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Mushrooms of concrete

24 minutes

The beauty of gefilte fish

11 minutes

Timelapse of the future

29 minutes

White fright

30 minutes

Devenir

2 minutes

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Albania built 750,000 bunkers for a war that never came. Now what?

‘The bunkers are our cathedral, our scar. They are part of our face.’

Enver Hoxha, the communist leader of Albania from 1944 to his death in 1985, left a complex legacy of industrialisation, isolationism, paranoia and economic stagnation in his wake. In addition to purging political rivals, Hoxha believed that his country risked being invaded by any number of perceived foreign foes, including NATO forces and former Soviet bloc allies. In preparation for an invasion that never came, Hoxha sunk much of the country’s resources and manpower into building some 750,00 bunkers throughout Albania, even as many of his people struggled to meet their most basic needs. Mushrooms of Concrete explores the contemporary lives of these ‘bunkers of an imaginary war’. Still omnipresent throughout the Albanian countryside, today they exist as monuments of a difficult past, even as some have been transformed into storage facilities, tourist attractions, clubs and restaurants.

Director: Martijn Payens

Producer: John Vandekerckhove, Jan Vromman

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Delicious? Gross? The great fish dish that divides – and unites – families on Passover

Celebrated annually in early spring, Passover commemorates the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus. The holiday is generally marked by a large gathering of family and friends known as a Seder, and includes a reading of the Haggadah, a text that recounts the exodus from Egypt, and provides a guide to the traditional Passover meal, which includes matzoh (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs. This short documentary from the US director Rachel Fleit focuses on the tradition as celebrated by the Hermelin family of Detroit, in particular their relationship with a Passover dinner staple – gefilte fish. Though it plays no part in the Exodus story (it originated with Ashkenazi Jewish communities in eastern Europe), this dish of ground whitefish – with a flavour ranging from savoury to sweet, depending on the recipe – is nonetheless the most discussed culinary offering at the table. But despite its deeply polarising taste and texture, the annual gefilte fish is embraced by generations of Hermelins as a symbol of cultural tradition and familial bonds, imbued with ‘the joy of Judaism’.

Director: Rachel Fleit

Producers: Shiny Pictures, Union Entertainment

Website: The Gefilte Film

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Deep time and beyond: the great nothingness at the end of the Universe

‘The Universe becomes a cosmic boneyard, strewn with remnants of dead stars.’

This is the way the Universe ends, not with a bang, but with an unfathomably profound and gradual chill. Or, at least that’s one guess held by many scientists – but we don’t really know, and it’s entirely possible that we never will. This video from the US filmmaker and musician John Boswell starts in 2019 and plays out one theory of how everything – truly everything – will end. With the speed of the passage of time doubling every five seconds, inventive visual interpretations of cosmological phenomena, and narrated by science luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees and Janna Levin, the video guides us deep into a possible evolution of the Universe. Impressively translating theoretical physics and astronomically vast scales of time and space into 29 breathtaking minutes, Timelapse of the Future takes us all the way into the sublime of the unimaginable, with all the wonder and terror that might provoke.

Via Kottke

Video by John Boswell

Website: melodysheep

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When does US news ignore a terror plot? When the target is called Islamberg

Islamberg is a small hamlet of roughly two dozen families in upstate New York that has come to represent some of the most pernicious contradictions of political culture in the United States. Situated 130 miles north of New York City on the Pennsylvania border, the town was formed in the early 1980s by members of an African-American Muslim community in Brooklyn looking to escape the fraught conditions in the city at the time, including the crack epidemic. As such, Islamberg is an almost archetypal example of those ostensibly ‘American’ ideals of religious freedom and the pursuit of a better life. Since its founding, however, the community has contended with rumours of connections to radical Islamic terrorism despite repeated assurances from local law-enforcement that no such threat exists. On the contrary, the rumours have put the community itself in danger.

The US director David Felix Sutcliffe’s film White Fright explores Islamberg in the context of a foiled 2015 attack on the community, which was planned by a white Christian minister and ultimately intercepted by the FBI. Splicing together FBI documents, news footage and interviews with Islamberg residents, the documentary probes how deceptive and inflammatory Right-wing news coverage helped to inspire the plan for a massacre at a mosque and school in the town, while other national news outlets barely covered the plot upon its unravelling. Since the film’s release in 2018, Islamberg was subject to yet another plot to murder its residents that was foiled by law enforcement in January 2019.

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From ‘The Second Sex’ to ‘Gender Trouble’ – Butler’s hat tip to de Beauvoir

The American philosopher Judith Butler is one of the preeminent contemporary thinkers on issues at the intersection of gender and identity. A professor at the University of California, Berkeley and at the European Graduate School, she’s perhaps best-known for her book Gender Trouble (1990), which argues that gender, sex and sexuality are continuous and highly mutable cultural performances, and not predetermined by human biology. This brisk and energetic video from the French filmmaker Géraldine Charpentier-Basille animates cutouts of diverse human forms to accompany an extract from a 2006 interview with Butler in which she cites Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949) as inspiration. Although brief, the piece is an excellent conversation-starter on the question of what ‘becoming’ might mean, both in the context of gender and more broadly in the pursuit of the ‘authentic’ self. It’s also a pleasing reminder of the many ways that ideas spread and transmute over time.

Director: Géraldine Charpentier-Basille

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Albania built 750,000 bunkers for a war that never came. Now what?

‘The bunkers are our cathedral, our scar. They are part of our face.’

Enver Hoxha, the communist leader of Albania from 1944 to his death in 1985, left a complex legacy of industrialisation, isolationism, paranoia and economic stagnation in his wake. In addition to purging political rivals, Hoxha believed that his country risked being invaded by any number of perceived foreign foes, including NATO forces and former Soviet bloc allies. In preparation for an invasion that never came, Hoxha sunk much of the country’s resources and manpower into building some 750,00 bunkers throughout Albania, even as many of his people struggled to meet their most basic needs. Mushrooms of Concrete explores the contemporary lives of these ‘bunkers of an imaginary war’. Still omnipresent throughout the Albanian countryside, today they exist as monuments of a difficult past, even as some have been transformed into storage facilities, tourist attractions, clubs and restaurants.

Director: Martijn Payens

Producer: John Vandekerckhove, Jan Vromman

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Essay/
Education
Bombay nights

In the night schools of Bombay, factory workers dreamed that literacy and learning would raise them to respectability

Arun Kumar

Essay/
Gender and identity
The woman subject

There is more that unites than divides analytic and continental feminist philosophies – not least efforts to define ‘woman’

Georgia Warnke