to the audience, through which we can understand his ambivalent position – as easily as he gave us life, he can take it away again.

These films take home the laurels from the 57th AFO. Did you manage to watch them all?