Most of the times, films about environmental issues tend to be dark and pessimistic. Although, we can’t complain about the films being pessimistic when the reality is such a mess where humans have created a hell on earth and the options for a better future are scarce and rarely opted. Uncharacteristically, “Inventing Tomorrow” is a documentary about environmental issues with a very optimistic outlook that puts its hope in the coming generation.
The documentary follows six students from four different countries around the world as they prepare and compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), dubbed as “The science fair of science fairs.”
Sahithi from Bangalore, India tries to measure the amount and types of pollution that is affecting the lakes of the city which was once “the place of a thousand lakes” but now the remaining numbers are less than 100. The way each of these lakes is polluted itself varies considerably, so the homemade application by Sahithi is quite efficacious in determining the kind of pollution that particular lake has been through.
From Monterrey, Mexico, Fernando Miguel Sanchez Villalobos, Jesus Alfonso Martinez Aranda and Jose Manuel Elizade Esparaza develop a paint that is photocatalytic which converts a couple of major air pollutants into a form which is beneficial to plants and soil. For one of the most industrialized cities in the country, the amount of emission of such pollutants into the air is also very high. The converted chemicals are released to the soil while raining if the paint is already exposed to the specific pollutants from the atmosphere, which undergoes the conversion in sunlight.
Shofi Latifa Nuha Anfaresi from Bangka, Indonesia works with her friend Intan Utami Putri to develop a low-cost filtering system for the offshore tin mining. The legal and illegal mining activities in the area is a major factor in keeping the struggling economy on hold, but at the same time it produces lead as waste, which continuously pollutes the sea and the whole ecosystem is affected by it.
Jared Goodwin is an Asian-American from Hilo, Hawaii who develops a system to track the harmful amount of arsenic dumped into the soil and ponds of his neighbourhood as a result of two tsunamis that hit the area in the 20th century. From the experience of these tsunamis by his own family, he found the motivation to find how harmful this pollutant can be with it being distributed throughout the area, by finding out the amount of arsenic present in the soil.
The first part of “Inventing Tomorrow” shows the details of the projects of these students while they are working on it in their respective countries. While all of them are really focused on these very important projects, their life outside of it is also made clear to us. The three-member group from Monterrey have to work after school to continue with their studies and have problems with English for attending the fair. Putri can’t attend the fair with Nuha because of her college entrance exam in Indonesia, which would coincide with the dates of travelling for the fair.
The second part of the documentary shows the ISEF, and how all of these kids participate in this event, facing difficulties of various levels while being proud and determined on what they set out to do. Their interaction throughout the fair shows a new side to each of them that wasn’t evident before. The effect of globalised pop culture is also showcased through the Indonesian girls singing Taylor Swift songs and the Mexican boys talking about Japanese anime.
Even after the end of the fair, the projects led by each of these group of students are as important as before. Each of them is going through the respective logical steps they can take afterwards to ensure that the world will be a better place on their watch, although for some its tougher than the others and for some the steps have to be made as soon as possible.
The positivity of “Inventing Tomorrow” is a driving force that gives hope about the future through a group of nerds whom the world rarely look upon as heroes when they do their heroics.