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Genomics Forum · Events

Film Festival – Eugenics: Science Fiction or Future Reality?

Public event   20.11.2009






Full programme and panellist details are given below.

About the event:

The Genomics Forum is delighted to again support the annual biomedical ethics film festival.

This 3 day event (20-22 November 2009) will screen cult film classics like GATTACA (1997) starring Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke and the challenging Swedish documentary Homo Sapiens 1900 (1998) by Peter Cohen.

The films will form the backdrop to 30-40 minutes of public discussions with a panel of experts in bioethics, science, law, medicine and politics. Debates will include to what extent we're already engineering the perfect human race and why shouldn't parents have perfect babies?

Programme details:

Friday the 20th of November 2009 – 17.45

Homo Sapiens 1900 - Swedish Documentary in English Directed by Peter Cohen (1998) - 88 min, cert 18

Panel information:

This documentary reflects the birth and rise of the eugenics movement in the early 20th century. At this time, it was generally accepted in a number of countries including Germany and Russia to justify ‘weeding out’ those individuals who were considered as an undesirable burden to society.

Saturday 21st November 2009 - 13.00

My Sister’s Keeper - Drama, USA (2009) - 109 min, cert 12A

Panel information

Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Brian Fitzgerald (Jason Patric) have just been informed that their young daughter Kate will die of leukaemia. Because of this, the doctor suggests that the parents try an unorthodox medical procedure to create a new child in a test-tube who would be a perfect match, as a cell and tissue donor, for Kate. However, at age 11, and when this new child is asked to also give a kidney to her older sister, she decides to sue her parents for the right to decide how her body will be used.

Sunday 22nd of November 2009 - 13.00

Gattaca - Drama, USA, Director: Andrew Niccol (1997) - 112 min, cert 15

Panel information

In a future society, the wealthy can choose the genetic makeup of their children and people are designed to fit into whatever role is decided before birth. But one of the natural non-improved young men, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), who has several serious defects, develops a different outlook on life with his pre-ordained fate.

Sunday the 22nd of November 2009 - 15.45 (Three short films)

Panel information

Eugenic Questions - Documentary Directed by Angel-benito Garcia-Anta (2009) - 15 min.

What are some of the questions being asked by members of the general public in Scotland about eugenics? This short documentary, made specially for the film festival, will seek to understand some of the issues raised.

Who's afraid of designer babies? - BBC Horizon Documentary (2005) – 50 min

What is a 'designer baby' and can we really make one today? This edition of Horizon aims to cut through the hype and distortions to get to the truth. The film looks at three techniques often linked to alarmist headlines about designer babies: preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), gene therapy and cloning. The documentary asks if any of these technologies will really give us the ability to hand-pick the genes of our children.

The Gift BBC adaptation of the play of the same name (1995) – 38 min

Ryan is a carrier for a genetic condition that will kill his big sister. When he grows up to become a geneticist, he finds that both he and his wife are at risk of having a child with a severe genetic disorder. Thus, they decide to choose which embryo will develop into their child. However, when Ryan selects an embryo free from the debilitating gene, he also secretly opts for a child with special athletic abilities. Once discovered, Ryan’s actions prompt conflict and anger.

Friday 20th November 2009- Homo Sapiens 1900


Dr Gill Haddow, Research Fellow, Innogen, University of Edinburgh

Dr Chris Willmott, Senior Lecturer and National Teaching Fellow, Department of Biochemistry, University of Leicester

Pippa Goldschmidt, Writer in Residence, Genomics Forum, University of Edinburgh

Dr Calum MacKellar, Director of Research, Scottish Council for Human Bioethics (Chair)

Saturday 21 November 2009 - My Sister's Keeper


Dr Steve Sturdy, Deputy Director, Genomics Forum, University of Edinburgh

David J. Nixon Lawyer, Scottish Council for Human Bioethics (SHCB)

Ken McLeod, Writer in Residence, Genomics Forum, University of Edinburgh

Jeremy Balfour Councillor, City of Edinburgh Council

Dr Calum MacKellar, Director of Research, Scottish Council for Human Bioethics (Chair)

Sunday 22nd November - GATTACA


Prof. Dr Andy Miah, Chair of Ethics and Emerging Technologies, University of the West of Scotland

Dr Tillman Vierkant ,Lecturer in Philosophy of Mind, University of Edinburgh

Dr Mair Crouch, Genetics&Law, University of Glasgow

Dr Liam Keegan, Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh

Dr Stephan Matthiesen, Author and Translator; and Chairman, Edinburgh and SE Scotland Branch of the British Science Associationmore (Chair)

Sunday 22 November - Three Short Films on Eugenics


Dr Christine Knight, Policy Research Fellow, ESRC Genomics Network, University of Edinburgh

Prof. Dr Andy Miah, Chair of Ethics and Emerging Technologies, University of the West of Scotland

Mr Lewis Killeen, Journalist

Ewan Aitken, Councillor, City of Edinburgh Council; and Council Secretary, Church and Society Council, Church of Scotland

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Tony Weir, Head of Research and Legal Services, Technology & Research Services (TRS), Heriot-Watt University

Organised by

The festival is organised by ESRC Genomics Forum, Edinburgh Filmhouse, the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics (SCHB) and the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland branch of the British Science Association.


Edinburgh Filmhouse, Lothian Road, Edinburgh

Event details

**Edinburgh Filmhouse is offereing a special discount of see all three films in this season and get 15% off.This offer is available online, in person and on the phone, on both full price and concession price tickets. Tickets must all be bought at the same time.

Further details