Projects at the International Science and Engineering Fair are judged on creativity, scientific thought, thoroughness, skill, and clarity of presentation. Writer-directors Darren Foster and Christina Costantini's documentary on the 2017 ISEF doesn’t need to do too much on the creative front, given the ready-made storyline of smart kids with smart dreams traveling from around the world in hopes of winning $75,000 and a place in history. And it’s regrettably light in terms of scientific thought and thoroughness, choosing to highlight personalities over projects — and among projects, those with clear practical application. It surely helps that those personalities are so varied and winning, from a Brazilian girl looking to cure Zika to a trio of American nerd bros looking to improve the stethoscope to a German lad and his improvement of the flying wing. (The film follows nine groups in all.) But with all that intelligence and earnest charm on display, surely we could have spent some more time following the development of their work? So yes, high marks for skill and clarity of presentation — it’s a real crowd pleaser. But if you want to win Best Documentary, you need to push a little harder — take a risk, and hope you’ve convinced the audience to pay attention.
Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes