George Saunders: on story

7 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Sundays with Riki

19 minutes

Random events

31 minutes

Las del diente

5 minutes

The river

4 minutes

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A story is like a black box – you put the reader in there: George Saunders on storytelling

The US writer George Saunders is celebrated both for his masterful prose and empathic storytelling. A MacArthur Fellow and National Book Award finalist, Saunders’s first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, was released in 2017 to wide acclaim. In this short video, the author deconstructs what makes for an effective story, and describes his personal strategies for writing, revealing the importance of conversing with your characters, the pitfalls of fixing your intentions in place, and why good storytelling is a bit like being in love.

Directors: Tom Mason, Sarah Klein

Executive Producer: Ken Burns

Website: Redglass Pictures

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‘You wanna get rid of me?’ When the time comes to move mom into assisted living

During their weekly Sunday breakfast together, Ivy discovers that her octogenarian mother Riki is losing her memory. Soon after, Ivy decides that Riki would be better off moving out of the cozy Brooklyn apartment where she lives alone, and into an assisted living community in the Bronx, closer to Ivy’s own home. But, of course, when it comes to big family decisions, nothing is ever quite that easy. Ivy is making the request out of love, but Riki – resistant every step of the way – thinks her daughter is being controlling. When the time for a trial run at the community arrives, Ivy’s siblings start to question whether the move is premature, while Riki’s neighbours suggest that she’ll never be back. These delicate interpersonal dynamics are skilfully explored in this short documentary by New York-based filmmaker Brandon Barr. A tender and intimate portrait of ageing and the complexities of familial love, Sundays with Riki is likely to resonate with anyone who has helped to care for – or just cares about – an elderly relative.

Director: Brandon Barr

Producer: Max Mooney

Colorist: Anthony Riso

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A classic film finds order in randomness with the aid of some improbably elaborate sets

The Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) was formed in 1956 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the mission to create science-education materials for US high-school classrooms. In this PSSC film from 1961, the physics professors J N Patterson Hume and Donald Ivey of the University of Toronto deploy their expertise – as well as some seriously elaborate sets – to demonstrate how, with enough data, highly predictable patterns can emerge from unpredictable events. This version of Random Events has been visually and aurally enhanced by the Aeon Video team. For more elaborate educational wizardry from the PSSC, watch Frames of Reference.

Director: John Friedman

Visual restoration: Tamur Qutab

Audio restoration: Adam D’Arpino

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A magical mystery trip through the complex connections in women’s bodies

‘Girls are weird. Babies are weird. Bodies are extra weird,’ says the Spanish animator Ana Pérez López. In Las del Diente, she uses excerpts from candid conversations with three women as a canvas for a refreshingly honest and unapologetic meditation on modern womanhood. The anecdotes are enriched with hallucinatory animated sequences and percussive interludes, transforming their conversations about social pressure and biological anomalies into a surreal celebration of being female, in all its multitudes – from having your body treated like a business to contending with deeply conflicted feelings about having children.

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‘Where is it that we are?’ A poet conjures a journey along the waters of the afterlife

The short film The River evocatively adapts the US spoken-word poet Anis Mojgani’s performance of ‘To Where the Trees Grow Tall’ from his book In the Pockets of Small Gods (2018). Mojgani invokes a surreal scene of confusion, mystery and casual conversations between newly deceased strangers in a piece that envisions its listeners in their coffins, ‘clanging down the river, with all the other coffins in the water of the next world’. The US filmmaker Kristian Melom pairs this performance with split-screen images of the poet navigating a cityscape and a journey down a serenely flowing river. Through Mojgani’s words and Melom’s images, death – like life – is rendered as at once mundane and deeply enigmatic.

Director: Kristian Melom

Producer: AIR Serenbe

Executive Producer: J Brandon Hinman

Aeon for Friends

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A story is like a black box – you put the reader in there: George Saunders on storytelling

The US writer George Saunders is celebrated both for his masterful prose and empathic storytelling. A MacArthur Fellow and National Book Award finalist, Saunders’s first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, was released in 2017 to wide acclaim. In this short video, the author deconstructs what makes for an effective story, and describes his personal strategies for writing, revealing the importance of conversing with your characters, the pitfalls of fixing your intentions in place, and why good storytelling is a bit like being in love.

Directors: Tom Mason, Sarah Klein

Executive Producer: Ken Burns

Website: Redglass Pictures

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