I can’t quite remember how I stumbled on Death By Design a few years back. It is a beautiful, artistically done film about a seemingly dull concept: how the cells in our body tidily switch themselves off and die. Over 50 billion cells in our body die this way each day – a coordinated suicide of breathtaking proportions.
What is most spectacular about this cellular suicide is that each cell is constantly bathed in a cocktail of chemical messengers telling it when to live and when to die. The cells of our body are so intrinsically linked to the giant super-organism of the human body that they need to be told not to commit suicide just as much as they need to be told when to die.
Death By Design explores the wonder of this process of cell death (known as apoptosis) in creative and insightful ways, and leaves the viewer pondering philosophical questions that we may not have thought about for a long time, such as, Why does cooperation exist? Why do we age? And how come cheaters don’t abound?
When done poorly, science documentaries can leave a person screaming obscenities at their TV screen (Mermaids, I’m looking at you). But when done right, a science film can make a person see that a familiar phenomenon that we experience every day, from the sloughing off of sunburned skin to the constant death and formation of new red blood cells, can give us a new perspective on questions that have been pondered through the ages.