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Atoms searching for immateriality

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SHORTLISTED | Quantum Shorts 2018

About the Film: 

“There is only one moral worth in this story, one essential fact: we are nothing but ridiculous sparks in the light of the universe. May we have the wisdom not to forget it.” Hubert Reeves

Anne-Marie Bouchard’s film shines a spotlight on photoluminescent nanoparticles, known as quantum dots. When they are observed under the microscope, they give the impression of looking into space through a telescope. These bright spots may form the surface of your next screen or relay information in a new generation of optical fibers.

To learn more about the science of quantum dots, you could start here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_dot

INTERVIEW:

Please tell us about yourself and the team that made the film

Hi! I'm an experimental filmmaker from Québec, Canada. I directed several experimental videos and installations. My work is about exploring the mysteries and wonders of the world and questioning the way we perceive and analyze it. To sense, to feel, to be immersed, and to question: to me, cinema is poetry.

My work has been shown in festivals including the Chicago International Music and Movies Festival, Manchester international Film Festival (Manchester, UK), Les Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois (Montréal, Canada), Les Instants Vidéo de Marseille (France), Cinema on the Bayou (Louisiana, USA), San Diego Underground Film Festival, International Film Festival Ireland, Traverse Video (Toulouse, France), amongst others.

As an experimental video artist, I work with video and film as visual and audio matter. I question the way we are constructed as individuals, the way we grasp and perceive the world through the constant narrative we tell ourselves. Reality has no narrative at first, it is just there - until we, humans, attempt to make sense out of it with language and linearity. I seek to think differently, to express the world through another process. I organize my work in a poetic structure, where I appeal first to the senses, then to the intellectual associations of a non-narrative editing form. I have worked twice with scientists to create experimental films: one oceanograher / geophysicist, and one physicist.

Like a scientist, I begin any project with a hypothesis. I collect data: images and sounds. Then I analyze and organize it through editing. I believe in pure research, in science as well as in the arts. The result might not be commercial or industrial, but it brings light and beauty in the world, and it helps make sense out of it.

How did you come up with the idea for your film?

I was trying to find ways to work with new materials on 16mm film. I got interested in nano-technologies and the new materials created in laboratories. Cinema is light, so I looked for luminescent material. I met professor Claudine Allen, a physicist from Laval University. She was kind enough to share her research with me. She lent me some quantum dots to paint a 16mm movie with and she gave me access to the laboratory, where I could film quantum dots through the microscope. I had a lot of images, enough to make two movies! I made one called Jeux de lumières / Light plays, which is 16mm with quantum dots applied on it and then transferred to digital. And I made this one, which is the film I shot through the microscope.

What is the quantum inspiration? What makes you interested in quantum physics?

I really discovered a fascinating world, talking with Dr Allen and reading more and more about quantum physics. As an artist, my scientific background is limited, but my curiosity is vast! Two aspects of quantum physics fascinate me. First, the way the infinitely small and microscopic becomes as vast as the universe, because when I look then I the skies, I see also particles and atoms.. Second, I like the way quantum physics proposes that possibilities are there, all co-existing together, until an observation is made, and so defines "the real".

Please share with us an interesting detail about you how made the movie.

I filmed in the lab, but live sounds were not so poetic. I kept my images for two years until I finally found a proper sound to work with. It is the sound of snow falling on a bridge in Winnipeg, Canada, with the distant sound of light traffic on the bridge and wind through steel structures. That sound was abstract enough to bring the quantum dots images further, into space.

What reaction do you hope for from viewers?

I hope the viewers will see the poetry of my images and sounds. I hope that the public will also feel the philosophical question I struggle with: how small and powerful we are as beings, how wonderful and magical the world can be, what are we, are we alone, what does being alive mean when we consider the stars or the atoms?

I made the film also for people to discover the wonders scientists create in laboratories, I tried to disseminate research that the general public isn't familiar with.

What is your favourite science-inspired or sci-fi movie?

I liked Contact a lot, with Jodie Foster, as a clever scientist. Also...

  • Arrival, by Denis Villeneuve, with its exploration of language, the way one species experiences time could impact its language.
  • Close Encounters of the third kind, with its "musical" language, the way the code is broken and searched.
  • Blade Runner, the one by Ridley Scott, philosophical questions about what it is, to be human.

What does being a Quantum Shorts finalist mean to you?

I'm really happy and excited! It might mean that my art touches scientific minds as much as science touches me!

When my film is selected in a festival, it means people get to see it, and that is the reason why I make films. I am proud also, because I worked on this film for two years, on and off. It is great that now it’s done, it reaches an audience that will appreciate it.

About the filmmaker(s): 

Anne-Marie Bouchard is an experimental filmmaker from Québec, Canada.

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