Katia and Maurice Krafft were rockstars in the field of volcanology. Among the earliest scientists to extensively film and photograph active and erupting volcanos, and often got as close as possible to the magma flows in an age when the unpredictability of the geological activity kept everyone else hundreds of feet away.
It is this love affair –both with each other and with volcanoes– Fire of Love takes a deep dive. This was a couple deeply committed to their field, one that had indeed found something they loved and thus never worked, but filmmaker Sara Dosa is able to paint a compelling portrait through their work.
In the film Gattaca, there is a scene where a set of new parents are consulting a doctor about genetically altering the baby they wish to conceive. When they posit that maybe it’s better to leave a few things to chance, the doctor scoffs and tells them they want to give their baby the best possible start. The film is a warning about the kind of future that genetic engineering and eugenics could create. That hasn’t stopped us from researching this science, though, and in 2018 Dr He Jiankui (JK for short), a geneticist in China, created the first genetically edited human embryos.
Make People Better follows the story of JK in two parallel tracks. One in the build-up to this achievement discusses the ethical implications of literally making people better—the other counts down toward JKs eventual arrest and disappearance by the Chinese government.
Where do the things we make go when we’re done with them? It’s a question that we too often don’t ask ourselves, along with what the long term effects are of what we do with our old stuff. Scrap doesn’t have any easy answers, but the new film from director Stacey Tenenbaum does offer a fascinating glimpse at a part of our modern world that we prefer not to think about.
In the 1950s and 60s, researchers at UCLA conducted a study into sex disorders. The resulting archive of data contains a cross-section of trans history in the form of interviews conducted with the study’s participants. One of the participants -a woman known only as Agnes- used the study to receive gender-affirming care and then seemingly disappeared.
With Framing Agnes, director Chase Joynt takes a handful of the stories collected in the UCLA study and presents them to the audience. The interviews themselves are re-framed as interviews on a late-night talk show and performed by trans performers. The performers themselves, along with trans researcher and advocate Jules Gill-Peterson, are also given the opportunity to reflect on the people they are portraying as well as their own life experiences.
The former is a brilliant take. Unfortunately, the latter interrupts the stories that we really want to hear. To put it more succinctly: Framing Agnes fails to get out of its own way.
Hot Docs 2022 is underway! Once again, I sat down on Zoom with Thomas Stoneham-Judge from ForReel to talk about the upcoming festival, and once again, I had a lovely time. Watch the video after the jump to see what we’re each looking forward to.