Breaking symmetry intro
The third commission in the exhibition was developed through a creative partnership between a group of young local filmmakers and the Crick’s Polarity and Patterning Networks laboratory. The result is a film called ‘Selection’.
Written, directed and produced by Lilo Amaral, Rachel Curley, Cleo Foster, Sarah Levy-Pipitone, Noor Shahzad, Grace Talbot, Raza Tariq and Joseph Winterson
KaleiKo., 2017, 1A Arts, Holborn Community Association
Selection is an imaginative response to the concepts of uniformity, breaking of symmetry and cell fate – the process by which a cell takes on a particular identity or function. It is a surreal fictional narrative, following the daily life of an unremarkable office worker. As he goes about his day, the main character is oblivious to the fact that something transformational is about to happen.
Raza Tariq, one of the participants, explains how they developed the script:
“We had to work with a brief from the Crick, so the lab’s research is basically how one cell gets to an organism… Because it starts off symmetrical, it needs to find its sense of direction, its head and its tail and its back and its bottom and everything. It needs to break that symmetry, so we interpreted that in a human form.”
About the film's production
The collaboration was led by 1A Arts, a community arts project run by Holborn Community Association. The programme offers creative arts and digital media activities for children and young people that aim to raise their aspirations, boost confidence and develop creative skills. With support from professional filmmakers Lesley Pinder and Linda Mason, and inspired by Crick research, the young filmmakers worked together to write, direct and produce their very own short film based around the scientific concept of ‘breaking symmetry’.
The Polarity and Patterning Networks lab is interested in understanding how cells acquire their sense of direction, which is known as polarity. In becoming polarised, a cell distinguishes one side of itself from the other. In the nematode worm they study, this directional information is used by cells to divide asymmetrically to create two non-identical cells as well as to determine where the head and tail of the animal will eventually form.
In June 2017, the young filmmakers spent a whole day with Group Leader Nate Goehring and members of his laboratory, engaging in lively discussions and activities as they explored asymmetry and cell division. Not only does the resulting film offer a metaphor for the process of symmetry breaking and cell fate choice, it also provides an intriguing insight into the importance of diversity from the perspective of young people.