Mushrooms of concrete

24 minutes

Can apes really ‘talk’ to humans?

8 minutes

Flawed

13 minutes

The Night Watch

8 minutes

Herd of two

13 minutes

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

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

People have been trying to talk with apes for nearly a century. How far have we got?

Since the early 20th century, a number of curious (and sometimes ethically dubious) psychological studies have tried to figure out if we can communicate with great apes using language. In the 1970s, the answer was reported to be an unequivocal ‘yes’ after Koko, a female western lowland gorilla, learned to sign at her handler, a graduate student at Stanford University, using a modified version of American Sign Language. But more recent critiques of the Koko studies (and others) dispute the idea that great apes have had truly meaningful two-way language communication with humans. This video from NPR’s Skunk Bear offers a brief survey of the history of ape-human communication research, suggesting that ‘Can we talk with them?’ might be the wrong question to ask.

Video by Skunk Bear

Producers: Ryan Kellman, Adam Cole

There’s nothing like falling for a plastic surgeon to help you embrace your body as it is

After meeting a potential romantic partner – ‘the nicest guy in the world’– while on vacation, the Canadian filmmaker Andrea Dorfman had a difficult time reconciling everything she liked about him with her judgment of his work as a plastic surgeon. Although most of his work was reconstructive, she couldn’t kick the feeling that the cosmetic surgeries he performed made people feel imperfect, sending the message that some body shapes are better than others. In her charming, vulnerable and heartfelt animated film Flawed, Dorfman sketches out the story of their romance in time-lapse watercolour animations that recreate how the two corresponded with handmade postcards as she confronted insecurities from childhood that challenged her ideas about herself. Flawed was nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy Award following its 2010 release.

Director: Andrea Dorfman

Producer: Annette Clark

Website: National Film Board of Canada

How Rembrandt used light and motion to make a mundane commission a masterpiece

The oil painting Militia Company of District II Under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq (1642), better-known as The Night Watch, is probably Rembrandt’s most famous work. Its status and critical acclaim, though, have little to do with its subject matter: a civic-guard group tasked with keeping watch on the city walls. In 17th-century Amsterdam, it was highly common for these guilds – mostly well-off men who rarely saw anything resembling conflict – to commission portraits of themselves wearing their uniforms and holding weapons. So why has The Night Watch endured while so many similar portraits have drifted into obscurity? In this video essay, Evan Puschak (also known as the Nerdwriter) examines how Rembrandt’s riveting interplay of light, motion, texture and expression transformed a commonplace commission into a masterwork.

Video by The Nerdwriter

What can working with horses teach us about power and communication?

‘When you work with a horse, you are a herd of two.’

Growing up in a small Swiss village, Caroline Wolfer found herself much more at ease around horses than people. Now working as a horse tamer in Patagonia, she has developed an understanding of horses based on what she describes as male and female ‘energies’, with the behaviours of stallions rooted in respect, and the behaviours of mares rooted in trust. Wolfer believes that, in human interactions, these two equally vital energies are out of balance, with the scale tilted heavily towards the male. In her work teaching humans to interact with horses at a corral, she emphasises the value of both male and female energies, and the importance of being straightforward in communicating. In doing so, Wolfer feels that she has helped people with their everyday interpersonal skills, and also helped herself to find comfort around other people.

Director: Diane Crespo

Producers: Belle Casares, Diane Crespo

Website: Cicala Filmworks

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