In “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989) Indiana Jones embarks on his greatest adventure yet: finding, and taking, the sacred Holy Grail. Traveling from the U.S. to Venice, he saves his father, fights Nazis, and eventually finds the grail—but watching the movie now brings up questions of how to interact with cultural artifacts, and what real archaeologists do to study and preserve human history.
Science Moab, in conjunction with the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission and Moab’s Parks Department, will pair those two things—local scientists and pertinent movies about science—in this year’s Science on Screen series.
“I think it’s so important to have a space where we can all get together to learn things and talk through things,” said Kristina Young, founder of Science Moab. By using movies to talk about science, and in particular, science that pertains to issues that affect the Moab community, Young hopes to eventually debunk the “ivory tower” situation, she said, and show the community that there are local and state scientists who are available as a resource to anyone.
“We’re really making it centered around the community,” she said. “There’s no exclusivity, no jargon. Just a place where we can all observe what’s going on around us, and ask somebody who’s been studying this for a while what they think about what’s going on.”
The series kicks off on Friday, May 13 with a showing of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and includes a discussion led by the Utah State Historic Preservation Office’s public archaeologist, Elizabeth Hora-Cook. The movie will begin at 8 p.m. at Swanny City Park.
“In the past few years we’ve seen a lot of incidences of vandalism on our incredible archaeological and cultural resources in this area, so it felt important to talk a little about that,” Young said.
The second event, at 8 p.m. on May 27 at the Center St. Ballparks, will show “Don’t Look Up,” a 2021 disaster comedy, and include a discussion led by local ecologist Sasha Reed. The movie, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, explores the story of two astronomers who discover an approaching comet that will destroy the earth and their attempts to warn mankind of imminent death, making parallels to climate change.
“Climate change is rocking the Colorado plateau,” Young said. “There’s no question that we’re seeing that—we all experienced very low amounts of snowpack this year … And we’re kind of at a hotspot of warming. So it’s really important to talk about these things.”
Young said Reed’s discussion will talk about climate change science in the Colorado plateau, but also what it feels like to live through it.
The third and final event, at 8 p.m. on June 10 at Swanny City Park, will show “Waterworld” (1995) and include a discussion on Lake Powell led by Jack Schmidt, a professor of watershed sciences at Utah State University. The film explores a world where the polar ice-caps have melted, meaning Earth is almost entirely submerged in water, and those who survived desperately search for dry land. Young said she and the Science Moab staff picked the movie because of its “ironic juxtaposition” to the situation with Lake Powell, which is currently at its lowest point since it was filled in the 1960s.
“Science isn’t meant to be, and doesn’t have to be, stuffy. Science can be fun,” Young said. By pairing movies with the discussions, Young hopes the Science on Screen events will encourage people to “celebrate enjoyable things, while also being realistic about what’s going on in the world around us,” she said.
The events are free, and popcorn will be provided.