The Alfred P. Sloan Award has been presented annually since 2003 at the Sundance Film Festival by a jury of film and science professionals to a feature film that either highlights the theme of science or technology or whose main character is a scientist, engineer or mathematician.
The Pod Generation, which stars Emilia Clarke, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rosalie Craig, Vinette Robinson and Jean-Marc Barr, is set in the near future in a society that is madly in love with technology, where the technology giant Pegazus offers couples the possibility of sharing their pregnancies via detachable artificial wombs.
If the jury for the Alfred P. Sloan 2023 Feature Film Award (consisting of Dr. Heather Berlin, Jim Gaffigan, Dr. Mandë Holford, Shalini Kantayya and Lydia Dean Pilcher) voted heavily for Sophie Barthes' futuristic romantic comedy The Pod Generation, it is because of "her bold but also visually impressive depiction of a brave new parenthood in which artificial wombs offer technological advantages at the expense of our relationship to nature and our own humanity, and for a woman artist's exploration of the evolution of gender roles divorced from biology."
Sophie Barthes sought to create a satire of a society that naively believes that technology has the answer to everything and can effectively solve everything. The film deals with the unbridled development of high-tech, the lack of existing regulation of the technology giants, motherhood and consumerism.
After her first film, Cold Souls, in which New Yorkers could extract and record their souls, she decided to continue her thematic exploration of the commercialisation of the unthinkable, and this time it was no longer souls but the womb.
Joana Vicente, Executive Director of the Sundance Institute, spoke of the importance of science in media and entertainment and particularly the ethical framework that scientists bring to the idea of progress. Doron Weber, vice president and programme director at the Alfred P Foundation, said he was delighted to honour "an original romance with a futuristic feel that engages with contemporary questions about reproductive technologies and their impact on changing gender roles and what it means to be a parent in the age of Artificial Intelligence.
By exposing women's bodies and the issues surrounding reproduction and parity, the director also explores the possibility of an enlightened and pacifist feminism, which invites reconciliation with men. While remaining entertaining, the film raises crucial ethical and philosophical questions about the future of human reproduction.
In a society blindly in love with technology, convinced that nature must be entirely controlled by technology, Sophie Barthes reminds us that the more we try to control nature, the more it controls us...