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Nobelity

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 02/25/06 08:54:06

"'Tips on Saving the Future,' by Several Smart People"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED VIA THE 2006 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: A very wise educator once told me this: "If you want to identify the smartest people in the room, find the ones who are asking the most questions." So by sitting down with a half-dozen Nobel Prize winners and picking their brains for answers to some of our planet's most pressing issues, author / actor / documentarian Turk Pipkin proves himself a pretty smart fellow -- even when surrounded by some of the greatest minds on Earth.

Have any interest in seeing a documentary focusing on the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of a bunch of Nobel Prize recipients? Sounds potentially dry, dull, and PBS-y, doesn't it?

That's what I thought before I gave the flick a spin. I was wrong.

Inspired by the desire to keep our planet safe for his daughters (and eventual granddaughters), filmmaker Turk Pipkin came up with an interesting idea: He'd hop around the globe to interview some of the most celebrated thinkers of our time, and he'd ask them questions about war, famine, ecology, science, medicine, and technology.

And if you're not interested in what some of the world's wisest people have to say about these topics, well, you oughtta be.

Interview subjects include Steven Weinberg (1999 Nobel Prize for Physics), Rick Smalley (1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry), Harold Varmus (1989 Nobel Prize for Medicine), Jody Williams (1997 Nobel Peace Prize), Ahmed Zewail (1999 Nobel Prize for Chemistry), Wangari Maathai (2004 Nobel Peace Prize), Sir Joseph Rotblat (1995 Nobel Peace Prize), Amartya Sen (1998 Nobel Prize for Economics), and Bishop Desmond Tutu (1984 Nobel Peace Prize). That each of these people are intelligent, passionate, and articulate comes as no surprise, but what's most illuminating is the "common sense" approach they bring to their respective fields. Mr. Pipkin asks questions regarding where we've been, where we are, and where we're currently heading, and is a canny enough interviewer to simply let his subjects roll.

One thing that becomes obvious as you listen to these experts talk is that it takes a whole lot more than just knowledge and intelligence to win a Nobel Prize. You don't receive an accolade like this one unless you have a real and intense passion for your chosen field. And given the chance to share their views and insights with the Nobelity audience, these experts are sure to make their positions clear: The world might be a really screwed up place for the most part, but we're not a lost cause just yet.

It takes an intelligent person to simply sit back, relax and listen when someone smarter has something to say -- and Nobelity features a big handful of people who are a whole lot smarter than you or I. My advice would be to find a copy of this fantastic documentary, settle down for an 80-minute piece of enlightenment, and then maybe use its lessons to help make the world a better place.

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