The 2018
Six scientists and six filmmakers have been chosen to create genre-bending works during the 11th Imagine Science Film Festival in NYC this fall.
In four years of Symbiosis competitions, we have witnessed the power of concentrated exchanges between active scientists and diverse filmmakers. We structure this program with an eye towards facilitating this exchange and the emergence of new forms of science cinema. Symbiosis films have gone on to screen at International Film Festival Rotterdam, New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and beyond!
This project is supported by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.
  • Science Sandbox is dedicated to inspiring a deeper interest in science, especially among those who don't think of themselves as science enthusiasts. We support and collaborate with programs that unlock scientific thinking in everyone. Science Sandbox is an initiative of the Simons Foundation.
Competition Timeline
Competitors are paired on Opening Night of the Imagine Science Film Festival

Friday, October 12
Issue Project Room
View works in progress, observe film mentorship and lend your own voice to the conversation!

Monday, October 15
Bowery Poetry Club
The films are premiered. The awards are made!
(Plus a live performance)

Friday, October 19
Presenting the Competitors
The Filmmakers
  • Leah Shore
    Leah Shore is a Writer, Director and Filmmaker. She has been fortunate to have her films shown at over 100 film festivals, museums, galleries and shows worldwide. She was named one of Filmmaker Magazines "25 New Faces in Independent Film…", and has been written about in publications such as VICE, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Nowness, Indiewire, Filmmaker Magazine and Talkhouse Film, etc. Her film, OLD MAN is currently on The Criterion Collection's Filmstruck playing before the film Easy Rider. She plans on producing more films, art and has recently started to pitch comedic live action and animation TV shows. Hit. Her. Up.
  • Zahra Al-Mahdi

    Zahra Al-Mahdi (1989) is an English Literature graduate from Kuwait University, College of Arts. She is an artist, writer, musician, and filmmaker. She is known for collage work using ink sketches layered over photographs, animation on live action, and installations that deal with dissected anatomical figures. Science Fiction, Post-colonialism, and Post-structuralism are leading themes in her oeuvre. Her most notable works are her debut graphic novel titled We, The Borrowed (2016), and an online mockumentary miniseries titled Bird Watch (2017).
  • Réka Bucsi
    Réka Bucsi, is a hungarian independent animation filmmaker. She received her BFA and MFA at the animation department of Moholy­-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest. Her graduation film 'Symphony no. 42', got Shortlisted for the Oscars in 2014. Her films were screened at official shorts competition Berlinale, SXSW, Sundance, Annecy, and won over 50 international awards. Her new short film Solar Walk premiered at the Berlinale 2018, and won the Audi Short Film Award. Réka has been part of multiple artist in residence programs in Europe, and is represented by Passion Pictures.
  • Markos Kay

    Markos R. Kay is a digital artist, director and lecturer with a focus in art and science. The aim of his work is to create public engagement with complex science. His art and design practice ranges from screen-based media to projection and print. Kay's work can be described as a series of experiments using generative methods which explore and abstract the complex worlds of molecular biology and particle physics.
  • Haoyan of America
    Haoyan of America works to glean insights on the human condition by medium massaging the milieu, reflecting on invisible landscapes of meaning, and fostering technological equanimity.

  • César Pesquera

    César Pesquera never wanted to be a director but remembers very vividly as a kid going to open air cinema sessions with his dad. Now he passionately makes films, writes and directs music videos and commercials. He is an extremely versatile director and his work is a remarkably personal combination of cinematic storytelling and visual experimentation with a touch of surreal comedy and a strong sense of art direction. In 2013 he was awarded at Young Directors Awards in Cannes. He has just finished his last short film Santa Ana, shot in the desert of Nevada and California, and at the moment is working on a new short film and writing a feature film.
The Scientists
  • Enrico Milanese
    Enrico Milanese is pursuing a PhD in Mechanics at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland). He might never get it though. In fact, along his quest for a PhD he found himself in a subplot of science filmmaking after winning Exposure Science Film Hackathon, and was hooked. He has since been active in producing science films, vlogs, and events, as he strongly believes that science needs arts to be effectively and broadly communicated. In his PhD, he studies how surface morphology changes during mechanical wear processes. He also loves pineapple on pizza and sarcasm.
  • Daniel Toker
    Daniel Toker is a neuroscience PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. He studies large-scale information flow in the brain, and how that information flow is disrupted when we are unconscious. When not in lab, Daniel shares his love of the brain in local libraries, pubs, and social media. He is also a writer for the Emmy-nominated documentary series, Mind Field. For him, science communication is part of the scientific process: the activities and discoveries of science - and the awe that science can evoke - belong to everyone.
  • Sheela Prasad
    Sheela Prasad is pursuing her PhD in Molecular Pharmacology at NYU Langone, where she studies oncogenic RAS, macropinocytosis, and cancer cell metabolism. Her research incorporates molecular and informatics-based methods to find novel therapeutic targets for RAS-driven cancers. Sheela received her B.A. in Economics and Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. When not in the lab, she enjoys creative writing and managing a personal portfolio of biotech securities.
  • Bianca Jones Marlin
    Bianca Jones Marlin is a neuroscientist and postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University. She holds a PhD in neuroscience from New York University, and a dual bachelor degrees from St. John's University, in biology and adolescent education. Dr. Marlin is currently investigating transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, or how traumatic experiences in parents affect the brain structures of their offspring. Her research has been featured in Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Scientific America and Discover Magazine's "100 Top Stories of 2015." She is the recipient of the 2016 Society for Neuroscience Donald B. Lindsley Award. Dr. Marlin aims to utilize neurobiology and the science of learning to better inform both the scientific and educational community on how positive experiences dictate brain health, academic performance, and social well being. A native New Yorker, Dr. Marlin lives in Manhattan with her husband, Joseph, daughter, Sage, and cat Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who is named after the famed neuroanatomist.
  • Tracy Fanara
    Dr. Tracy Fanara is a University of Florida grad with a BS, ME, PhD in Environmental Engineering (Go Gators), and worked on civil projects all over the world as a design engineer. She takes on projects with a goal of extending humanity's existence on Earth. With expertise in sustainable design, water treatment, hydrology, and harmful algae, she runs a research program at Mote Marine Laboratory designing innovate collaborative solutions to world health threats to build a sustainable future for generations to come. Tracy was seen on the Science and Discovery Channel television series, Mythbusters: The Search, will soon be featured on Fox's Awesome Planet, and will be testing animal myths every week on ABC's Animal Outtakes. Tracy has used the media platform to inspire young and old through her love for science and drive to break stereotypes, overcome obstacles, and pursue passion with hard work. An engineer, scientist, graduate school professor, stormchaser, and TV personality, she embraces opportunities that ask her to step outside her comfort zone and encourages others to do the same.
  • Begüm Aydin
    Begüm Aydin is a Ph.D. candidate at New York University studying towards a degree in Stem Cell Biology. As a developmental biologist, she is interested in the question of how cells acquire their fate. By making neurons from embryonic stem cells, she aims to elucidate the mechanisms by which diverse neuronal types are generated in the brain. She received her BSc degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. During her undergraduate years at Bogazici, she was actively involved in the avant-garde performing arts ensemble on campus. She is interested in the areas where science, philosophy, and social sciences interact and she sees filmmaking as a medium to cultivate such opportunities.
Crisis. Entropy. Extinction. Last year we celebrated the past ten years of the Imagine Science Film Festival's existence, but this year we take a hard look ahead at the high stakes for all life on an Earth facing climate change, species loss, nuclear proliferation, the imminent exhaustion of our energy resources. Existence itself is not assured.

