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Review: The past and future meet in intriguing ways in ‘Genesis 2.0'

Leading Harvard geneticist George Church, “Genesis 2.0.” Credit: KimStim
Leading Harvard geneticist George Church in the documentary “Genesis 2.0.”
(KimStim)

The potential for a real-life “Jurassic Park” unfolds in “Genesis 2.0,” a fascinating and somewhat frightening documentary set in the fast-forward arena of synthetic biology.

Filmmaker Christian Frei’s expedition begins in the remote New Siberian Islands on the Arctic Ocean, where dozens of men gather each summer on the hunt for white gold — pristine mammoth tusks which in recent years have become easier to find courtesy of global warming.

Their hazardous pursuit, driven by economic hardship, is contrasted with a synthetic biology competition in Boston hosted by International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM), which draws the likes of George Church, a rock star among geneticists.

Serving as the missing link between the two seemingly disparate worlds is the 2010 Siberian Arctic discovery of the mummified carcass of a 39,000-year-old woolly mammoth, complete with intact fur and liquefied blood, with tissue samples going to South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk, who pioneered the cloning of pet dogs.

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As Frei, Oscar-nominated for his 2001 documentary, “War Photographer,” raises the all-too-conceivable specter of an elephant-mammoth hybrid one day going where ligers (lion-tigers) zorses (zebra-horses) camas (camel-llamas) and geep (goat-sheep) have already gone before it, he and co-director Maxim Arbugaev also address inherent ethical concerns.

In “Genesis 2.0,” the prehistoric past and the near future intersect at a most intriguing — and disturbing — juncture.

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‘Genesis 2.0’

In English, Russian, Yakut, Korean and Chinese with English subtitles

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Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Playing: Starts Jan. 18, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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