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“Hill of Vision” Highlights Mario Capecchi’s Unlikely Road to a Nobel Prize Win

At the Bari International Film Festival (BIFEST) in Bari, Italy, Hill of Vision, directed by Roberto Faenza, was the opening movie at the gala premiere.

The story is based on the real-life of Mario Capecchi, a four-year-old abandoned boy who spent his childhood on the streets after his mother got arrested by fascists. After the end of World War II, mother and son miraculously reunite and start a new life in America. Thanks to the love of his mother, Lucy, and extraordinary aunt, Sarah, Capecchi finally reintegrated into society after countless emotional traumatic setbacks. 

Years later, the Italian-born Capecchi became a renowned professor of human genetics and biology at the University of Utah School of medicine and a co-awardee of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering a method to modify the genes in mice with embryonic stem cells, known as “knockout mice.” This method will show the influence of genes on human disease.


Below are excerpts from a media conference in Bari with Capecchi:

Do you believe there is a correlation in any way or form between science and the cultural arts?

Absolutely. I believe science to be very similar to art. Even though they take on a different direction, they are very similar enterprises. Actually, when I think about possibilities, I often do it quite physically. I observe one idea, study another, look at them and from there I create something new, and an artist does the same thing. They have inspiration and a canvas before they start creating.  A perfect example is Leonardo Da Vinci. He was a remarkable artist but also an amazing scientist. He had an extraordinary capacity to see, observe and only after many observations, come to a conclusion. The man was three hundred years ahead of his time! A true genius, perfectly able to combine art with science to craft new creations that people could have ever imagined.

As a four-year-old boy, you lived and fought your way through street life, surviving World War 2.  Right now, a war is happening in Ukraine, bombs are brutally killing humankind and young children are being separated from their families. It must feel terrifying for you to witness and relive such acts of horrific violence, especially in the year 2022.

Yes. We live in a critical time period and war is incredibly destructive to our minds. Instead of killing people, we should and could be feeding them. It is of critical importance that we reflect and think about how fragile our world truly is. We think of the earth as existing forever, but actually, the human race holds the power to completely destroy it.

We can no longer ignore these terrible acts of violence, for if we do, our precious earth will be completely ruined. Not only will we destroy ourselves, but all of life will be gone. Violence must be replaced with creativity, with science, with art. It is time we start to lead from our hearts, find the courage to speak out, search for new directions and no longer focus on large enterprises, for I believe it’s the individual contribution that will make a difference.

History doesn’t count. We need to look forward and concentrate on today and tomorrow. We have to find a new emphasis to take care of our planet.

What is the source of our biggest world issues?

We ourselves are our own biggest enemy. As a human race, we often limit ourselves. The mind is incredibly powerful and capable of so much more; we unquestionably only use 5% of our brainpower. [The] time has come to free ourselves and start to inspire others beyond what we ourselves thought possible. We as individuals hold an immense creative power and once we tap into this force, capabilities we previously didn’t know existed will come into view. One of the most wonderful things of being a mentor is to realize, one can actually receive as much as one gives out.

Another critical issue, we are not taking serious enough is our population. It’s time we put the brakes on commercial things such as cars and other materialistic values. We have to start living and enjoy simple life itself, especially become less greedy, for anxiety keeps going up, rising worldwide. It is crucial to awaken and learn to take care of ourselves. Scientists are studying to understand how to take care of OCD, depression, for all of these diseases stem from anxiety. We as scientists, as people, need to figure out how to control this emotion, for if one knows how to control anxiety, one can control anything. As a scientist, we contemplate things that don’t exist yet until we find a breakthrough, and that for me is the true beauty of science. It’s what inspires me the most.