Film Review: Inventing Tomorrow
Can kids save the world? They might have to. In Laura Nix’s absorbing documentary, we watch four groups of teens from around the globe as they work on scientific projects to help their struggling communities—from a paint that cleans the air around it, developed by high-schoolers in Monterrey, Mexico, to a filtering system designed by two girls to combat the runaway pollution created by local tin-mining operations in their home of Bangka, Indonesia. After introducing us to these intrepid and passionate young scientists, the film follows them to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles, where their projects compete against those of other kids from all over the world.
It’s a fascinating journey, filled with moments of terror—observe the giant toxic clouds of foam from a polluted Indian lake tumble ominously through the streets of Bangalore like an invading alien army—and humor—watch a group of Mexican teens and their interpreter struggle over the term chemiluminescence and how to translate it. But more important, the movie offers something rare in documentary films today: hope. These kids’ projects may be designed to help their towns and cities, but these future scientists are all too aware of their connection to the world around them. As one girl from Indonesia observes, tin is used in electronics everywhere, including mobile phones, which makes Bangka’s pollution problem a matter of planetary concern. Frankly, this is a level of awareness that’s often sorely missing from the world of adults. —BE