Explained (TV series, 2018)

Why are cults so seductive, how did K-pop become a phenomenon, how do cryptocurrencies work, and why are popular diet plans ineffective in the long term? Three seasons of Explained are here to help you understand everything (well, almost everything) quickly.

“Netflix’s Explained is one of my favorite popular science shows. It is a typical example of popcorn science media – short episodes full of visuals and memes that explore a wide range of questions: from the K-pop phenomenon or the dynamics of cryptocurrencies development to the future of oil and descriptions of bacteria that live on the surface of our skin. In addition, the series has some great spin-offs about voting, money, and the brain. And the intro sequence is insanely addictive,” – shares Alexey Goyan, a manager at the Center for Science Communication. 

King of the Hill (directed by Darya Khrenova and Maria Lind, 2022)

Well-worn flip-flops, a yellow rubber chicken, some plastic tubing, a bucket, and a hose – those are no longer plastic waste but true musical instruments. At any rate, the band Ekologiya Mysli (Ecology of Mind) did learn to play them. Street performers Misha Dramberg and Zhenya Anuchin will help the viewer to look at the issue of plastic pollution from a new angle. For example, by seeing how scientists and artists are teaming up to address this challenge.

“The film is well-made and it does not drive you to despair or exploit the problem for cheap drama, despite it actually being a grave issue. Yet when authors overdramatize these themes, which they do quite often, it gives off the impression that everything is horrible and there is nothing we can do. In contrast, Darya’s movie is easy to watch; it admits that there is a problem, but people are trying to solve it in spite of its scale, treating it just as a challenge!” says Irina Belykh, the program director of the Contemporary Science Film Festival.

The Knick (TV series, directed by Steven Soderbergh and Barry Jenkins, 2014–2015)

How were people treated in the early 20th century, when doctors had no surgical lasers, antibiotics, or CT scans, and patient transportation was done not by ambulance but by horse-drawn carriage? Viewers can find out by following the story of Dr. John Thackery, a surgeon at the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York.

“What makes the series interesting are its references to real medical cases. The main character was inspired by William Stewart Halsted, a renowned surgeon. For a long time, his procedure was the primary way to treat breast cancer. And one of the episodes depicts Mary Mallon – an American cook who was recognized as the first asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever, responsible for infecting a lot of people. She denied being sick, so the government had to forcefully quarantine her twice,” explains Anton Barchuk, the head of ITMO’s Master’s program Public Health Sciences.

Break the Codes (directed by Safia Kessas, 2021)

Is the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector exclusive to men? Safia Kessas, the director of Break the Codes, uses the four real stories of her female protagonists to prove that women can achieve success in male-dominated fields.

“What are 'manly’ fields? What is ‘female’ happiness? I never understood the point of these made-up concepts. The director offers us an insight into the lives of four different exceptional women who managed to build successful careers, raise kids, be a part of their communities, and share their unique experiences with a wide audience. I recommend it to anyone who had a thought last year that went ‘I will never become a sought-after professional.’ You will, if you strive towards it!” says Marina Radchenko, the curator of the Master’s program Science Communication.

Credit: www.iotaproduction.be

Credit: www.iotaproduction.be

Human (directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, 2015)

The film is based on interviews with more than 2,000 people in 60 countries. Many of these countries have faced revolutions, discrimination, wars, and famines. People who lived through these events share their stories, speak of their hardships and joys, and contemplate what it means to be human.

“The director Yann Arthus-Bertrand previously made films about ecological issues, showcasing the footprint that people leave on the planet. I think that Human, to a certain degree, continues the same theme. Only now it becomes apparent that humans hardly can take care of the environment while they are busy destroying themselves. I find the variety of cultural and mental character traits portrayed in the film fascinating. Yet within it I see something universal, something so human that it is worth preserving. And it makes it all the more fascinating to me,” says Sofia Noga, a manager at the Center for Science Communication and a Master’s student of science communication.

An interview with José Mujica, a former president of Uruguay, often dubbed “the world's poorest president”. Excerpt from Human by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

The True Cost (directed by Andrew Morgan, 2015)

Do customers think about how many human and natural resources are spent on creating clothes? It is not just about the materials and designing the piece. Andrew Morgan traveled to more than 30 countries to reveal the true cost of fashion in this documentary.

“Despite already knowing about the problems with the fast fashion industry, I would still wholeheartedly recommend checking out this movie. Plenty of us buy items without even thinking of how this industry destroys the environment and literally kills its workers. That includes kids, forced to work in inhumane conditions for unreasonably low wages. People being criminally underpaid – that is the true cost of cheap clothes,” says Ksenia Spiridonova, the curator of the Public Health Sciences Master’s program.

Contagion (directed by Steven Soderbergh, 2011)

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, attentive viewers may have had a certain feeling of déjà vu. Indeed, the movie presents a similar scenario. A virus that spreads rapidly, presenting new challenges for the world’s healthcare system – how did it depict the work of scientists and medics who are faced with an unknown enemy?

“This film is a great illustration of the work of infectious disease specialists. It perfectly shows how they risk their lives by selflessly fighting against an unknown virus. Of course, in reality, public health workers usually operate behind an office desk, but it is worth realizing that Covid is far from the last epidemic we are going to face, so we may witness a repeat of the same scenario,” says Anna Bunakova, a research manager at the Center for Science Communication.