Sundance Film Fest 2007: Dark Matter Wins Alfred Sloan Prize

Park City, Jan 27, 2007–The 2007 Sundance Film Festival is pleased to announce that “Dark Matter,” directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and written by Billy Shebar, is the recipient of this years Alfred P. Sloan Prize. The Prize, made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to the Sundance Institutes Science-in-Film Initiative, carries a $20,000 cash award to the writer/director of an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character. The Prize will be presented at the Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony on Saturday, January 27.

Dark Matter

Inspired by real events, Dark Matter delves into the world of a brilliant Chinese astrology student whose dreams are challenged when he arrives in the U.S. to pursue his Ph.D. The film, which screened in this years Spectrum section, was recognized for its evocative portrayal of the scientific passions, career politics, and cultural conflicts in an astrophysics research laboratory; and for its impressive achievement in filmmaking, including note-worthy performances by its main actors Liu Ye, Aidan Quinn and Meryl Streep.

Alfred P. Sloan Prize

The lfred P. Sloan Prize is a major component of the Sundance Science-in-Film Initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Now in its fifth year, the Initiative supports the development and exhibition of new independent film projects that explore science and technology themes or that depict scientists, engineers and mathematicians in engaging and innovative ways.

In addition to the Prize, the Initiative presents a panel discussion at the Festival that brings together scientists and filmmakers to explore compelling, contemporary issues regarding science in film; and, in the Sundance Feature Film Program, the Initiative supports the Sloan Commissioning Fund, which provides resources for Initiative projects early in the development phase; and the Sloan Fellowship, which develops eligible projects at the Sundance Feature Film Labs towards production. This Initiative blends the Sloan Foundations goal of enhancing public understanding of science and technology with Sundance Institutes mission to foster independent voices and compelling storytelling in film.

The winning film was selected by a committee of film and science professionals based on the quality of the films presentation of science and technology themes and/or characters. This years Alfred P. Sloan selection committee includes: John Underkoffler, MIT Media Lab Alumnus, Science Consultant on MINORITY REPORT, THE HULK, and AEON FLUX, and founder of Oblong Industries; Darren Aronofsky, writer and director of p, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, and THE FOUNTAIN; Ann Druyan, writer/producer/co-creator of CONTACT, co-writer of the “Cosmos” television series, and creative director for NASA's Voyager interstellar message system; Howard Suber, longtime faculty member at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, one of the founders of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and the author of The Power of Film; and Dr. Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, and author of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos.

This effort at Sundance is part of a broader national program by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to stimulate leading artists in film, television, and theater; to create more authentic and compelling stories about science and technology; and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in the popular imagination. Over the past nine years, the Foundation has partnered with some of the top film schools in the country including AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA, and USC and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production and an annual first-feature award for alumni. The Foundation has also started an annual Sloan Feature Film Prize at the Hamptons International Film Festival and initiated new screenwriting workshops at the Hamptons and TriBeca Film Festival. In addition, it continues to work with leading writer-producers and major studios to create more films, TV shows and TV movies featuring scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

The New York-based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants in science, technology, and economic performance. The Foundations program in public understanding of science, directed by Program Director Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, and theatre, including not only Proof, Copenhagen, and Alan Aldas QED, but dozens of new plays from the Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Manhattan Theater Club, including the Broadway-bound play, The Secret Order.