Pauline Julier’s 60-minute documentary Way Beyond takes us inside CERN to follow the planning process for the Future Circular Collider.
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Pauline Julier’s 60-minute documentary Way Beyond takes us inside CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) to follow the planning process for the Future Circular Collider (FCC) project, which is intended to replace the current particle accelerator. The FFC is much, much bigger in scale, and we watch an international commission of experts discuss the various unexpected design challenges. Where can the geography of the region support this massive build and what are the political dynamics of an international build like this? If the individual parts of the accelerator are bigger than any existing truck can fit, what happens if they find a truck big enough when the roads aren’t designed to support turns of such big vehicles? How do you present the project to funding bodies in a way that’s enticing without making false promises? How can VR help predict potential safety hazards by tracking the behaviour of real people, and revising design protocols in kind?
Julier’s camera observes various meetings between interdisciplinary and international experts as they raise and debate all of these issues and more. Way Beyond is the rare documentary to finds a balance between providing enough technical information to understand the breadth of challenges the project holds, but ensuring we never get lost in the weeds of jargon and advanced physics. When a subject starts to get too technical with their explanations, Julier mutes the sound, focusing instead on their body language, usually their hands, so we see how they explain it. Julier then fills in the blanks for us with on-screen text to explain, in more lay terms, the crux of the issue.
Although Way Beyond will be of particular interest to documentary viewers already familiar with CERN, it’s inspiring both as a document of a hugely ambitious engineering project and its mission to help change our understanding of the universe. Julier takes us inside the sci-fi-like spaces that make up CERN — the data storage room, parts of the accelerator itself, and more — which reminds us that dreaming big has suddenly become possible.
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