Park City Film Series celebrates science after grant
January 5, 2018
When the Park City Film Series received a Verizon Foundation grant earlier this year to curate a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) film series, the nonprofit's executive director, Katharine Wang, knew she wanted to find films that would engage the local youth.
She and her board looked at a variety of films and decided to show two: Theodore Melfi's historical drama, "Hidden Figures," and David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg's documentary "Bill Nye: Science Guy," in partnership with the Park City Library.
Both films will be screened for free at the library's Jim Santy Auditorium, Wang said.
"Hidden Figures," rated PG, was released in 2017 and will show at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 6.
“It’s also a good reminder of what women and women of color faced in the 1950s...”
— Katharine Wang, Park City Film Series executive director
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The film is about three African-American women who are spaceflight engineers: Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – portrayed by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, respectively, Wang said.
"They broke racial and gender boundaries with their work at NASA and John Glenn's space launch in the 1950s," she said. "Not only did they face prejudices against them because they were women, but they also face racism for being African-American."
In addition to being part of the STEM Film Series, "Hidden Figures" is also a component in the Park City Film Series' Books 2 Movie program because it is based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.
"It's quite extraordinary to achieve what they did on their own merits at that time," Wang said. "This is an inspiring story, and it's also a good reminder of what women and women of color faced in the 1950s. And certainly, some of those boundaries are still in place today."
A panel discussion featuring Dr. Helen Hu, Westminster College computer science professor, will follow the screening.
"Helen will talk about her work and how things have changed in her field from the time the film takes place to now," Wang said. "She will also talk about some of the issues that still need to be addressed regarding females and minorities in her field."
The second film, "Bill Nye: Science Guy," will screen at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 11.
The documentary, which premiered at South by Southwest last year, is about Bill Nye, born William Sanford Nye, and on his lifelong mission to value science education and the scientific way of addressing the world, according to Wang.
"This was something he did with his TV series 'Bill Nye the Science Guy,'" she said. "He wanted to get kids excited about science, and he wanted to show how the world works through scientific experimentation."
The documentary also looks at Nye's career since "Bill Nye the Science Guy" ended.
"He became the CEO of the Planetary Society," Wang said.
The Planetary Society is a nonprofit, founded by legendary astronomer Carl Sagan, that "empowers the world's population to advance space science and exploration," according to its mission statement.
John Wells, the host of Cool Science Radio for KPCW, will moderate a panel discussion following the screening.
The panel will include Dr. Wendi Laurence, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) educator; Charlie Matthews, Park City School District STEM Coordinator; Emma Greally, a local eighth grade student and Utah Science Fair prize winner; and Sarah Murphy, STEAM Educator at The Leonardo science and art museum in Salt Lake City.
"Wendi was a NASA curriculum developer who is involved with the National Science Teacher Association and is an award-winning artist," Wang said. "She also lives up here in Park City."
Matthews is an advisor for Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies and a physics teacher.
"He's like Bill Nye because he loves science and has that infectious enthusiasm," Wang said.
Wang said she is excited to hear from Greally during the discussion.
"Emma created science project that creates renewable energy through pedaling a bicycle," she said. "She's been working on this for a couple of years and her project has advanced from the school district science-fair level to the state level. Her project was also featured at The Leonardo last May."
In addition, the panel will feature Sarah Murphey, a STEAM educator for the Leonardo.
"The Leonardo presents Leo on Wheels, an exhibit that usually is taken to Utah schools," Wang said. "Sarah will bring these exhibits to the Park City Film Series an hour prior to the evening's screenings."
The exhibits will be crosstubular headphones and anamorphosis art.
Crosstubular headphones work with sound waves and explores how and when sound waves hit the eardrums, according to Wang.
Anamorphosis Art, on the other hand, features deformed images that appears in their true shapes when viewed in some "unconventional" way, Wang said.
"These will be fun for kids and adults to try out," she said.
Park City Film Series, in partnership with the Park City Library, will present free screenings of two science-themed films at the Park City Library's Jim Santy Auditorium. The first is Theodore Melfi's "Hidden Figures," a historical drama released in 2017 that will show at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 6. The second film, David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg's documentary "Bill Nye: Science Guy," will screen at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 11. For information, visit http://www.parkrecordfilmseries.com.