After eight days of science films from all over the world, the Irish Parkinson’s disease documentary, Feats of Modest Valour, won the prestigious Scientist Award at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York last week. The Scientist Award is awarded by the leading international science journal, Science, and its publisher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), to a film that portrays in an accurate and inventive way the life of a scientist. The select jury included Nobel prize-winning scientist, Professor Martin Chalfe, and award-winning science columnist for the New York Times, Professor Carl Zimmer.
In Feats of Modest Valour, three individuals live clockwork existences, dictated by a strict regime of medication to manage the physical reality of living with Parkinson’s disease. Brian Carney is a farmer from County Mayo whose son had to take over the running of the family farm from a very young age; Milena Lulic is a Croatian World War II survivor who faces her condition head-on with great dignity; and Tom Hickey, the Irish actor, talks about how suffering for his art takes on a whole new meaning with the disease.
Interwoven with their stories, we see researchers from the Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CURÁM) at NUI Galway, led by Dr Eilís Dowd, who are developing a novel therapeutic approach which they hope will revolutionise treatment of the condition. Guided by stunning animated sequences, it delves into the brain of someone with Parkinson’s disease, and shows how dying cells can be replaced by stem cells supported by a natural biomaterial ‘scaffold’.
Speaking about the film, Dr Dowd, who is currently President of both Neuroscience Ireland and the Network for European CNS Transplantation and Restoration (NECTAR), said: “This is a film about science and medicine, about scientists and patients, about art and music, but most of all, about hope. It was a genuine privilege to work on this project with such talented filmmakers and such inspirational patients.”
Feats of Modest Valour was produced through the ‘Science on Screen’ initiative between CÚRAM, Science Foundation Ireland, and the Galway Film Centre who manage Galway’s UNESCO City of Film designation. Science on Screen was conceptualised as part of CURÁM’s Public Engagement Programme, and aims to facilitate, promote and increase the inclusion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) content in Irish film and TV productions.
Other productions from the initiative include Mending Legends directed by Paul Webster and produced by James Ryan of Stationhouse Media, and BitterSweet - the Rise of Diabetes directed by Hugh Rodgers and produced by Anna Rodgers and Zlata Filipovic of Invisible Thread films.
Commenting on the initiative, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said: “Together with Galway Film Centre we could see the potential of the film for bringing science to life, and we are very proud of Feats of Modest Valour, for winning this major international award.”
The film is co-directed and co-produced by Mia Mullarkey and Alice McDowell of Ishka Films, and is due to be screened on RTÉ One on Sunday November 12 at 10:30pm. The film has already been screened at numerous community events and at film festivals both here in Ireland and across Europe.Find out more about the film