Telling the stories of light: the films showing at the International Year of Light Film Festival

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This week The International Year of Light begins its finale, as a three-day closing ceremony gets underway in the Mexican City of Mérida.

The event will bring together scientists, politicians, artists and many more in a celebration of what this UN-backed initiative has achieved. It will also focus on ensuring a legacy for light science and light-based technology and how it can be used to benefit societies across the globe.

During the three day finale, a series of Physics World films about light will feature at the International Year of Light Film Festival. The films were produced in different parts of the world as we wanted to embrace the international and collaborative aspects of IYOL 2015. With light being an inherently colourful subject matter, we knew that video would be a great medium to tell personal stories connected with the core themes of the year.

Each film reflects the culture and geography of where it was produced. The series gave us a great opportunity to reach out to new audiences beyond physicists. Take a look at the films yourself and let us know what you think in the comments.

A single light of science


Produced by me, this film brings together interviews recorded at the opening ceremony, held in Paris last January. The people profiled introduce some of the main themes of IYOL 2015 and the different projects taking place during the year.

Reclaiming the stars


This stylish film was shot in New York City by Lucina Melesio and Aman Ahzar.  It shows how recent legislation in New York State to curb light pollution will change the city’s urban landscape and hopefully make it easier to see the night sky above. The film brings a personal story to the Dark Skies Awareness campaign by following the amateur astronomer Irene Pease as she struggles to find a patch of darkness amid the dazzling lights of the Big Apple.

Living in a world without light


London-based filmmaker Thom Hoffman explores the role of light in regulating sleep cycles – a natural process that is being impacted by the prevalence of screen technologies in the modern world. It profiles Meredith Plumb, a British woman who had her eyes removed after she gradually went blind following a chemistry accident. For Plumb, the absence of light receptors in the eyes makes establishing a regular sleep pattern a difficult challenge, but she has turned her disability into a strength through her work as a person-centred counsellor.

Vidya Deepa: the Lamp of Knowledge


Our fourth film offers a vivid snapshot of life in a small rural community in the Indian state of Karnataka. In Vidya Deepa: the Lamp of Knowledge, Mumbai-based filmmaker Maithili Padukone shows how LEDs are enabling students to continue studying after sunset – a privilege often taken for granted in the developed world. India is home to an estimated one third of the Earth’s population who live beyond electricity grids. Across the globe, however, LED lanterns are starting to provide a safe and affordable alternative to the ubiquitous kerosene lamps that are not only a fire hazard but also produce potentially lethal toxic fumes.

Painting with light


Lucina Melesio returns with her second installment, this time profiling New York photographers who are defying the digital trend and sticking with analogue techniques. Painting with Light takes you into the city’s darkrooms, informing us about traditional camera technologies while managing to capture the essence of New York cool.

Transforming light


Our final film was produced in Mexico City by a group of filmmakers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, which documents Mexico City’s Day of the Dead celebrations in 2015. Light has always played an important role in this Mexican celebration as it is believed to help guide the souls from the darkness into the light. Last year festivities in the Mexican capital were given a modern twist thanks to a new video-mapping technique used to project light onto traditional structures such as altars and decorative skulls.

You can see more Physics World films on the theme of light and its applications in our video showcase. Also, take a look at this free-to-read digital collection of some of the best light-related features from Physics World. It is available either by downloading the Physics World app onto your tablet or smartphone, which is available for iOS and Android from the App Store and Google Play, or on your desktop.

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James Dacey

James Dacey

James Dacey is multimedia projects editor with, the magazine and website available to all members of the IOP.
James Dacey

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