ONE INTELLIGENT DESIGN
Independent filmmaking is a tough gig. With all the costs that go into a production, along with all the peripherals afterwards, it is always a small wonder when any film gets produced and put out there without the stamp of approval from a big studio exec. Add to that a subject matter that isn’t nearly as sexy as, say, hairy Eastern European men wrestling in the nude, then the difficulty just increases. That’s what makes Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus such an interesting case study.
Written and directed by Randy Olson—a marine biologist with previous experience in filmmaking—Flock of Dodos takes on a scientific debate while concurrently vying for a mass audience appeal. With a humorous point of view akin to Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, Olson attempts to take an objective look at the ongoing argument over the validity of Evolution, or more correctly, the validity of Intelligent Design. The problem with this, as seen in the film, is that the argument seems one-sided, in several ways.
One of the main problems Olson discovered in the process of making his film was that the Intelligent Design camp was the only side that really makes a cogent argument. With an annual budget upwards of $5 million (funded primarily by the Discovery Institute in the state of Washington), the Intelligent Design camp—those who believe in the “Creationist” theory of Man, that Man was created by God or some “intelligent” other being—now wages an aggressive campaign to get ID into the schools.
And what are the pro-Evolution people doing? Pretty much nothing, according to Olson’s film. And this seems to be the core of the problem. What he saw was that the Evolution camp, admittedly the from which he hails, seems to feel that the argument itself is so axiomatic that it is undeserving of a true discussion—Evolution is so obvious to these people, to these scientists, that they don’t find it necessary to discuss their points.
Of course, this leaves folks out in Everytown, USA with only the ID argument to ponder over and read up on. Despite what seems to be an overwhelming lopsidedness in empirical evidence, the ID camp has gained some massive ground, thanks to good PR. Flock of Dodos plans to change that, or at least make the debate a little less unbalanced.
After its successful world premiere at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival in New York, interest in the film became high, though no distribution deal was struck at the time. Flock of Dodos went on to screen at several other film festivals, including the Maui International Film Festival and the New Hampshire Film Expo, where it won the award for Best Documentary Feature. Without making such an overt political stand, ala Michael Moore, Olson attempts to let both sides speak for themselves, allowing the audience to reach their own conclusions on the debate, instead of cramming his own opinions down their throats.
All around the country, universities and scientific organizations have made inquiries to host a screening of the doc. With a lot of interest in the film and no theatrical distribution deal in place, how do we please all those interested in seeing this unique film? Well, you really can’t see it in too many places right now, but the Flock of Dodos team is going to try to hold screenings on Darwin Day at various museums and universities across the country in celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday (February 12th).
With local screenings at the Egyptian Theater and at USC this upcoming week, you can see for yourself what the hubbub is all about. The film is also planned to be released on DVD, with a deal in the works with Showtime.
Go, go truly independent cinema!
Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus will screen at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Tuesday, February 6th at 7:30pm. For more information, go to www.FlockOfDodos.com or www.AmericanCinematheque.com .