In this episode, I talk about the science fiction movie ANYA with its creators, Anthropologist Dr. Carylanna Taylor, and Jacob Okada of First Encounter Productions (not a sponsor).
The plot of ANYA could happen today! It all starts with a couple in New York that has difficulty having a baby. The groom is a member of the Narval People who keep to themselves – mostly because they think there is a curse that prohibits them from having children with anyone but other members of the community. They bring in a geneticist to find out why they are having problems procreating, and this is where the story becomes interesting.
As his assistant accidentally analyzes the genome of Marco (Gil Perez-Abraham), an expert in neanderthal genomes Seymour (Motell Foster) finds a mutation that may explain the problem. The change in the genome happened in an “Ultra-Conserved Element”, a real genetic phenomenon where certain regions in a gene never change. His hypothesis is that such a mutation may prohibit procreation with someone who doesn’t carry the same mutation.
A population of people who can have viable offspring with each other, but not with other populations is considered a distinct species. Did Seymour discover a new species of humans? What does this mean for the Narval, the people named after the small island in the Caribbean on which they originated?
Seymour suggests applying gene editing to allow Libby (Ali Ahn) and Marco to have a baby. This leads to a whole list of ethical questions that the movie wants to raise. And we talk about these issues in the episode.
ANYA is being released on November 26th for download from Amazon, Apple, Google Play, vimeo and Hulu, and you can also order it as DVD.
And the next big screening will be on November 30th at the SciFi FilmFest in Berlin!