Genomics video gets thumbs up

September 23, 2010

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Six SFU science students have clinched first prize for the best short film on genomics and health in Gene Screen B.C.’s first film competition.

Suraaj Aulakh, Cindy Li, Charles Stevens, Kelly Kim, Daniel Chiang and Linda Zhang, all first-year grad students in molecular biology and biochemistry, took the $3,500 top prize for their entry Sequence Me.

The seven-minute fictional piece chronicles the emotional journey of a young man who decides to sequence his genome after his sister dies of a genetic disorder.

Drawing on her undergrad film and design experience at the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, project leader Aulakh helped her team get creative with "a cheap pocket camera with a broken lens cover and no zoom."

Sequence Me, shot in black and white and put to music like a silent-era movie, uses titles to explore the significance and potential impact of genome sequencing from a curious layperson’s point of view.

"Fascinated by the possibility of getting our own genomes sequenced in the future, we decided to look at issues in a world where this technology is commercially available," explains Aulakh. "We addressed lack of public awareness, illegal sequencing, confidentiality and social ostracism."

Aulakh’s team heard about the competition by chance after launching their educational website, labtricks.com, and figured this entry would be a perfect addition. It’s now the feature video.

Open to university students and amateur filmmakers internationally, Gene Screen B.C. attracted 23 entries, including a few from the United States and Europe.

Genome B.C. and the B.C. Clinical Genomics Network organized the competition, offering $8,000 in prize money for the best documentary, short fiction or animated films with an engaging educational message about genomics.

At a packed gala in September, the competition’s organizers honoured the top four winners, including the creators of Superbug, Be Gone, a documentary featuring SFU scientist Fiona Brinkman’s work, which took second prize.

To watch Sequence Me visit http://at.sfu.ca/GFhfGe; to see the Brinkman film visit http://at.sfu.ca/cttwoS.


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