TESLAFY ME (2020, doc)

 Greetings again from the darkness. I’ve been trying to think of other examples of famous people known for one thing, when they deserve to be remembered for something else. Hedy Lamarr, considered by many to be the most beautiful actress ever (she played Delilah in SAMSON AND DELILAH), also invented a frequency hopping process used today in WIFI and military defense satellites. Marcel Marceau was a world famous mime who also helped save thousands of children during WWII. Johnny Weissmuller, who played Tarzan in many movies during the 1930’s and 40’s and created that iconic Tarzan yell, also was a 5 time Olympic Gold medal swimmer. Surely there are many others with similar stories, but maybe none more remarkable than Nikola Tesla … known today as the make of a popular electric car, but his backstory is vital not only to history, but also to our current way of life.

Slovenian filmmaker Janja Glogovac delivers a very informative and highly polished documentary that takes us through Tesla’s life (Serbian roots, raised in Croatia, moved to United States), including his dealings with such well known luminaries as Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and JP Morgan. Ms. Glogovac utilizes interviews with intellects, including Tesla’s nephew William Terbo (a NASA engineer), and also many creative graphics, simulations, and animation.

Do you consider Steve Jobs a visionary? Would you be surprised to learn that Tesla imagined the cell phone more than a century ago? He dreamed of Utopia where energy was clean, rather than dependent on fossil fuels which would negatively impact climate and the earth’s natural vibrations. Tesla detailed how his ideas came to him as flashes of light, and very specific. For you engineers and scientists, don’t worry, some segments go fairly deep on his inventions and what they were meant to accomplish.

Tesla came to America in 1884, and after a brief stint with Edison (who put much into trying to discredit Tesla), was funded by George Westinghouse. Tesla’s commitment to his electro-magnetic motor (alternating current) elevated his rivalry with Edison and the direct current option. When Tesla and Westinghouse “lit up” Chicago, the industrial revolution was ushered in. Tesla’s hydro-electric power from Niagara Falls earned him the title of Father of Renewable Energy, and led to the Wardenclyffe Tower construction in 1901. It was an experimental wireless transmission tower that ended up with a similar fall from grace as Tesla himself.

Can the story of Nikola Tesla be told in an 80 minute documentary? Hardly. But the purpose seems to be reigniting an interest in a forgotten genius – a man whose work with radio, wireless, and electricity is still being utilized today. Elon Musk chose his brand name wisely, and we can’t help but wonder if Tesla’s ideas for clean energy had been supported rather than squashed, would we have avoided some of today’s issues. Learning that J. Edgar Hoover had Tesla followed, and that Tesla died broke, leaves us wanting more information … he deserves to be known as something more than the badge on an sleek electric vehicle.

watch the trailer:

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