‘Science On Screen’ Series Brings Wolves, Snakes to San Rafael

Throughout the academic year, the nationwide Science on Screen series creatively pairs screenings of classic, cult, science fiction and documentary films with live presentations by notable experts in the world of science and technology.

After a 2020–2021 academic year largely spent in lockdown, the Science on Screen series returns to big screens across the country as theaters open up.

In the North Bay, Science on Screen hosts a special summertime run of wildlife-based films coming to San Rafael’s iconic Smith Rafael Film Center.

In its ninth year at the Smith Rafael Film Center, Science on Screen serves students and life-long learners who are interested in exploring new ideas and perspectives within the many fields of science and technology.

Now, before this begins to sound like a classroom lecture on microbiology, the series proves this summer that science can be creatively engaging, and the schedule of films includes last week’s series opener, the coming-of-age film A Birder’s Guide to Everything, and upcoming screenings of the 1983 adventure drama Never Cry Wolf on Thursday, June 17, at 7pm; and the monster-horror movie Anaconda on Thursday, June 24, also at 7pm.

Each in-person screening is paired with a live conversation with an expert in the related field of knowledge, moderated by journalist, author and playwright David Templeton—an occasional contributor to Pacific Sun.

Set in the Canadian Arctic, the gorgeously photographed Never Cry Wolf follows a naïve biologist (Charles Martin Smith), sent by the government to determine if wolves are to blame for declining caribou populations.

Isolated in the wilderness, he forms an unexpected attachment to a pair of wolves, experiences a number of life-altering encounters with nature and sets out to prove that it is not the wolves that are responsible for the dwindling caribou herds, but a far more dangerous predator.

The film’s screening will be followed by a live video conversation with Milo Burcham, a wildlife photographer and wildlife biologist working for the U.S. Forest Service on the Prince William Sound in Alaska. Burcham will discuss several topics related to wildlife in the far North.

In the tradition of classic B-movies, 1997’s Anaconda is one of the most ridiculous monsters ever put to film. The basic plot revolves around a National Geographic film crew in the Amazon jungle (Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube, among others) who are taken hostage by an insane hunter (Jon Voight) and forced to join his quest to capture the world’s largest snake.

The highly laughable and scientifically questionable movie will be followed by discussion with staff members of nonprofit Petaluma Wildlife & Natural Science Museum, a multi-room institution on the campus of Petaluma High School, who will set the record straight on big snakes.

The largest student-run museum of its kind in the U.S., the Petaluma Wildlife & Natural Science Museum includes over 100 taxidermy animals and dozens of live species, including a large number of snakes.

The Smith Rafael Film Center, operated by the nonprofit California Film Institute, reopened for limited in-person screenings in March, and the theater is operating under all Covid-related guidelines including online ticketing and the CinemaSafe health and safety protocols issued by the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Get tickets to these screenings at rafaelfilm.org.
Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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