SCIENTIFIC PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES

October 24, 2014

September 9th at 4:30p.m.
at the Fields Institute
222 College Street, Toronto

A preview screening of the TVOntario documentary
THE MAN WHO SAVED GEOMETRY

Foundry Films, TVOntario broadcaster
(viewing time approx.45-50 minutes)

David New, Director
Siobhan Roberts, Writer
Daniel Iron, Producer, Foundry Films

Based on the Book
King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, The Man Who Saved Geometry
By Siobhan Roberts


THE MAN WHO SAVED GEOMETRY premieres on TVO's The View From Here on Wednesday, October 21, at 10pm (repeated Sunday, October 25, at 10:30pm). It is part of a special week of programming on TVO devoted to science, technology and innovation, in conjunction with the Perimeter Institute's Quantum to Cosmos Festival (the Q2C Festival runs October 15 to 25 in commemoration of the Perimeter Institute's 10th anniversary).

The film follows Donald Coxeter on his journey to the last geometry conference he would attend - to Budapest in the summer of 2002, when he was 95 years old. There Coxeter delivered the opening address, offering a new and elegant proof for a theorem about "four mutually tangent circles," a subject which finds application in data-mining technology.
Featuring interviews with John Horton Conway (Coxeter's intellectual heir), as well as Benoit Mandelbrot (the father of fractals), Erik Demaine and Jeffrey Weeks (both MacArthur Fellows), Coxeter's last PhD student Asia Ivic´ Weiss, his daughter Susan Thomas, and many esteemed Coxeter devotees (professional and amateur mathematicians alike), THE MAN WHO SAVED GEOMETRY chronicles one man's undying passion for geometry, as well as geometry's omnipresence in all our lives - whether in the realms of computer graphics, nanotechnology, immunology, cosmology, or pure (and sometimes purely frivolous) intellectual pursuit.

Filmmaker David New was drawn to making a documentary about Coxeter since he shared the Coxeterian appreciation for the intersection of art and science - his university career included studies in film, music, theatre, dance, metallurgy and digital electronics. Prior to setting out on the documentary, New had never heard of Coxeter, but he was an admirer of the work of a number of Coxeter's collaborators, including artist M.C. Escher and his scientifically inspired prints (New actually read the book Gödel, Escher, Bach - twice), and polymath Buckminster Fuller and his geodesic dome in Montreal (when New was living there as a teenager, the dome's acrylic cover had gone up in flames not long before; he occasionally hopped the safety barrier, climbed the frame, and sat looking out over the Montreal vista feeling simultaneously rebellious and spiritual).

New's previous directing work includes Too Good To Be True, the award-winning documentary about the AVRO Arrow, The Sexual Revolution, which won a Gold Plaque at the Chicago Film Festival, and fourteen episodes of The Secret World of Gardens, a series about the alien world that lives hidden in your backyard. His writing credits include When the Fire Burns, a feature-length biography of composer Manuel de Falla, which won numerous awards, including the Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival and a Gold Apple at the National Educational Film Festival, and The War Symphonies, a portrait of Dmitri Shostakovich during the Stalin years, winner of two Gemini awards and an International Emmy.

Writer Siobhan Roberts met Donald Coxeter in 2001, and followed him with a camcorder on his Budapest journey. She was taken with his tremendous and enduring passion for geometry, as well as his stomach-curdling bedtime elixir - Kahlúa coffee liqueur, peach schnapps, sometimes a splash of vodka, all mixed with soymilk - and his lifelong habit of standing on his head every morning, to which he attributed his longevity. Although by 2002 he had finally abandoned his fitness routine, he was sufficiently reinvigorated by the Budapest conference that during the trip he reinstated his regime of pushups, as well as an air bicycle abdominal exercise that had him spinning his legs through space.

Roberts is a freelance journalist who specializes in mathematics and science. She contributes to Canadian Geographic, Smithsonian, Maisonneuve, The Walrus, The Globe and Mail, and The New York Times. Her biography of Coxeter, King of Infinite Space, won the 2009 Euler Prize, awarded by the Mathematical Association of America, and her Toronto Life profile of the geometer won a National Magazine Award. She is currently a Director's Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where she is working on a biography of the Princeton University mathematician/magician John Horton Conway (Walker/Bloomsbury).

Producer Daniel Iron established Foundry Films in 2004, and shortly thereafter took on THE MAN WHO SAVED GEOMETRY. He has produced Northern Town, a CBC series set and shot in the Yukon, It's Me Gerald, a six half-hour series for Showcase, and in 2005 Last Exit, a TV movie with CTV directed by John Fawcett. In 2006 he produced Manufactured Landscapes the theatrical documentary on acclaimed photographer, Edward Burtynsky, directed by Jennifer Baichwal which won best Canadian film at Toronto International Film Festival, the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards for Best Canadian Film and Best Documentary of 2006 as well a Genie for Best Documentary. The team has also now completed a third documentary, entitled Act of God, which is in current theatrical release. Iron also produced Sarah Polley's debut feature Away From Her starring Julie Christie and Olympia Dukakis, which was released in the US by Lionsgate in May 2007, and garnered six Gemini awards and two Academy Award Nominations. His most recent production is Cairo Time, written and directed by Ruba Nadda, starring Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig. He recently completed the documentary Toscanini in His Own Words, directed by Larry Weinstein, and has just wrapped production on The Bang Bang Club, starring Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch and Malin Akerman, a South-African co-production written and directed by Steven Silver, and Act of Dishonour, shot on location in Tajikistan.




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