Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, said there is no such thing as objective reality. All we can talk about, he said, is the results of measurements we make.
“I am Andra. Number 2342. In a few hours I will cease to exist,” opens the short film Gods. The futuristic fantasy film, bringing us the last message of a civilisation that deciphered the secrets of quantum physics, has taken First Prize in the Quantum Shorts festival.
“I am absolutely happy to receive this award, especially since this festival is very special to me,” says the film’s director Sitoh Ortega, from Spain. “It is more than a short film festival. It is a fantastic means for scientific diffusion, which is so important these days.”
Gods is one of three films to claim further honours in the festival, which drew over 200 submissions after calling for short films that take inspiration from quantum physics. From the ten finalists announced in January, the other winners are Vacation, which has been selected as Runner Up, and Man In A Box, which won the People’s Choice Prize decided by public vote.
Each winner receives a cash award, certificate and an engraved trophy, in addition to the screening fee and one-year Scientific American digital subscription awarded to all finalists.
Judges Alex Winter, Honor Harger, Jamie Lochhead, José Ignacio Latorre, Lindy Orthia and Mark Levinson decided the top two prizes. In a jury statement, the judges said:
Quantum Shorts makes a big ask: to produce a compelling short film that also connects with the complex science of quantum physics. The diverse and creative films that made this year’s shortlist have different strengths in how they respond to this challenge. In choosing the winners, we have weighed each film’s scientific merits and artistic vision.
The prizes are awarded to two narrative films produced to extremely high standards – Gods and Vacation. Gods, taking First Prize, impressed us with its emotional resonance, and Vacation, chosen as Runner Up, with its well-pitched humour. Both feature strong acting performances and imaginative storytelling. Quantum physics is invoked in these films in a speculative style, which can inspire viewers’ interest to explore the subject more deeply. These films are thought-provoking too about the role of science in society and the character of scientific research.
We would also like to acknowledge the work of the other shortlisted filmmakers, giving honourable mentions to Everett Syndrome for its subtle take on the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics, to Leo’s Uncertainty for its cinematically sophisticated exploration of quantum behaviour and to Schrödinger Holmes and the Quantum Crimewave for its original animation style. Some of us had favourites among the other finalists, too, and we congratulate Man In A Box on winning the People’s Choice prize by popular vote. Thank you to all the filmmakers for sharing your work with us.
For winning First Prize, Gods director Sitoh Ortega receives USD 1500. He came up with the idea for the film based on a dream where scientists managed to enter and visualise the world of particles.
The runner up prize of USD 1000 goes to Vacation director Jack Davies from the United Kingdom. Inspired by quantum superposition, Vacation is about a young inventor with a machine she thinks could send people through space and time. She conducts an experiment with surprising results.
On winning, Jack Davies said, “It’s amazing news and such a wonderful surprise in a difficult time around the world. I am honoured to accept this award and want to thank the judges for choosing ‘Vacation’ as runner up at this year’s festival.”
With over 1300 votes cast in a public vote, Man In A Box won the People’s Choice prize. The film riffs on the ideas of quantum superposition and Schrödinger’s cat, when one friend inviting another friend out for a movie night leads to spiralling scenarios. Director Akash Meel from India worked on the film with friends when each of them was in a different city during lockdown.
“Filming this wasn’t easy as we had barely any equipment. We shot it all on smartphones, used books as elevations, and tried to hide the fact that the two people were in different cities as much as we could,” says Akash Meel. “All in all, it was a fun and unique experience and I'm glad people have the same opinion about the movie too, it’s the most I could have asked for.”
The winning and shortlisted films can be watched on the Quantum Shorts website. They are also being screened around the world, at online and live events. Check the Quantum Shorts website for details of all events: shorts.quantumlah.org.
The Quantum Shorts film festival is organised by the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. It is supported by media partners Scientific American and Nature; scientific partners the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, the Dodd-Walls Centre, the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, Canada, the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech, QuTech, and the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme; and screening partners the ArtScience Museum in Singapore and Otago Museum in New Zealand.