SXSW 2019: Human Nature

Photo Credit: Derek Reich

Human Nature follows scientists, genetic engineers, and families following a biological gene editing breakthrough known as CRISPR.

I don’t want to state the obvious here but I feel that it’s absolutely required to do so.  Since when did we not learn from InGen founder John Hammond?  Did anyone forget the tragedy that happened on Isla Nublar or even the San Diego incident?  Sorry, this only bears repeating.  I like that Revive & Restore co-founder and executive director Ryan Phelan quotes Jurassic Park.  The film, as it should, displays clips of Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) from the 1993 summer blockbuster.  What Phelan’s company does is genetically rescue these endangered or extinct species.

According to Phelan, her organization’s work is very different than that of InGen.  If you’re unfamiliar with InGen, where have you been living?  She doesn’t think that anyone is playing G-d in this film (Note: Anyone who messes with genes is playing G-d.).  Phelan goes on to discuss the goal of bringing back the woolly mammoth or even restoring the ecosystems.  I get wanting to restore ecosystems because they’re not so much being ruined by nature but rather the results of human interference with nature.  Now the woolly mammoth on the other hand…

Keegan DeWitt’s score has a way of complementing a film.  I’ve grown accustomed to listening to DeWitt’s work in the last year.  The composer certainly has a way of being subtle and pulling back when needed.

But Keegan’s score aside, there’s still something to be said about wanting to edit genes.  Is it a good idea or a bad idea?  I think this is something in which people will be falling anywhere along the spectrum.  There’s obviously a great interest in wanting to root out the genes that cause cancer or other worse fates.  In a perfect world, nobody would die from cancer or other diseases.  All the while, we have parents who choose not to vaccinate their children and risk getting other people sick.   But of course, this isn’t a perfect world and we’re dealt the hand of cards we’ve been given.

There’s a lot of science involved here.  I can’t stop but grow cautious when it comes to the Jurassic Park comparisons.  At the same time, I also want scientists to push for finding cures to cancer, MS, sickle cell anemia, etc.  Maybe gene editing is one possible solution as Human Nature shows.

DIRECTOR:  Adam Bolt
SCREENWRITERS:  Adam Bolt, Regina Sobel
FEATURING:  Jill Banfield, David Baltimore, Rodolphe Barrangou, Alta Charo, George Church, Jennifer Doudna, Antonio Regalado, Fyodor Urnov, Luhan Yang, Feng Zhang

Human Nature holds its world premiere during the 20169 SXSW Film Festival in the Documentary Spotlight program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.