‘We want people to fall in love with the world of science fair,’ says director Darren Foster

Hailed by critics as “immensely likable, “”brilliant and quirky” Science Fair” follows nine high school students from around the globe on their journey to compete at The International Science and Engineering Fair.

darren Foster

Caribpress caught up with the Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaking team Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster (pictured right) to talk about the film which​ offers a front seat to the victories, defeats and motivations of an incredible group of young men and women who are on a path to change their lives, and the world, through science.

W​hy ​make a ​documentary about science fair? ​
From the beginning, Cristina’s own experience with science fair was our north star  and ​ we set out to make a movie about the science fair journey as she remembered it: one of the most stressful, exhilarating, sublime, terrible experiences a young person could go through. We wanted to tell the story of teenage prodigies trying to navigate the sweet, confusing purgatory between childhood and adulthood. We realized that many of the characters at the center of our film — scientists, women, Muslims and immigrants — had suddenly found themselves at the center of very ugly national debates. We thought a lot about how to incorporate these themes into our film. Should we remind the audience of the times we live in with bites of Trump talking about cutting science funding while American students are already lagging behind their peers? Should we include interviews with talking heads about how science is under attack? As we started to go down this path, we realized we were overshadowing the thing that makes this movie shine and were straying from the very thing that drew us to the science fair in the first place — the stories of amazing nerdy teenagers with a whole lotta heart. Instead, we realized we had to trust the audience knows the backdrop that these stories are playing against and let these issues come through in real moments that were true to our main characters.Cristina Costantini

Did the film change from your original idea as you were filming or in post?
From that first shoot, we had a pretty clear vision for the film and for the most part, the final product doesn’t stray too far from it. However, our original idea was to follow just students but throughout production our camera kept gravitating toward one teacher. Dr. Serena McCalla (pictured below) is the science research teacher at Jericho High School in New York. We filmed her class and her amazing students over the course of the year.

What do you want audiences to take away from this film?
By telling the stories of the incredible kids featured in the film, we want people to fall in love with the world of science fair as much as we have. We also hope the spirit and the commitment of our kids restores some hope at a time when the country seems to have turned its back on science. It would also be nice if people walk away with an appreciation for how science fairs foster the minds of some of our nation’s brightest students who may or may not fit into traditional educational systems.

McCalla

“Science Fair” releases in theater September 14

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