Inventing Tomorrow film still of selfie-taking female Indonesian high school entrants to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Inventing Tomorrow

Inventing Tomorrow is an inspiring doco featuring some extraordinary teens fired by science and environmentalism. If these optimistic, exuberant, intelligent and responsibly ambitious young people are the future, we can look forward with hope.

4 out of 5 stars

Review: (rolanstein)
Inventing Tomorrow maintains the tradition of recent years of the Perth International Film Festival of closing on a positive note. Some ask in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, but as with last year’s wonderful, life-affirming doco The Music of Strangers, you will come away from this one with a lighter heart, with hope for the future, with your faith in humanity at least partly restored.

That’s all down to the inspirational teen scientists who are the subjects of the film. 16-year-old Sahithi from Bangalore, India is working towards cleaning up the local lakes, so polluted that shifting mountains of toxic foam are pushed off the water surface by the wind, tumbling down the streets like giant pedestrian and car-gulping tumbleweeds. Then there’s Jesus, Jose and Fernando from Monterrey, Mexico, who have developed a carbon-neutralising paint. High school girl Nuha, from Bangka, Indonesia, is driven to find a way to reduce the ocean-polluting waste from offshore tin mining operations. In Hilo, Hawaii, Jared is investigating increased arsenic levels in the local soils as a result of two 20th-century tsunamis.

We follow the progress of the teens as they converge on LA for an international youth science fair at which they formally present their projects for scrutiny by their peers and the public, and assessment by hard-nosed career scientists who fire questions at them, charged with the task of determining the most worthy entrants.

Director Laura Nix is content to adopt a conventional doco structure, focusing her attention on the subjects. We are introduced to each in turn, along with the local environmental problem they are seeking to address. Unfortunately, we are given only a glimpse into their personal and family backgrounds (the highlight is a delightful exchange between the respectful and irresistibly sweet Nua and her funny and very laid-back father, whose counsel ends with a somewhat perfunctory instruction that she read The Koran every day while she’s away).

Attention subsequently swings to the science fair, where young people from all over the world come together, nationally and culturally disparate but united in their zeal for science and its potential to serve humanity.

Some of the most warming moments of the film occur when they encounter each other for the first time, moving uncertainly through the milling crowd exchanging badges. They are shy and self-conscious as teenagers anywhere. There are language barriers to overcome. Selfies to take to remember each other by. Phone numbers and social media contact details to swap, promises made to keep in touch. Or not. And of course there’s boy-girl awkwardness, which progresses to flirting in some instances. It’s sort of gratifying to watch on from your cinema seat, realising that as dark and despairing as the world so often seems today, kids are still kids, still alight with the irrepressible energy and optimism of youth, still looking forward to a future that can only be better for their contribution.

Inevitably, the project competition judging brings about elation for the winners and disappointment for the others – but there really are no losers here.

The final scene is dramatic and visually stunning: lava from a fiery active volcano throws up clouds of steam as it reacts with sea water, creating new land. As an observer comments, it’s like watching the beginning of the world. It’s a marvellous image of renewal.

And you know, you can’t help but to feel a little less bleak about the future as this new generation takes over. We’ve left them a fucking mess, but going by the amazing young folk that feature in Inventing Tomorrow and their indefatigable spirit, there’s room for hope. That message is the gift the film leaves you with. The timing could not be better.

Movie Website:

Inventing Tomorrow features: Amazing, positive, inspiring, environmentalist scientist teens of multiple nationalities united in their endeavours to remedy the environmental mess we’re in
Director: Laura Nix
Runtime: 104 mins

Inventing Tomorrow screening dates (2018-19 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival):
Joondalup Pines: 19-24 March, 2019, 7.30pm
Somerville: 25-31 March, 2019, 7.30pm

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