Saturday, Aug 23, 2014 03:15 pm est

Tisch senior explores science of homosexuality through film

Posted on February 21, 2013 | by Sanjana Kucheria

Courtesy of The Gene Film


An upcoming short film by Tisch senior Cyrus Toulabi explores how the world would react if a young scientist discovered a genetic source for homosexuality.

On Feb. 5, Toulabi launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his new 20-minute movie, “The Gene,” which is slated to be released in early 2014. Toulabi and his 20-person film crew have already raised $2,350 toward their $6,500 goal, which they hope to achieve before the film begins production in early April.

Using the frame of a science drama as a platform for social commentary, the story focuses on a scientist, Catherine Heyman, who finds the “gay gene” – genetic code that determines sexual orientation. But instead of embracing the new information, a mysterious colleague sets out to find a genetic cure for homosexuality.

Despite the fantastic premise, Toulabi plans to focus on the emotional trials involved in coming to terms with having genetically determined sexual orientation.

“It’s definitely about a very current issue that many of us have opinions on and know people that have opinions,” Toulabi said. “I really felt at this time in our [lives], adolescence, early adulthood, we’re all trying to figure out who we are and where we fit into the world.”

Toulabi has always wanted to tell stories that would impact the community around him.

“I often cover socially charged issues, or illnesses, or something that we all have a personal connection to,” he said.

Tisch senior Ben Dewey, the film’s cinematographer, worked with Toulabi for the first time last year on the film “Passersby.” He likes “The Gene” for its representation of the characters’ honesty as they try to survive in a cutthroat social environment.

“What was drawn out of the script were these characters and their really human conflicts in this scientific world,” Dewey said.

Professor Barbara Malmet, recruitment and advisement administrator and adjunct instructor at the Tisch School of the Arts, taught Toulabi and Dewey during their sophomore year in her Sight and Sound Documentary class. She commended Toulabi for his craft.

“Cyrus is an exemplary student for showing what it takes to be a director, which is mostly thinking on your feet because directing is so much about problem solving,” Malmet said. “He’s very good at distilling different characteristics and putting them up on the screen in a way that will have an impact on his audience.”

Alexa Whiteside, an independent film producer who is producing “The Gene,” describes the film as a corporate thriller and scientific drama that explores the deeper meaning of sexuality.

“At its core, it’s a film of betrayal on both a personal and professional level,” Whiteside said. “It is a story of when to draw the line both ethically and morally.”

In a previous version of this article, WSN inaccurately reported that “The Gene” was a science fiction. In fact, the film is a science drama. WSN also inaccurately reported that Barbara Malmet was an adjunct professor and taught Toulabi and Dewey in their freshman year. In fact, she is an adjunct instructor and taught them in their sophomore year. WSN regrets these errors.

A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 21. print edition. Sanjana Kucheria is a contributing writer. Email her at



profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.