Genesis 2.0 (Sydney Film Festival)

June 4, 2018

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...refuses to reduce its complexities down to a snappy conclusion, preferring instead to present its observations and let us do the work for ourselves.
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Genesis 2.0 (Sydney Film Festival)

Travis Johnson
Year: 2018
Rating: NA
Director: Christian Frei, Maxim Arbugaev
Cast:

…refuses to reduce its complexities down to a snappy conclusion, preferring instead to present its observations and let us do the work for ourselves.

Distributor: Sydney Film Festival
Released: June 6 - 17, 2018
Running Time: 113 minutes
Worth: $16.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

…refuses to reduce its complexities down to a snappy conclusion, preferring instead to present its observations and let us do the work for ourselves.

In far northern Siberia, hopeful locals trudge through melting permafrost in search of Mammoth tusks to sell to the lucrative Chinese ivory market. In biotech labs around the world, scientists on the bleeding edge of genetic research push the boundaries of cloning and gene therapy. These two disparate worlds are connected: the notion of successfully cloning an extinct Woolly Mammoth has become emblematic of the wild possibilities of genetic technology, and the discovery of a largely intact Mammoth corpse which may yield viable genetic material is the central event of this fascinating documentary.

Working with young Yakutian filmmaker Maxim Arbugaev, Swiss director Christian Frei (War Photographer) paints an icily vivid picture of a world where the possibilities of science permeate every layer of existence, down to the largely traditional lifestyles of the Indigenous Siberians who hunt for ivory in the tundra. Money is the connective tissue, of course;  for an ivory fossicker, a good find can set them up for life. At the other end of the chain, private, commercial biolabs underwrite more speculative work by cloning the dead pets of the wealthy at $100K a pop.

The coolly meditative Genesis 2.0 is a fascinating work, and its canny grasp of the cultural knock-on effects of technology and capital are reminiscent of the sharp techno-thrillers written by the likes of Neal Stephenson or William Gibson. This is, of course, the real world we’re dealing with there, but then the real world has been feeling like a dystopian sci-fi novel for some time now.

That title isn’t glib, either. Genesis 2.0 goes to great lengths to connect the sterile world of science with the more earthy and, paradoxically, transcendent world of myth, religion, and folklore. Lab-coated genetic technicians ruminate on the possibility of perfecting God’s work, while Yakut paleontologist Semyon Grigoriev reflects in the perceived bad luck in touching a Mammoth cadaver (but cannot resist trying a taste of some raw flesh!). While the film marvels at the advances of science and the seemingly endless possibilities offered by genetic engineering, there’s an ever-present undercurrent of unease, a sense of trespass and the taboo. The whole thing is book-ended by voice over recitations of traditional Yakut epic poetry: somber, portentous, and doomy.

Genesis 2.0‘s precise thesis is elusive because of that inherent, deliberate contradiction; it refuses to reduce its complexities down to a snappy conclusion, preferring instead to present its observations and let us do the work for ourselves. Nonetheless, this is an arresting piece that has well and truly earned the favourable comparisons to Werner Herzog it has drawn.

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