Fathomless (2021) 7m
Co-directed by Meilín Fernández García & Melissa Ferrari
Supported by Imagine Science Films & Science Sandbox
Winner of the Symbiosis Competition at Imagine Science
Fathom, a unit to measure depth. A medical-science trajectory toward understanding the deep complexity of minds and the perception of people living with mental illness. Fathomless is an experimental animated documentary short that collages the history of psychiatry, including the themes of invisibility, control, demonization, as well as the struggle to find both solid science and the path to compassionate, effective treatment in neuropsychiatry.
Fathomless is a collaboration between neuropsychiatrist Dr. Meilín Fernández García, who created all lab imaging in the film, and filmmaker/animator Melissa Ferrari.
Visually, Fathomless approaches the history of scientific imaging — from the similar aesthetic sensibilities of microscopes and magic lanterns to methods for visualizing “unseeable” conditions. A palimpsest of hand-drawn animation travels through spaces in the history of psychiatric treatment, incorporating antique magic lantern slides, archival references and pre-cinematic techniques. The animation evolves into Dr. Fernández García’s luminous lab imaging of neurons, stem cells and organoids used in neuropsychiatric research, tracing a trajectory to the biological interior of the mind.
To further explore the social histories and implications of her field of neuropsychiatry, Dr. Fernández García conducted a series of interviews with other scientists in her lab and institution. Fathomless features a collage of these conversations. Dr. Fernández García works in a lab that uses CRISPR technology and stem cells to research the neurons of people with psychiatric illnesses. Her research is part of a new chapter of psychiatry - one that understands the physiological components of psychiatric disorders and seeks to develop new treatments rooted in biology. Mental illness today is still so frequently criminalized and misunderstood socially, and Dr. Fernández García's work could help change perceptions within the general public and political spheres.
The foundation for this film was commissioned for the Imagine Science Film Festival Symbiosis Competition with support from Science Sandbox, which pairs scientists and filmmakers to create a short film. The work-in-progress of Fathomless was awarded first place in the Symbiosis Competition, and production was completed in October 2021.