The Imagine Film Festival returns to Abu Dhabi for a fourth year this weekend, opening with the regional premiere of the National Geographic documentary Jane, about the work of the celebrated chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall. The opening film will be accompanied by a selection of exclusive footage of Goodall's recent visit to the UAE, where she spent time visiting schools to promote her Roots and Shoots campaign, which encourages children to consider the environment in everyday life.
Also on opening night, the festival's main exhibition space will open up, this year promising an exhibit of what it might be like to live on Mars, projections from an artist who seeks to map the human brain, and footage of microscopic life in Abu Dhabi's Mangroves. The festival will also be showing 40 short films over the weekend, alongside panels and discussions on the links between science and film, and an award-winning VR experience, Tree, which allows participants to experience being a tree and was a hit at this year's Sundance Festival, before closing with the Jon Hamm-starring sci fi Marjorie Prime on Saturday night.
The festival was the brainchild of Alexis Gambis, a former molecular biologist who took an unlikely career turn into filmmaking and is now in the unique position of teaching both biology and film at NYUAD. Gambis explains the logic behind starting the festival when he was studying for a PhD in New York 10 years ago: “I was a molecular biologist for a long time, but always made films on the side and was always interested in the idea of communicating science through film, not just documentary but magical realism and fiction too,” he says. “I think in today’s tough work environment you need that whole interdisciplinary thing, and we want to get people to realise that we’re filmmakers, musicians, artists as well as scientists. We’re seeing more and more people double majoring in, say, science and theatre, and that’s a really positive thing.”
Abu Dhabi, alongside Paris, is an annual satellite event of the main festival, and Imagine has also held one-off events in cities including Berlin, Hong Kong, Rio and Quito. The main, eight-day-long New York Festival is also still going strong after 10 years.
For full line up and ticket information visit the festival website.