Film Review: Genesis 2.0
Alternating between strikingly shot footage of ivory hunters in the New Siberian Islands north of Russia, looking for woolly mammoth tusks, and a gathering of young scientists in Boston involved in genetic biology and engineering, Christian Frei and Maxim Arbugaev’s Genesis 2.0 is a film of contrasts. On the one hand, we have the elemental, rugged search for remnants from the Earth’s distant past, on the other the brave new world of future visionaries looking to change the world by merging biology and technology. Even the filmmaking styles of these respective sections are different, with stark, brutal landscapes jutting up against scenes of chatty, nicely dressed crowds in well-lit convention centers, and images of terse, tired, poor hunters cutting to slick, eloquent presentations about new frontiers in genetic engineering. For much of the film, it feels as if we’re watching two separate, unrelated stories.
But soon, connections begin to emerge, and we realize that the aforementioned contrast embodies the central questions of the film, which probes the ethics and science around efforts to clone new creatures. How can science bring the mammoth back—and should it? What about the creation of new, hybrid species of animals? These are thorny questions, and while the directors do tip their hands a couple of times, they leave their film mostly open-ended. We understand the troubling nature of some of these developments, but we also marvel at the horizons of possibility that may be beckoning to us. By preserving that mystery—and by presenting its images and sounds so artfully—Genesis 2.0 achieves a kind of queasy majesty. —Bilge Ebiri