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Tisch senior explores science of homosexuality through film

Courtesy of The Gene Film


An upcoming short film by Tisch senior Cyrus Toulabi explores how the world would react if a young scientist discovered a genetic source for homosexuality.

On Feb. 5, Toulabi launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his new 20-minute movie, “The Gene,” which is slated to be released in early 2014. Toulabi and his 20-person film crew have already raised $2,350 toward their $6,500 goal, which they hope to achieve before the film begins production in early April.

Using the frame of a science drama as a platform for social commentary, the story focuses on a scientist, Catherine Heyman, who finds the “gay gene” – genetic code that determines sexual orientation. But instead of embracing the new information, a mysterious colleague sets out to find a genetic cure for homosexuality.

Despite the fantastic premise, Toulabi plans to focus on the emotional trials involved in coming to terms with having genetically determined sexual orientation.

“It’s definitely about a very current issue that many of us have opinions on and know people that have opinions,” Toulabi said. “I really felt at this time in our [lives], adolescence, early adulthood, we’re all trying to figure out who we are and where we fit into the world.”

Toulabi has always wanted to tell stories that would impact the community around him.

“I often cover socially charged issues, or illnesses, or something that we all have a personal connection to,” he said.

Tisch senior Ben Dewey, the film’s cinematographer, worked with Toulabi for the first time last year on the film “Passersby.” He likes “The Gene” for its representation of the characters’ honesty as they try to survive in a cutthroat social environment.

“What was drawn out of the script were these characters and their really human conflicts in this scientific world,” Dewey said.

Professor Barbara Malmet, recruitment and advisement administrator and adjunct instructor at the Tisch School of the Arts, taught Toulabi and Dewey during their sophomore year in her Sight and Sound Documentary class. She commended Toulabi for his craft.

“Cyrus is an exemplary student for showing what it takes to be a director, which is mostly thinking on your feet because directing is so much about problem solving,” Malmet said. “He’s very good at distilling different characteristics and putting them up on the screen in a way that will have an impact on his audience.”

Alexa Whiteside, an independent film producer who is producing “The Gene,” describes the film as a corporate thriller and scientific drama that explores the deeper meaning of sexuality.

“At its core, it’s a film of betrayal on both a personal and professional level,” Whiteside said. “It is a story of when to draw the line both ethically and morally.”

In a previous version of this article, WSN inaccurately reported that “The Gene” was a science fiction. In fact, the film is a science drama. WSN also inaccurately reported that Barbara Malmet was an adjunct professor and taught Toulabi and Dewey in their freshman year. In fact, she is an adjunct instructor and taught them in their sophomore year. WSN regrets these errors.

A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 21. print edition. Sanjana Kucheria is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]


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NYU's Independent Student Newspaper
Tisch senior explores science of homosexuality through film