“I have been interested in storytelling since I was really young, and it just stayed with me throughout my education,” said Jenny Deller, director of the film “Future Weather,” which screens at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center Feb. 22-28.
“Future Weather” is a coming-of-age story about a young girl named Lauduree, whose love for the environment helps her deal with a rough childhood. Abandoned by her irresponsible mother, and forced to live with her spirited grandmother, Lauduree uses her rural surroundings and makeshift science experiments as ways to cope.
The film speaks to the issue of climate change, the importance of science education, and the role of science in society. These are a few of the topics that will be addressed at post-screening talkbacks with Deller and panels of local experts.
Like Lauduree, Deller first became interested in science at a young age, while attending the Illinois Mathemathics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, Ill.
“I think it not only broadened my science and math education, but another thing that it did, which really stuck with me, was it gave me a sense of independent learning,” Deller said. “The school really fostered that. If there was something that they didn’t offer as part of the curriculum or activities, they encouraged you to just start it yourself.”
This entrepreneurial spirit, Deller said, would eventually lead her into independent filmmaking. In college, she designed her own major, which incorporated film, theatre and literature, in order to study all forms of drama. And, when she decided to delve into the hefty task of writing, directing and producing her own feature-length film, she knew that science, math and nature would play a part.
“Right around the time I was developing these characters, I read this article in The New Yorker about global warming,” Deller said. “It was a three-part piece by Elizabeth Kolbert. I’d known about global warming, and I’ve always been very interested in environmental issues. The article, to me, was one of the first very loud shouts that this is a crisis that we’re facing.”
Kolbert’s article, “The Climate of Man,” was published in 2005, before Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” captured the world’s attention in 2006. Climate change, said Deller, was not the hot-button issue it is today.
“It really was not being talked about,” she said. “And, one of the problems that I saw, and it still exists today, is that the climate skeptics, or deniers, constantly target scientists. And I think that in general, science has really been under assault.”
Deller said she wanted to promote science, and presenting it from the naïve perspective of a 13-year-old girl was a way to de-politicize the topic, while showing how valuable it is.
The fictional narrative in “Future Weather” allowed her to bust some of the stereotypes associated with scientists and science, she said, and bring the field to a more relatable place.
“I think that fiction is great because it lets us experience things on an emotional level, and science is a field that you’re supposed to take emotion out of, and bias out of,” Deller said. “And yet, the people who practice science are full of passion for what they’re doing, and full of all kinds of emotions that fuel their work and their pursuits.”
Such passion is palpable in Ms. Markovi, Lauduree’s science teacher in the film. Though the character is not a direct representation of anyone, Deller said, she does possess some of the qualities the director admired in the teachers she had at IMSA. One such instructor, John Thompson, will be participating in talkbacks on Feb. 23 and 28.
“He was very hands on and planned this fantastic trip for us to northern Minnesota to track wolves,” Deller said. “You could just tell that he was very passionate about what he did, but he also really cared about his students. And I think Markovi has that sensibility as well.”
Deller said she hopes the film gets people to think about science and climate change in a different way.
“I’m hoping that the film helps people see the connection between them and their environment,” she said. “We’re intimately tied to a place, whether that’s in a city or in a rural area. We have a home and that’s what’s at stake.”
Tickets for “Future Weather” are $11 for general admission and can be purchased online at http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/content/tickets
Science in Society’s Rebecca Daugherty and Bethany Hubbard will be participating in talkbacks on Feb. 23 and 26, respectively.