The Image of the Engineer

Thursday 22nd June to Sunday 24th of June

Where did it all go wrong? Part of the award-winning Open City Documentary Festival held annually at UCL, this strand will feature films and panel discussions that examine the role and works of engineers everywhere. From designing computer games to installing nuclear power, robot companions to the arrival of television in the roof of the world, the skeleton of engineering that moves our modern world will be looked at from every angle. Visit the Open City Documentary website for more information, and to buy the affordably priced tickets.

Programme details

Empire of Dust

Bram Van Paesschen / 2011 /Belgium / 77’

Fri 22 June / 21:45 Lightbox

Two men representing two different cultures clash in the dust of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lao Yang, head of logistics for the Chinese Railway Engineering Company, and Eddy, a Congolese man speaking fluent Mandarin, have just joined an isolated camp with the goal to re-lay a 300km strip of road. However deliveries of equipment or food haven’t arrived and the road works will cease without the construction materials. As Lao Yan learns about the Congolese way of making deals, both men are forced on a harsh but also absurdly funny journey of misunderstandings.

Indie Game: The Movie

Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky / 2011 / Canada / 96’

Sat 23 June / 18:30 Darwin Theatre

UK Premiere

In the world of major games developers, new titles are produced by hundreds of people working with hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, a new generation of independent designers are doing things a different way. Indie Game: The Movie is a film about this burgeoning community of digital artists who sacrifice money, health, and sanity to produce games that, to them, are a deep form of personal expression.

Followed by panel discussion

Losers and Winners

Ulrike Franke, Michael Loeken / 2006 / Germany / 96’

Sat 23 June / 15:30 Goethe-Institut

This subtly-observed documentary follows the dismantling of a coking plant in Germany by a Chinese company. Over a period of 18 months German and Chinese workers have to deal with each other, their cultural differences and the relentless demands of a globalised economy.

Screening as part of “Carte Blanche for Gloria Zein – I Can’t Stop the Dancing Chicken”, 22 May – 23 June 2012 at Goethe-Institut London.

Revenge of The Electric Car

Chris Paine / 2011 / USA / 90’

Sun 24 June / 18:45 AV Hill Theatre

Preview Screening

Revenge of the Electric Car presents the recent resurgence of electric vehicles through the eyes of four pioneers of the EV revolution. Director Chris Paine (Who Killed the Electric Car?, 2006) has unprecedented access to the research and development programs at General Motors, Nissan, and Tesla Motors, while also following a part time electric car converter who refuses to wait for the international car makers. Paine’s film offers an entertaining and definitive account of a revolutionary moment in human transportation, as auto makers race to create the first, best, and most publicly accepted electric cars.

Followed by panel discussion

Robot World – A Meeting with your Alternate Double

Martin Hans Schmitt / 2010 / Germany / 61’

Fri 22 June / 12:00 Cinema Tent

This experimental documentary traces the history of twentieth century robot development, and does so without a single guiding word. Constructed entirely from found archival footage, Robot World features some exceptional robotic life, from mechanic soccer players to automatic drawing artists, virtuoso violin soloists and machines that clone animal movements. The beautiful score from neoclassical violinist Matt Howden emphasises the film’s message: these artificial people are our alternate doubles.

Tea or Electricity

Jerôme le Maire / 2012 / Belgium, Morocco / 94’

Sun 24 June / 12:00 Darwin Theatre

UK Premiere

Tea or Electricity tells the epic story of the implementation of electricity in a tiny isolated village enclosed in the middle of the Moroccan High Atlas. Over more than three years and season after season, the director patiently reveals the outlines of the net that will inevitably end up closing on the people of Ifri. Before our eyes is drafted the image of the merciless modernity that the small village will now be connected to.

Followed by panel discussion

The Light Bulb Conspiracy

Cosima Dannoritzer / 2010 / France, Spain / 75’

Sat 23 June / 18:45 Lightbox

Does the ever-lasting light bulb really exist? How can a computer chip kill a product? Using rare archive footage and hitherto unseen internal company documents, this award-winning film traces the untold story of “planned obsolescence”, from its invention in the 1920s -when a world-wide cartel agreed to limit the life span of incandescent light bulbs- all the way to present day stories of electronics with inbuilt “death dates” and growing consumer resistance. The film asks: What are the alternatives if the modern economy and the planet are to survive?

Followed by panel discussion

Under Control

Viktor Sattel / 2011 / Germany / 98’

Sun 24 June / 16:30 AV Hill Theatre

London Premiere

An intimate tour of German nuclear power plants and the policies that sustain them, Under Control shows us what nuclear power demands from humankind, making the real challenges and incredible efforts visible. Following the technology that was once used as a synonym of progress, the film opens up a piece of historical civilization. The control needed for the nuclear fission process is not told as a chronological story, but as a prism of places and sites that refract the scenes of the German atomic age and reflects beyond the present.

Arup Film Booth

Fir 21- Sun 24 June / Festival Hub

The Image of the Engineering strand includes an Arup film booth screening a series of historic documentary films from the 1960s of the building of the Sydney Opera House and the more recent Honey & Bubbles from 2008 about the National Aquatic Centre and the changing face of Beijing city. 

Fall of the Engineer

Conversation Event

Sun 24 June / 14:15 / Lightbox

In collaboration with UCL Engineering & Royal Academy of Engineering After the Second World War engineers were seen as saviors of society and responsible for building a new future. Today they are at best seen as mechanics supporting the vision and ideas of others. Why has the engineer fallen from grace?

Chair: Quentin Cooper (Material World Radio 4)