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Director: Robert Zemeckis, 1997
Cast: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, John Hurt, Tom Skerrit, Angela Basset....
Based On: The novel by Carl Sagan
Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) is working with the SETI program at Aricebo in Puerto Rico. Their fundings are taken away and they are being shut down, when one of her colleagues comes up with the idea of VLA, Very Large Array. A superprogram with 27 linked radiotelescopes to continue their work by themselves.
They need funding however, so Ellie goes on tour to somehow try to raise the money. At first no one is really interested but eventually she manages to get two years funding from S R Hadden (John Hurt), an excentric multimillionaire and misantrop. When she has the money she finds out she's still shut down. The telescopes are government property and they can rent to whoever they want, which does not include Ellie. She gets three months to finish what she's doing and get out. Then the signal comes in...
It seems to be originating from the star Vega 26 lightyears away.
The signal goes through every prime number between 2 and 101 over and over. Next a new signal is detected. This time a television signal that was sent from Earth 26 years ago. Interlaced with this signal is a second one, and when seperated it turns out to be 63 000 pages of writing in an alien language.
Two weeks later no one has still managed to decrypt the language but one night when Ellie comes home she is contacted through email by someone who has hacked into the database.
Ellie goes to a meeting with this someone who turns out to have found the key to translate the message...
The story is very realistic and in October this year (1998) it recieved a lot of new attention since a lot of people saw the simmilaritys by the plot of Contact and the EQ Pegasi "affair", which it actually may have been a major source of inspiration for.
"The EQ Pegasi affair"
Mirror of the EQ Pegasi website
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