Brain food on the big screen

Art and Brain Week at the Jerusalem Cinematheque features films and deep discussions.

‘Ex Machina Inception’ (photo credit: PR)
‘Ex Machina Inception’
(photo credit: PR)
Great movies definitely stimulate the mind, but the movies in the Jerusalem Cinematheque’s Art and Brain Week, which runs from March 13 to 20, raise questions about the very nature of consciousness.
The event, which is a collaboration between the Edmond and Lily Safra for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University and the Jerusalem Cinematheque, takes place every year as part of the international Brain Awareness Week.
The festival kicks off with one of the most original and startling films of the past year, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina.
Garland, a novelist/screenwriter, made his directorial debut with this haunting and disturbing film, which stars Alicia Vikander as a seductive robot created by a visionary inventor (Oscar Isaac), who is evaluated by a young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson). It examines what it means to be human, as well as the nature and possible dangers of artificial intelligence.
The screening will be preceded by a discussion on the topic “The Brain, Thought, Imagination and Creativity” between author David Grossman and Dr. Naftali Tishby of the Hebrew University, moderated by Dr. Liad Mudrik.
Fans are still arguing over some of the twists in the plot of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio in a thriller about corporate espionage artists who are able to manipulate people’s dreams.
Dr. Yuval Nir of Tel Aviv University will speak about sleep and dreams.
A screening of Inside Out, Pixar’s latest drama, winner of the Best Animated Feature Oscar this year, is billed as being for children and takes place at 5 p.m. The movie, directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen, is a look into the mind of a little girl, where her emotions are embodied by a group of different characters. It was popular with adults as well as children, but parents should be warned that it may be too cerebral and abstract for the young kids who are Pixar’s usual target audience. Maya Lecker of the Hebrew University will speak about brains, emotions and behavior.
Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter stars Peter Sarsgaard as Stanley Milgram in a drama about the radical behavior experiments the social scientist conducted in 1961 that proved that people were willing to cause great pain to others rather than question authority. Prof. Maya Bar-Hillel of the Hebrew University will talk on the topic of using humans as laboratory animals.
Mr. Holmes is Bill Condon’s look at what life might be like for Sherlock Holmes in retirement. Ian McKellen stars as the elderly detective, who is haunted his memories of one particular mystery. Dr. Inbal Goshen of the Hebrew University will talk about disorders of excessive or impaired memory.
David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook tells the story of a man struggling to return to normalcy after being hospitalized for bipolar disorder. Bradley Cooper stars as the hero, Robert De Niro plays his father, and Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for her role as a young woman struggling with her own demons. Russell was inspired to make this film partly because his son was diagnosed as bipolar. Prof. Eilon Vaadia of Hebrew University will discuss art as a tool for human survival.
Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle, tells the story of a musician (Miles Teller) and his relationship with his extraordinarily demanding orchestra director (J.K. Simmons, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role). Prof. Adi Mizrahi of the Hebrew University will speak on the topic “In the Brain of an Expert: Neural Mechanisms of Perceptual Learning.”
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