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Sundance Film Series Feature:
By Slushfactory.com


Named after the natural chemical that our bodies produce when we fall in love, Dopamine is a romantic drama for the modern age. Directed by Mark Decena and written by Decena and Timothy Breitbach, Dopamine looks at the complexities of pursuing love when contemporary life and personal demons form mighty obstacles. The film follows the halting courtship between a computer animator and a kindergarten teacher, framing their story within the context of current debate over the biochemical underpinnings of romance. As it explores the experiences that have shaped its characters’ opposing views, Dopamine creates a soulful portrait of two people facing up to the risks and rewards of falling in love.

Dopamine is the first film ever to go through every phase of the Sundance support network, from the Sundance Institute Screenwriter and Filmmaker Labs, to the Sundance Film Festival and on to the Film Series. Shot on high-definition video, Dopamine appeared at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize for outstanding independent films featuring science and technology.

Rand (John Livingston) is computer animator and software designer who has partnered with his friends Johnson (Rueben Grundy) and Winston (Bruno Campos) in a San Francisco start-up. Rand has poured himself into the creation of the company’s flagship project, Koy Koy, an animated creature programmed via artificial intelligence to be the ideal computer pal: cute, loving and always there.

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But Rand’s personal life is at a standstill. Influenced by his father Tom (William Windom), Rand has come to view emotions and relationships through the prism of contemporary discoveries about the brain and its mood-changing chemical processes. It’s a philosophy that defines love as a function of pheromones and chemical reactions, and the seven-year-itch as an ancient biological imperative. Rand knows he’s not immune from these chemical processes, though he tends to respond with analysis instead of action. When he finds himself drawn to the dark-eyed Sarah (Sabrina Lloyd of Sliders fame) at a bar one night, he hesitates, despite her evident interest.

However, Rand soon gets another chance. Forced by their investors to product-test their invention on young children, Rand and his partners install Koy Koy in a local kindergarten class – where Sarah is one of the teachers. Sparks fly between them, and Koy Koy becomes the catalyst for a lively dialogue about the fundamental nature of love as chemical process or storybook chemistry.

But beneath the surface of their exchanges lies the pain of real loss. In bridging the divide between them, Rand and Sarah must overcome not just philosophical differences, but the wounds and regrets of the past. Ultimately, they must decide: is love – whatever it is, whatever it means – a risk they’re willing to take?

Sundance Film Series presents Dopamine, directed by Mark Decena and written by Decena and Timothy Breitbach. The producers are Tad Fettig and Debbie Brubaker, the executive producer is Eric Koivisto, and the co-producers are Breitbach, Brian Benson and Liz Lupino Decena. The director of photography is Rob Humphreys, the production designer is S. Quinn, and the editor is Jessica Congdon. The original music is by Eric Holland and the casting is by Gillian O’Neill, C.S.A.

Dopamine stars John Livingston, Sabrina Lloyd, Bruno Campos, Rueben Grundy, William Windom and Nicole Wilder.

Watch the trailer for Dopamine and find out when and where it's playing in your area!

Click here to return to Slush's Sundance Film Series Special Coverage, and to enter the contest!


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