Back to Film Festival

Film Festival - Outbreak

Monday - November 16, 2009
MAC Playhouse - 3:30 pm - 6:00 pm


About the Movie: Outbreak
Director, Wolfgang Peterson - Rating PG 13
Outbreak, (1995), deals with the spread of a fictional Ebola-like virus called Motaba in the town of Cedar Creek, California. The film touches on a few timely issues such as the control of viruses in the general public and the involvement of government agencies, the United States Army Medical Research Institute for infectious diseases (USAMRIID) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in disease control. This action packed film also touches on many current scientific, social, psychological and physiological issues.

About the Presenters:
Dr. Mary Ortiz is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY. Interested in space since childhood, she has worked for NASA in the Space Life Sciences Training Program at The Kennedy Space Center in Florida and as Faculty Research Fellow at The Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. She is currently involved in research focused on restoring eel grass in Jamaica Bay.

Dr. Robert Singer is a professor of English at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY and adjunct Professor of Film Studies and Liberal Studies at the Graduate Center, CUNY. He received a Ph.D from New York University in Comparative Literature. He co-edited Zola and Film:Essays in the Art of Adaption (2005), The Brooklyn Film (2003), and co-authored the text, The History of Brooklyn's Three Major Performing Arts Institutions (2003). Among his professional honors and awards have been nine PSC-CUNY Study Grants and NEH Study Grant for College Teachers. He has also written and directed several independent short films. Professor Singer has worked with College Now for over 10 years as Coordinator of the English Program.

Sample ACT Essay

Extra Credit Assignments
Outbreak (1995) was produced in a time when the notion of a horrific viral outbreak in America, whether as an act of bio-terrorism or the result of an unforeseen accident, was just a frightening idea that people thought of as science fiction. People believed that a virus, like a bomb, could be "controlled" and "contained" by progressive science, technology, and the government--military. Recent events in our history have demonstrated that many forms of terrorism are possible and that destructive biological creations, whether made in a laboratory, found in the environment, or created as a potential tool of warfare by the government, are not necessarily fictional. There have been changes in society since our awareness of the virus as a WMD (weapon of mass destruction) became an issue, and many new areas of research and development in college science classes have been created. These classes in biological and chemical research prepare the way for future scientists to create new science and technology, but they could also create new weapons and possibly lead to a crisis similar to the one in the film. Many people are concerned about issues of responsibility and matters of ethics that involve these changes in scientific education. After all, a scientist, or a government, could create a cure for a dreadful disease but also create that disease as well!

You have been asked to write a letter to your local congressperson in which you will express your views concerning the issue of funding college classes that teach and prepare students for research in "advanced bio-technology." The problem involves funding these classes, since they are very expensive for local colleges to maintain and require extensive research and advanced computer facilities. The principle funding sources for these classes and the use of laboratory equipment and advanced technologies would be from the government and the military that needs such research to continue to compete with other unfriendly nations. Specifically, should the government-military be involved in funding what students learn and research? Who will "own" any discoveries or research that students' develop? Should this research be used as a form of weaponry? Who controls this situation? Should this be solely the college's decision, the public's decision, or something else?

Fully discuss your view; you may refer to past or recent historical events as presented in any form of media coverage, other opinions, or even the film, Outbreak. Begin your letter with-- Dear Congressperson:

Mini-Research Project

(NOTE: This is NOT a research paper - it is a research-oriented, library experience in which students gather and categorize information. They can prepare outlines, note-cards, bibliography, cite references, or practice any combination of these skills associated with preparing a research paper. The use of the Internet is also encouraged.) Prepare an investigative project that focuses on any one of the following topics associated with or suggested by the film, Outbreak.

a) the virus as a (WMD), weapon of mass destruction
b) the role of the military in scientific research
c) animal experimentation: pro and con
d) human experimentation: pro and con
e) rare, "exotic" diseases

Standard College Essay

Many issues arise from the analysis and discussion of the film, Outbreak. Some of these issues involve the role of science and technology and its potential abuse by the government and military, living in the age of "bioterrorism," the morality of scientific experimentation conducted on animals, and other important topics for discussion.

In a full-length essay (approximately 400-500 words), later to be revised for content and correctness, discuss any of the issues raised in the film Outbreak that you consider to be of special interest either for yourself or for society. Explain why and how these issues are significant not only in the film but also in relationship to your own life, society, or even both. You may refer to this film or any other, past or recent historical events as presented in any form of media coverage, and other people's opinions.

Back to Film Festival