In the race to find alternative energy sources and ultimately save ourselves from certain extinction, nuclear fusion is often left out of the narrative. Let There Be Light is an engaging reminder that fusion research is in fact bursting with potential, even if it is hidden away in the southern French countryside.
This documentary introduces us to a group of scientists who are working together to create Earth’s first artificial star, a star to provide perpetual, cheap, clean energy. It’s an internationally-funded, decades-long project that requires a lot of faith and some tireless energy from its proponents. Directors Mila Aung-Thwin and Van Royko interview some very charismatic and enthusiastic supporter and collaborators of the project, called ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor). It’s pretty much the most complex machine ever designed and the commitment of these people cannot be overstated.
But as compelling as it is to see some scientists geeking out over this project that’s so mentally exciting and emotionally dear to them, Let There Be Light also shows the shadows. There are almost limitless hurdles. Some of this is brand new science or technology being invented on the spot as needed. The sheer scope is overwhelming. Countries and their taxpayers have to be constantly courted and updated, and scientists have to go begging for money just to keep this thing going. If it works? It could solve the global energy crisis. But if it fails it will be one of the biggest scientific and political blunders of all time. No pressure!
The directors put together some very dynamic interviews, great archival footage, and perhaps my favourite, some great animation with a gorgeous colour palette to bridge the gaps. It’s a lean documentary that stays interesting start to finish.
Let There Be Light has a premiere screening at SXSW this Friday March 10, 9pm at the Alamo Ritz. It will have additional screenings March 12 & 15 at Alamo Lamar. Check it out!