Memory is its theme, and AFO59 will definitely be memorable

Czech TV science moderator Daniel Stach will return to AFO.
Foto: AFO
Thursday 18 April 2024, 8:00 – Text: Martina Vysloužilová

The start of the international festival of popular science films Academia Film Olomouc is only a few days away. Its jam-packed programme includes 250 events – film screenings, concerts, talks, lectures, workshops, walks, and art exhibitions. In addition to the core component of the festival – film competitions in three categories (International, Czecho-Slovak, and Short Film) – it will also feature the Camp4Science platform for creators and film professionals, where important guests from all over the world will meet.

AFO59 has Memory as its theme this year, and from 23–28 April it will offer a number of novelties sure to attract those who are still on the fence about registering for the free festival. For example, there will be a sound installation by Jonáš Gruska in a civil defence bunker, and in Galerie XZ the exhibition by Julie Dítětová: “Machine Learning: Programming Patterns”. The latter is an experimental project using a neural network to generate new visual data based on motifs of clerical fabric patterns from the 18th century.

The Olomouc Research Library’s Red Church will be a portal for visitors to a different world, the VR Zone. “An interactive audio walking tour should also be of interest. It is meant to stimulate those taking part to be aware of their environment in both the present and the geological time period in order to orient their attention to how the landscape can change due to climate collapse,” said AFO programmer Dominik Vontor in his invitation. He also recommends a lecture on the fascinating abilities of fungi by Peter McCoy, co-founder of the worldwide Radical Mycology movement. And Prof Jiří Horáček will return to the Olomouc Regional Museum to speak on the pharmacological properties of psychedelics and their uses in therapy.

What’s it really like to be a palaeontologist?

Connecting a computer game with popular science can mask a lot of mistakes. This is why two seasoned palaeontologists, Jingmai O’Connor and Daniel Madzia, will get to play Dinosaur Fossil Hunter in order to set the record straight. Jindřich Matoušek’s lecture “Speech Synthesis Supported by AI – Creating a Digital Acoustic Fingerprint of Singer Karel Gott” will acquaint festival goers with contemporary trends in the area of computer voice synthesis. Lenka Hamošová’s workshop “How to Create the Incommunicable with AI?” is about transferring subjective experiences into an AI perspective. The workshop will aim at co-creating possible new ways of working with AI which will go beyond the ordinary text formats to search for new methods of expression.

Music is also science!

The programme Music is Science, featuring two dozen music projects, will take place in the Geodome on the UP Arts Centre (Convictorium) town bailey. “Fans can look forward to low-frequency sub-bass, cinematic synthesised surfaces, effect-weaving guitars, rhythmic precision, and lyrical intensity. Other attractions include the electronic music producer Oblaka, the dada rap duo Laokoon, and artist Klara Wodehn, who won this year’s Vinyl award for new discovery of the year,” said the music programmer, Jiří Bejček.

And the German-Algerian composer and DJ Acidfinky will also be on hand in her Czech debut, premiering an original live set in Olomouc. Plus the Czech shoegaze group Manon Meurt will perform songs from their new album, which will be released two days later. After live performances, the music stage will give way to late night dance sessions.

Get inspired by stories from professionals

In another section, Science Matters, the scientific community will encounter professionals from various disciplines and the private sector. Audiences can look forward to a colourful mix of formats and inspiring presentations from scientific talents both young and old.

“Were it not for popularising science, the public would not know what scientists are working on nor what their results serve. Without transfer technologies, without their connection to the non-academic world – especially to the business world – no ideas would ever be put into practice. Film is also a transfer technology – the transfer of ideas from the silver screen into the souls of viewers. This is why we, the leading Czech technology transfer office, are glad to contribute to the promotion and explanation of science by supporting the fine AFO film festival,” said Martin Fusek, Director of IOCB Tech.

The Czech Advanced Technology and Research Institute (CATRIN) at UP will host presentations with the title Science Connects and Divides. “Top scientists from all over the world connect in order to bring those discoveries which transform our lives. Yet society does not always welcome these innovations with open arms. There are many examples when fundamental technologies and discoveries have divided society – from nuclear physics to medicine, pharmaceuticals, and energy. Even nanotechnology has aroused quite negative reactions in the not-so-distant past. The public and the scientific community alike are divided, for example, on the subjects of the European Green Deal strategy, electromobility, and many applications in medicine,” said Radek Zbořil, Scientific Director of CATRIN-RCPTM, who will introduce some of the innovations CATRIN has brought to the scientific world.

Loud and clear! The festival will entertain children, too

The AFO team invites the youngest participants to the new JáSám (IMyself) playroom. The town centre will also come alive. On the Upper Square, audiences can enjoy experiments conducted by teachers from the Czech Association of Science Centres (ČASC), the Innovation Centre of the Olomouc Region (ICOK) will keep children’s brains and hands busy with unique knitting books, and the Hella Forvia company will introduce their innovations which are causing excitement in the world of technology. The latter’s team of constructors, opticians, and technicians will let those interested take a look under the hood of the development and production of headlamps.

Dialogues with scientists and filmmakers

The programme section Science on Czech Television is dedicated to the latest domestic popular science achievements. In addition to other subjects, filmmakers will touch on art and public space in the form of Czech national identity in the graphic design and architecture from the communist era. Visitors will get to meet Czech TV’s science moderator Dan Stach. The independent daily newspaper Deník N will host a talk. And Czech Radio will broadcast a live version of their podcast Leonardo Plus on the mystery of the microbiome in primates and people, their “Jaws” show, and their Radio Wave Mycelium podcast from AFO. The weekly news magazine Respekt will conduct a debate on the theme “The Code of Life Written by AI”, and the magazine Heroine will host a discussion on whether a mother can be a good “scientist”.

Palacký University Olomouc has hosted the Academia Film Olomouc International Festival of Popular Science Films (AFO) since 1966. Since its inception, AFO’s aim is to actively connect cinematography and science, and explore their mutual interactions. Festival accreditation is free.



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