Homo Sapiens 1900

on March 03, 2000 by Christine James
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   This uninvolving documentary looks at the eugenics and racial hygiene theories that developed at the turn of the last century with regard to the efforts of both scientists and dictators to take control of evolution through forced sterilization and even genocide. This could have been a powerful film about man's desire to strive for perfection and how that quest has gone horribly awry. Instead, "Homo Sapiens" drones on like a well-meaning but dull history professor who has important knowledge to share but doesn't know how to present it to make it interesting. Important facts, like the study that revealed most genius children are born to parents of average or sub-average IQs, are passingly mentioned without explaining why this revelation failed to impact the eugenics movement among those whose goals were to increase the intelligence of the world populace (as opposed to the malevolent aspiration of ensuring "racial purity"). Archival photos and footage illustrate the tepid narration but often don't seem to correlate with what is being said or at least are left under-explained. The film is bookended with the musing that "The image of man fills us, at times, with compassion." But "Homo Sapiens" is too detached and dry to elicit emotions beyond a vague horror at what man is capable of doing to others, motivated by nothing more than misguided delusions.    Directed, written and produced by Peter Cohen. A First Run release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 85 min.
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