SFFILM Oppenheimer
Einstein and Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer

SFFILM, a non-profit dedicated to elevating independent voices in film, is awarding Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer with the 2023 SFFILM Sloan Science in Cinema Prize, which celebrates the compelling depiction of scientific themes or characters in a narrative feature film.

Presented in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation — a nonprofit organization started in 1934 by the General Motors CEO that’s known for philanthropic grants in the arts and sciences — the award comes with a cash prize of $20,000. But neither Nolan nor Universal Pictures will be keeping the money.

Instead, the studio is donating it right back to SFFILM to support its exhibition programs, awards, and screenwriting fellowships that help other filmmakers who are also tackling scientific and technological themes and characters.

SFFILM Sloan Science in Cinema Initiative Supports Scientific Cinema

At a special event on Tuesday, Oppenheimer will receive the award, and there will be a special 35mm screening of Oppenheimer as well as a talk with Oppenheimer production designer Ruth De Jong, editor Jennifer Lame, sound designer and supervising sound editor Richard King, and University of California Berkeley professor of physics Benjamin Safdi. 

Oppenheimer follows the life of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer played by Cillian Murphy. Oppenheimer risks destroying the world in order to save it as he becomes the central figure in a race against the Nazis to develop the atomic bomb.

Also Read: Einstein and Oppenheimer: Their Real Relationship and Desperate Alliance

“We are so proud to recognize and celebrate groundbreaking films and voices through our Science in Cinema Initiative with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,” said Anne Lai, executive director of SFFILM. “Through these unique programs, we are able to support filmmakers as they hone their stories and gather advice on scientific veracity portrayed in their work. We also cherish sharing finished films to audiences who—by the mere act of watching the story unfold on a big screen before them—are able to expand their understanding of the beauty and power of science through the art of storytelling.“ 

“We are thrilled to award this year’s Sloan Science in Cinema Award to Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed film Oppenheimer, based on the Sloan-supported, Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin,” said Doron Weber, vice president and program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “This film joins a nationwide program that has supported over 800 science and film projects with 20 partners and, in addition to supporting screenwriters as part of our Science in Cinema initiative at SFFILM, has honored outstanding films such as Hidden Figures, Don’t Look Up, and BlackBerry.” 

The partnership between SFFILM and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation began in 2015 as a way to celebrate cinema that brings science and storytelling together, resulting in the SFFILM Sloan Science in Cinema Initiative.

Past films that were honored through initiative include Matthew Johnson’s BlackBerry (2023), Colin West’s Linoleum (2022), Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up (2021), Francis Lee’s Ammonite (2020), Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts (2019), Damien Chazelle’s First Man (2018), Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures (2017), and Ridley Scott’s The Martian (2016). 

The event will take place on Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Premier Theater, Letterman Digital Arts Center at the Presidio in San Francisco, Calif. Tickets are free for SFFILM members and $20 for the general public. Find out more at sffilm.org

Main Image: Tom Conti as Albert Einstein and Cillian Murphy a J. Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer.