September 21, 2023 | Matt Kucinski

A movie poster of LUMINOUS with Calvin branding on the right

LUMINOUS, a documentary that tells the story of the first astronomer in history to make a public prediction about the near-future explosion of a star, is now available to stream on Kanopy—the premiere streaming service for libraries and educational institutions.

Watch the trailer

The film, produced by Sam Smartt, an award-winning documentarian who is a professor of film and media at Calvin University, follows astronomer Larry Molnar, a colleague of Smartt’s at Calvin, on his journey of making the bold prediction and then testing if it was right. His prediction’s success or failure plays out on the international stage.

A man in a green jacket talks to a man in a blue jacket holding a camera inside an observatory.
Larry Molnar, an astronomer and professor at Calvin University talks with Sam Smartt, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and professor at Calvin University.

The journey originated with a student, Dan Van Noord ’14, who discovered an interesting star using the Calvin telescope. He wanted to pursue it further and so Molnar decided to record the journey, to see the scientific process play out.

“This film shows the way science really works, the process of science,” said Smartt. “It’s a very compelling story, the protagonist is a man of faith, and viewers follow his dramatic journey that takes many twists and turns.”

An award-winning journey

A sneak peak screening of the film was held on Calvin’s campus in October 2021, which was attended by more than 500 people. The film made its official premiere in April 2022 at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in Iowa. It has since been screened more than 60 times in festivals, schools, amateur astronomical societies, and in churches. The documentary has been featured in film festivals in Australia, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and across the United States, winning numerous awards.

Four panelists sit in director's chairs, one holding a microphone.
Sam Smartt participates in a Q&A after LUMINOUS was screened at Lighthouse International Film Festival in Long Beach, New Jersey.

Smartt sees the film’s streaming on Kanopy as the finish line to a nine-year project from pre-production to distribution—a project that involved more than a dozen Calvin students, alums, staff, and faculty.

“I care about sharing important stories, that’s what I do,” said Smartt. “We don’t spend time, money, and blood, sweat, and tears to make something that just sits once you screen it for friends. There’s some affirmation and cache’ that comes along with it [being available on Kanopy], but the main thing is it can live somewhere, and people can find it and that it’s out there in the world and hopefully making a difference.”

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