blog Documentary Review Science

Documentary Review | The Creative Brain

Rating: 2 out of 4.
Run Time: 52 minutes
Release Year: 2019
Platform: Netflix
Directed by: Jennifer Beamish & Toby Trackman

I was very excited to watch The Creative Brain. The fact that David Eagleman, famous for his bestselling book The Brain, was helming it made my expectations grow manifold.

In the first two minutes, you get a clear idea of the questions the documentary wants to address. Where does creativity come from and how can we harness it?

As a viewer who relishes informative documentaries, I expected The Creative Brain to be a riveting piece, replete with mindboggling information.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Watching The Creative Brain is like punching a deflated football, it feels good for the first couple of punches, but then, the fun fizzles out.

The Creative Brain Documentary Review
David Eagleman, Image source:

See, Neuroscience is an interesting field and David Eagleman is one of its leading proponents. He has spent over two decades contributing to various facets of research in this field.

Surprisingly, the worst part about The Creative Brain is the presence of David Eagleman himself. He just doesn’t inspire any confidence. His narration is sleep-inducing.

I wish he could bring his book writing skills to writing documentary scripts. It’s like he wasn’t properly paid to do this job, yet he did it due to some professional obligation towards the producers or Netflix.

Creativity is not a preserve of a select few, he declares early on, rather everyone can tap into their brain’s neural processes and improve their lives.

From this point, I expected Eagleman and company to delve into groundbreaking scientific research and apprise the viewers of astounding findings. But what you get instead is loads of banal dialogues.

The documentary enlists some good names to talk about creativity. However, the only two that create some sort of impression are Nathan Myhrvold and Michael Chabon. Even Tim Robbins has been wasted.

Actually, there is no real depth in Eagleman’s interviews. The interviewees blurt out hackneyed lines most of the time. Take, Tim Robbins’s interview. His punch line -“Failure is your friend that you can learn from.” High-five if this stirred something inside you.

There are a few bright moments in The Creative Brain, but they come far and few between. For one, Eagleman’s discourse on pushing boundaries is invigorating.

“Our brains are novelty seekers. What’s old and familiar becomes less and less stimulating. Creativity emerges when we step off the path of least resistance and push boundaries. Pushing at the boundaries of comfort is risky, but it can be the most rewarding.”

David Eagleman, The Creative Brain

In the nutshell, the documentary urges you to practise the following to become creative:

  • Try something new.
  • Get off the path of least resistance.
  • Push boundaries.
  • Create something that’s not too new or too familiar.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.

Final Thoughts

It’s a sad irony that a documentary titled The Creative Brain shows no deployment of a creative brain behind it.

And, it’s not just the content, the production quality underwhelms. Had it been super-edited to 20 minutes of the best moments, and dropped 90% of the narration, it could have been worth it. Compare this with Dream Big: Engineering our World, a blatantly sponsored feature, but so well made.

The makers could have explored so much more in the vast domains of creativity and neuroscience, it’s a shame that they did not even try.

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  1. I think I’ll pass on this film. This post does remind me of a wonderful book called The Creative Curve by Gannett. I learned a lot about creativity from reading it.

    1. Sadly, this documentary is a casestudy in wasted potential. They could have done a lot with the subject matter.

      Thank you for mentioning the book though, Priscilla, will check it out.

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