Veterans of documentaries on the opioid crisis and sex trafficking, investigative journalists Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster turn their lenses to more cuddly subject matter in Science Fair.
But in following nine high school students from across the U.S., Brazil, and Germany, and one devoted Long Island teacher as they compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the directors nevertheless present an equally timely film considering the increasing emphasis on STEM education and the hope that youth in these fields represent for global advancement.
The work’s focus primarily on minority students and/or children of immigrants also gives Science Fair a progressive edge, and the excitement that independent learning and critical thinking brings these young people is thoroughly inspirational. West Virginia rebel Robbie, whose brilliant side interests make him an undesirable college applicant on paper, is especially appealing, but there are plenty of good apples from which to choose and swear one’s loyalty.
Despite the convenient involvement of one competitor that may not line up with its chronological depiction, Science Fair balances its multiple storylines with ease and still finds room to loop in past ISEF winners and how the victory changed their lives. It’s an entertaining and delightful showcase of an especially promising segment of today’s youth, and one capable of making viewers of all ages optimistic about the future.
Grade: B-plus. Rated PG. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: National Geographic Documentary Films)