DNA Dreams

The Netherlands 2013, Documentary, 54’ | Director Bregtje van der Haak | DoP Jean Counet, Hai Hong, Maarten Kramer | Editor Maasja Ooms, Patrick Minks | Sound Joris van Ballegoijen, Tom Bijnen | Production VPRO & TimeDoc

Ten years ago, it would have taken many years and over a billion dollars to map out the complete DNA of a single human being. Today, it can be done in one day for a mere 1,000 dollars. This technological revolution has fast-tracked genetic science, which is enthusiastically embraced by China. The country invests hundreds of millions in the latest super computers and DNA scanners as it strives to become a leader in genetics and biotechnology. On the edge of Shenzhen we find BGI, now the world‘s largest genomics research institution. Here, 4,000 young scientists work day and night identifying plant, human and animal DNA.

DNA Dreams follows 18-year-old Zhao Bowen, high school drop-out and leader of BGI’s Cognitive Genomics Laboratory to analyse the DNA of 2,000 highly gifted children. His goal: to find the genetic basis of intelligence. At BGI’s cloning lab, Zhao’s 25-year-old colleague Lin Lin directs a team of 35 cloning professionals, which produces pigs of all shapes and sizes. Some have even been genetically modified to give off a fluorescent glow in the dark. Deeply in love with her work, Lin Lin feels »like a mother« to the piglets that are conceived under her microscope. Bregtje van der Haak’s award-winning documentary shows traces of a future that is already here and takes a closer look at data-driven science.

Bregtje van der Haak is a documentary film-maker and journalist. Since 1997, she has been directing international documentaries about social change with a focus on urban life and globalisation. Her documentaries have been shown on television, at film festivals and in art exhibitions around the world. For VPRO Television, Ms van der Haak developed various transmedia and collaborative media projects including Metropolis TV (2008), Urban Century (2009), Aftermath Project (2011) and Atlas of Pentecostalism (2013). Van der Haak studied dance in Paris, political science and law at the University of Amsterdam and the New School for Social Research in New York and obtained an M.Sc. degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. She is a board member of the Prince Claus Fund and the Praemium Erasmianum and has been a Visiting Associate Professor at the School of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong, where she developed a curriculum for Future Creative Television.

Bregtje van der Haak
The Netherlands