Back to All Events

Meet The Filmmaker: All Things Bakelite: The Age of Plastic

This Meet The Filmmaker event brings together an invention that changed the world with a local connection. Director John Maher and Executive Producer Hugh Karraker will be with us to share the story of Bakelite.

Once, all things were classified Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral.  That categorization of our world changed one day in 1907, when a determined chemist working in his home laboratory in Yonkers, New York discovered an entirely new kingdom of things and gave it a name: Bakelite. It was the first wholly synthetic plastic and it ushered in an explosion of new man-made materials and objects that have since permeated our lives.

All Things Bakelite: The Age of Plastic explores the life, the work and the import of Leo Hendrik Baekeland, the “father of modern plastics”, who was responsible for one of the most transformative discoveries of the 20th century. The primary source and impetus for this illuminating film is one of the great grandsons of Baekeland himself, Hugh Karraker.

“I wanted to celebrate Baekeland’s life,” Karraker said. “His invention had a huge impact on our lives, but little is generally known about him.”

The film is indeed a celebration of Leo H. Baekeland—his genius, his innovation, and of a progressive era in America that defined us as a nation. Karraker spent over ten years researching his great grandfather’s life, and had access to his mother’s notes on Baekeland’s meticulous collection of 62 diaries. Karraker brought all this to filmmaker John Maher and the result is an hour-long film that is a both a joyous and a provocative exploration of a subject relevant to everyone.

Maher makes history come alive as he weaves interviews with Karraker and other family members with beautifully realized period re-enactments of Baekeland—seen as a curious boy growing up in Ghent, Belgium, then as a persistent chemist and inventor in New York, and later as an old man reflecting on the toll that running the business of the Bakelite Corporation had taken on his life. Archival footage, intimate family photos, and first-person accounts transport us back to the dawn of the modern age when individuals like Baekeland, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and others led a revolution of innovation with their inventions.  Not rated. 60 minutes. Tickets $7 for adults, $5 for those 18 and under.

Earlier Event: August 21
The Last Black Man In San Francisco*
Later Event: August 23
Secret Life of Pets 2