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film review

Title: Science Fair

Directed by: Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster

Classification: PG; 90 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

Kashfia, one of the only Muslim girls at a massive high school in South Dakota, finds an unlikely kinship with her school’s head football coach who ends up being the only teacher who will sponsor her project in the documentary Science Fair.

The new documentary Science Fair unleashes a flood of conflicting emotions.

Mostly, there’s the overwhelming sense of optimism and pride, as co-directors Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster trace a handful of teenage geniuses heading to the 2017 International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles. If the future of the world rests in the hands of, say, Brazil’s Myllena Braz de Silva and Gabriel de Moura Martins (whose project focuses on eliminating the spread of the Zika virus) or South Dakota’s Kashfia Rahman (brain functions in risk-prone adolescents), then we’re all going to be A-okay.

On the other hand, exposure to Science Fair’s young subjects will make you feel so very, very stupid. Which is fine, because Costantini and Foster aren’t interested in inspiring academic jealousy so much as they are in drilling down on the importance of nurturing youthful brilliance.

Rahman, for instance, is all but ignored by her high school’s teaching faculty, while the Brazilian duo struggle with the poverty surrounding them. The film is rich in such positive messaging, and its subjects quickly endear themselves to the camera.

Science Fair may not necessitate a big-screen experience, but there are far lesser ways to spend your study break.

Science Fair opens Nov. 2 in Toronto and Vancouver.