But wherever we consider such direly high stakes, we can also aspire to a better world. New technologies constantly open new possibilities and sociopolitical change opens the way for new ideas to take hold. For every dystopia, a corresponding utopia may be within reach. It may be a struggle, but the record of all life is that of an eon-spanning fight to stay alive.

This year, we look for your speculative hopes and fears, your studies of tumultuous natural history and startling feats of adaptation, all your endings and new beginnings. Apoptosis versus immortal cell lines. Half-lives and radical life extension. Obsolete inventions inspiring crucial breakthroughs. Illness and regeneration. The deaths of stars and the necessary paths to SURVIVAL.
A Symbiosis film's life does not end with the competitions. Instead, we ensure that these incredible collaborations continue to be seen by audiences all over the world. Through Imagine Science's always-growing infrastructure, these films have the chance to travel to other festivals and satellite events, and now appear on our Labocine video platform as streaming films and as profiles called Spotlights! Additionally, Symbiosis films have been submitted and screened at festivals around the world!
The Symbiosis Jury
  • Heather Berlin
    Cognitive Neuroscientist, Mount Sinai
    Dr. Heather Berlin is a cognitive neuroscientist and Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She practices clinical neuropsychology at Weill Cornell Medicine/New York Presbyterian Hospital in the Department of Neurological Surgery, and is a Visiting Scholar at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. She explores the neural basis of impulsive and compulsive psychiatric and neurological disorders with the aim of developing novel treatments. She is also interested in the brain basis of consciousness, dynamic unconscious processes, and creativity.

    Passionate about science communication and promoting women in STEM, Berlin is a committee member of the National Academy of Sciences' Science and Entertainment Exchange, and The New York Times series TimesTalks. She hosts Startalk All-Stars with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and hosted the PBS series Science Goes to the Movies, and the Discovery Channel series Superhuman Showdown. Dr. Berlin co-wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed off-Broadway and Edinburgh Fringe Festival show, Off the Top, about the neuroscience of improvisation. She has made numerous media appearances including on the BBC, History Channel, Netflix, National Geographic, NPR, and TEDx, and was featured in the documentary film Bill Nye: Science Guy. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oxford and Master of Public Health from Harvard University.

  • Catherine Chalmers
    Artist & Filmmaker
    Catherine Chalmers holds a B.S. in Engineering from Stanford University and an M.F.A. in Painting from the Royal College of Art in London. She has exhibited her artwork around the world, including MoMA P.S.1, New York; MassMoca, North Adams; Kunsthalle Vienna; The Today Art Museum, Beijing; among others. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Time Out New York, ArtNews, Artforum and on PBS, CNN, NPR, and the BBC. Two books have been published on her work: FOOD CHAIN (Aperture 2000) and AMERICAN COCKROACH (Aperture 2004). Her video "Safari" won Best Experimental Short at SXSW Film Festival in 2008. In 2010 Chalmers received at Guggenheim Fellowship and in 2015 she was awarded a Rauschenberg Residency. In 2018 she created a course called Art & Environmental Engagement and taught it spring quarter at Stanford University. She lives in New York City.

  • John Tracey
    Associate Program Officer, Science Sandbox, Simons Foundation
    John Tracey joined the Simons Foundation in 2014 to study how to improve public engagement with science. In addition to helping to develop Science Sandbox' portfolio of awardees, Tracey manages Science Sandbox' external communications. Prior to joining the foundation, Tracey was at the American Association for Cancer Research, where he worked on the Stand Up to Cancer initiative, managing grantee statistics and statistics reporting, editing and producing website content, and completing related projects. He holds a B.A. in English literature from the College of New Jersey.
  • Science Sandbox is dedicated to inspiring a deeper interest in science, especially among those who don't think of themselves as science enthusiasts. We support and collaborate with programs that unlock scientific thinking in everyone. Science Sandbox is an initiative of the Simons Foundation.
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