The SFFilm festival in San Francisco has announced the feature film BlackBerry from co-writer and director Matthew Johnson is the 2023 recipient of the SFFilm Sloan Science on Screen Prize, an award that celebrates the compelling depiction of scientific themes or characters in a narrative feature film.
Presented through a partnership between SFFilm and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this annual award carries a $5,000 cash prize and highlights special achievement in rendering the worlds of science and technology through the language of film.
The program includes a conversation featuring the film’s creators and experts in the scientific fields being depicted. The foundation also awards an annual Science in Cinema Award in partnership with SFFilm as part of the institution’s year-round programming through the Science in Cinema Initiative.
Previous films honored through the Science in Cinema Initiative include Colin West’s Linoleum (2022), Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up (2021), Francis Lee’s Ammonite (2020), Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts (2019), Damien Chazelle’s First Man (2018), Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures (2017), and Ridley Scott’s The Martian (2016).
BlackBerry starring Jay Baruchel, Cary Elwes, Michael Ironside, and Rich Sommer tells the story of the rise and fall of the world’s first mass market smart device. Johnson’s film perfectly captures the heady creative period of the mid-’90s as groups of nerdy engineers and innovators gorging on snacks and sci-fi flicks intersect with the high-powered and demanding world of financiers and venture capitalists.
The program also features a Sloan Science on Screen title, Sundance favorite The Pod Generation from writer and director Sophie Barthes and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Emilia Clarke. To take full advantage of the Dolby Atmos sound design, the film will screen at the Dolby Cinema @ 1275 Market Street and the Q&A will be moderated by the Director of the Dolby Institute, Glenn Kiser.
“Matt Johnson’s script is pitch perfect in BlackBerry. The story investigates the machinations of disruptive technology and the challenges of engineering innovation through colorful, verbose, and fascinating characters, brought to life by an amazing cast,” said Jessie Fairbanks, the director of programming at SFFilm. “As the recipient of the 2023 SFFilm Sloan Science on Screen Prize, BlackBerry exemplifies all the elements we seek when identifying a film for this recognition. We are also thrilled to present Sophie Barthes’s stunningly constructed film, The Pod Generation, which beautifully blends philosophy, ethics, and bioengineering.”
“We are thrilled to partner with SFFIilm on our continuing Science in Cinema initiatives, which includes ongoing support for screenwriters as well as recognition for completed feature films,” said Doron Weber, vice president and program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “We are honored to showcase BlackBerry and The Pod Generation at this year’s SFFilm Festival. These two independent films look at technology in the modern world—one in the past about the pioneering and much-loved smart device that preceded the iPhone and one in the future about parenting, AI, and artificial human reproduction. These films demonstrate how technology is a reflection of who we are and what we desire at any moment and how human-engineered technology shifts as our identities and our needs evolve.”
“The scientific process, much like filmmaking, requires curiosity, diligence, vision, and crucial support at all stages of production, particularly a celebration and spotlight when projects come to fruition,” SFFilm executive director Anne Lai said of the program. “We are so proud to be in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for our Science in Cinema Initiative. Through these programs, we are able to support filmmakers as they hone their stories and gather advice on scientific veracity portrayed in their work. We are grateful for this meaningful partnership and the material impact it has on filmmakers and audiences alike.”