Sloan: Desperately seeking science

Org looks past traditional and conventional ways of science

Among the more curious cash prizes on the film fest trail are the grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, ostensibly to reward “scientific and technological themes.”

But the quantity of science in some of the qualifying films has been sparse at best.

At Sundance 2003, the prize went to “Dopamine,” a romantic comedy about the love triangle between a teacher, a programmer and an artificial intelligence computer.

This year, Tribeca included a Sloan-supported screening of “Yes,” the story of an Irish-American woman’s affair with an exiled Lebanese man.

The foundation’s Doron Weber, who created the grant program, admits some films seem short on significant scientific concepts, but says “Yes” made the cut because it addresses biological themes.

“We don’t just think about traditional and conventional ways of science,” Weber says. “We want to stimulate (the audience’s) curiosity and make them consider what it’s like as a mathematician or scientist.”

The New York-based philanthropic institution, founded in 1934, shows no signs of slowing its contributions. Another Sloan-supported production will have its North American premiere at Toronto. “Proof,” the story of a woman who delves into the past of her dying mathematician father, was awarded a cash grant by the foundation when it was a stage production. The org continued to nurse the project into a feature.

A similar relationship was forged to develop the upcoming Broadway show “Secret Order” into a film at Sony.

“We’re not looking for any one big hit,” Weber says, “but we’re looking for a long term investment to change the sensibility of the industry.”

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