SFFILM Awards 2020 Sloan Science in Cinema Prize to Francis Lee’s ‘Ammonite’
Award Presented in Partnership between SFFILM and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Celebrates Outstanding Achievement in the Depiction of Science on Screen
SFFILM has announced that Ammonite, Francis Lee’s remarkable historical drama starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, is the 2020 recipient of the SFFILM Sloan Science in Cinema 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 $25,000 cash prize and shines a light on special achievement in rendering the worlds of science and technology through the language of film with a screening event and conversation with the film’s creators and experts in the scientific fields being depicted.
SFFILM and the Sloan Foundation presented the award on Friday, December 18, at a live-streamed online event for SFFILM members and invited guests from the nationwide science, technology, and education communities. Following an online screening of Ammonite, writer/director Francis Lee, geologist Paddy Howe, and micropaleontologist Dr. Lisa White participated in an in-depth discussion of the science behind the story and its journey to the big screen.
Full video of their conversation can be found here: https://sffilm.org/event/sloan-prize-screening-ammonite
“The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s remarkable dedication to promoting science in cinematic storytelling allows us to recognize one of this year’s most quietly powerful films in Ammonite,” said SFFILM Executive Director Anne Lai. “The unlikely romance of two women in a beautifully desolate landscape invites us into the rare world of fossil hunting in a way we haven’t seen before. It’s a complex portrayal of the dedication to science — not only as an avocation but as a lifelong pursuit and the ensuing complications of what peer recognition may or may not be — that brings such depth to Kate Winslet’s character. We are excited and honored to recognize Ammonite with the Sloan Science in Cinema Prize.”
“We are delighted to announce that this year’s Sloan Science in Cinema Prize at SFFILM goes to Francis Lee’s Ammonite,” said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Lee’s moving, fine-grained portrait of a brilliant, passionate woman in 19th century England brings to life the little-known scientist Mary Anning who, despite the challenges she faced as a woman in science, made trailblazing contributions to the field of paleontology and our understanding of the history of life on earth.”
The Sloan Science in Cinema Prize is presented annually in the fall to a film released in that year, and is a highlight of SFFILM’s end-of-year programming. Focusing on dramatic and entertaining films that illuminate the relevance of science and technology to our daily lives or challenge existing stereotypes about scientists, engineers, or mathematicians, SFFILM and the Sloan Foundation seek to spotlight an important new film and provide a platform to celebrate science during the end-of-year awards season.
This annual prize is a part of SFFILM’s Sloan Science in Cinema initiative, which is designed to develop and present new feature films and episodic content that portray fully-drawn scientist and technologist characters; immerse audiences in the challenges and rewards of scientific discovery; and increase public awareness of the intersection of science, technology and our daily lives. Leveraging its position in the heart of the innovation capital of the world, SFFILM seeks to forge meaningful links between Bay Area and national artistic and scientific communities through a suite of programs. In addition to the Sloan Science in Cinema Prize, the initiative includes the Sloan Science in Cinema Filmmaker Fellowship and the Sloan Stories of Science Development Fund, which both support filmmakers developing science-themed screenplays; and Sloan Science on Screen, a spotlight program at the San Francisco International Film Festival that debuted in 2016.
In the 1840s, acclaimed self-taught paleontologist Mary Anning works alone on the wild and brutal Southern English coastline of Lyme Regis. The days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now hunts for common fossils to sell to rich tourists to support herself and her ailing widowed mother. When one such tourist, Roderick Murchison, arrives in Lyme on the first leg of a European tour, he entrusts Mary with the care of his young wife Charlotte, who is recuperating from a personal tragedy. Mary, whose life is a daily struggle on the poverty line, cannot afford to turn him down but, proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, she clashes with her unwanted guest. They are two women from utterly different worlds. Yet despite the chasm between their social spheres and personalities, Mary and Charlotte discover they can each offer what the other has been searching for: the realization that they are not alone. It is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds and alter the course of both lives irrevocably.