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The message is in the movies in ASU life sciences class

For the fourth year, Jason Robert, the Franca Oreffice Dean’s Distinguished Professor in the Life Sciences, is turning his classroom into a movie theater during the fall and spring semesters, and the public is invited.

The movies are part of his class, Bioethics in Film (Bioethics BIO394 and HPS394).

During the fall semester, which is themed “The Brain,” Robert will show four films, each dealing with brain science or brain medicine. Spring semester’s theme will be “Dying and Death.” A discussion follows each film.

“These four films were selected to represent different but complementary aspects of contemporary brain science and brain medicine,” said Robert, who is director of the Bioethics, Policy, and Law Program in the Center for Biology and Society at ASU’s School of Life Sciences and a faculty member at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, in partnership with Arizona State University. “Viewing these films will set the stage to focus on ethical, personal, clinical, and societal dimensions of mental health, brain disease, and emerging neurotechnology.”

All the films are shown at 5:45 p.m. on Thursdays in Life Sciences Center, room E-104, on the Tempe campus. The schedule is:

Thursday, Sept. 17 – “Iris.” Based on the true story of the unlikely yet enduring lifelong romance between revered British novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley, from their student days through her battle with Alzheimer's disease. (MPAA Rating: R)

Thursday, Oct. 8 – “Charly.” When a mentally challenged man undergoes experimental brain surgery, he is miraculously freed from the prison of his own mind. As his IQ soars to genius proportions, Charly’s eyes are opened to a world he’s never truly seen. When the effects of the operation begin to fade, Charly must find a way to hold onto his newfound life and the man he has become. (MPAA Rating: PG)

Thursday, Oct. 29 – “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Joel is heartbroken that his girlfriend underwent a procedure to erase him from her memory and decides to do the same. However, as he watches his memories of her fade away, he realizes that he still loves her and it may be too late to correct his mistake. (MPAA Rating: R)

Thursday, Nov. 18 – “Girl Interrupted.” Susanna is depressed and directionless after finishing high school in the late 1960s. A suicide attempt lands her in Claymore, a mental institution. She befriends the band of troubled women in her ward but falls under the hypnotic sway of Lisa. Will Susanna "drop anchor" at Claymore or will she finally pull her mind together and leave institutional life behind? (MPAA Rating: R)

The idea for the film series and course came from Felicity Snyder, program manager for the Center for Biology and Society, who is a film buff. “She thought it would be fun and interesting to use this medium to explore ethical issues within and beyond the ASU community,” Robert said.

Films are selected based on recommendations from students and colleagues. Robert said that the fall-semester films were mostly chosen by Jenny Brian, a doctoral candidate in the Bioethics, Policy, and Law Program, who is helping teach the film series this year.

The bioethics movie series brings a valuable public dialogue into the classroom, said Tito B. M. de Carvalho, also a graduate student in the Bioethics, Policy and Law Program.

“The movie series allows me to get the perspectives and intuitions of people from outside of our classroom on several bioethical issues brought up by the movies,” he said. “These different perspectives and intuitions on bioethical topics challenge me to think about how the academic articles we read in the class relate to what people are thinking outside of academia.”

On a lighter note, de Carvalho said he likes the series because the films are entertaining – and they usually bring out a lively discussion.

For more information on the film series, contact Jessica Ranney, (480) 965-8927, or jessica.ranney@asu.edu, or go to http://cbs.asu.edu.