the dark side of academia

The New York Times has a fascinating article on the shocking real-life tragedy that inspired the film Dark Matter: A Tale of Power and Intrigue in the Lab, Based on Real Life. On November 1, 1991, outraged that his doctoral thesis had been passed over for an academic prize, a young physicist at the University of Iowa named Gang Lu opened fire at a physics department meeting. He killed five people and paralyzed another before taking his own life. The shootings devasted Iowa City and exposed a dark side of academia—the extreme pressure, oppressive expectation and marginalization often faced by graduate students, particularly international students. The movie version is partly autobiographical, but doesn't attempt to be an exact retelling of the incident:
The movie, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, written by Billy Shebar and starring Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn, follows the adventures of a graduate student from Beijing, Liu Xing, who arrives at a fictional Valley State University to study under a famous cosmologist, Jacob Reiser (played by Mr. Quinn). Ms. Streep plays a philanthropist and patron of the university, who is an aficionado of Chinese culture who befriends Chinese students.

The professor is first impressed with Liu's brilliance and diligence but turns against him when he begins to pursue a project that goes against his mentor’s favorite theory. He pulls the rug out from Liu's doctoral thesis, meaning that the student will have to leave school and seek a job without his degree. Instead Liu, played by Ye Liu, gets a gun.
This part of the article is especially interesting because it sounds like it probably reflects the experiences of a lot of international graduate students in the United States:
The story resonated with Mr. Chen's own experiences and that of friends who came to the United States with huge expectations and found themselves lost or on the wrong end of a power struggle with their mentors, and who either went back home or, in the case of one good friend, simply disappeared.

He said: "A lot of people came in late '80s. They never found a balance between the idea of America and the America they experienced."
Here's the film's official website, where you can view the trailer. I missed this one at SFIAAFF, and I'm not sure if/when the film will get a theatrical release, but I'm definitely intrigued.

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