Illustration by Nick Vokey


5 Films About the Neobiological Revolution to Put in Your Queue

Get inspired by documentaries on food, human performance, and more.

Coming up with fresh dispatches from the frontiers of science and technology leads us to read and read and read, all day, every day. But often you’ve just got to see something to truly get it. In that spirit, here are some particularly intriguing documentaries from the past couple of years.

Food Evolution (2017)

This documentary unravels misconceptions surrounding genetically modified crops. To name one: “GMO” does not necessarily equal “Monsanto” or any other huge company. The film also drives home the fact that GMO opponents often don’t make much sense. As if to confirm that point, 48 people affiliated with UC Berkeley wrote an open letter criticizing the movie because, among other things, it involves Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who are “well-known as boosters for biotech solutions to food insecurity.” Like that’s a bad thing! Feeding 10 billion people in a world stressed by pollution and climate change calls for more biotech solutions, not fewer. Food Evolution helps make the point that such technologies can be deployed responsibly, if we can just get on with it.

(Bonus film on this subject: a Dutch documentary called Well Fed.)

Take Your Pills (2018)

“Every generation has found a different way to try to enhance their performance,” author Alan Schwarz says in this film. For a surprising number of students and young athletes, the method of choice is to take amphetamines like Adderall. Do these addictive stimulants work as well as people think—or do they inspire a false confidence?

Breaking2 (2017)

No one has run a marathon in less than two hours. Is it physically impossible? Or can people who are already at the peak of human performance wring just a little bit more out of their bodies and minds? National Geographic beautifully chronicles three of the world’s best long-distance runners plotting with physiologists to stretch the limits.

Unrest (2017)

It’s so intimate that it’s hard to watch at times, but this is a remarkable investigation of myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Working much of the time from her own bed after being hit hard by the disease, director Jennifer Brea explores its mysterious viral origins and captures both the exasperation and the resilience of fellow patients around the world.

Gut Hack (2017)

You viscerally feel the personal stakes of biohacking in this short film about Josiah Zayner’s self-administered fecal transplant.

Gut Hack

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