Duke and the buffalo

15 minutes

Flawed

13 minutes

The Night Watch

8 minutes

Herd of two

13 minutes

Transgenic spidergoats

6 minutes

Can combining commerce and conservation keep American bison in the wild?

Wild American bison (commonly called ‘buffalo’) once numbered in the tens of millions and roamed in herds that covered much of North America. Today, the wild population stands at just 20,000, with hundreds of thousands more fenced in on private and public lands. To keep American bison roaming free as their lands continue to disappear, the Nature Conservancy has partnered with ranchers such as Duke Phillips III to manage a wild herd at the Medano-Zapata Ranch, which extends over 100,000 acres in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. To prevent overgrazing, once a year the Medano-Zapata ranchers collect between 1,500 and 2,000 of the bison to be sold. It’s a dangerous drive – the animals are famous for their extraordinary strength and unpredictable temperament – but to the ranchers it’s worth the risk, giving them an opportunity to both protect the land and earn enough income for the rest of the year.

Director: Alfredo Alcántara, Josh Chertoff

Producer: Duke Phillips III


Can combining commerce and conservation keep American bison in the wild?

Wild American bison (commonly called ‘buffalo’) once numbered in the tens of millions and roamed in herds that covered much of North America. Today, the wild population stands at just 20,000, with hundreds of thousands more fenced in on private and public lands. To keep American bison roaming free as their lands continue to disappear, the Nature Conservancy has partnered with ranchers such as Duke Phillips III to manage a wild herd at the Medano-Zapata Ranch, which extends over 100,000 acres in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. To prevent overgrazing, once a year the Medano-Zapata ranchers collect between 1,500 and 2,000 of the bison to be sold. It’s a dangerous drive – the animals are famous for their extraordinary strength and unpredictable temperament – but to the ranchers it’s worth the risk, giving them an opportunity to both protect the land and earn enough income for the rest of the year.

Director: Alfredo Alcántara, Josh Chertoff

Producer: Duke Phillips III


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

Spidergoats to the rescue! How to make silk from milk with genetic engineering

Silk from orb-weaving spiders is versatile and valuable. But, unfortunately for us, spiders are territorial and cannibalistic, so farming them is out. However, the US molecular biologist Randy Lewis has spun a clever solution: genetically engineering goats to deliver the silky goods. First developing the idea at the University of Wyoming before moving his herd to Utah State University, Lewis manipulated goat eggs to include a spider silk-production gene. His resulting ‘spidergoats’ look entirely normal, but produce milk that contains spider-silk protein, which can be extracted for use in countless applications, from repairing human ligaments and tendons to producing parachutes and airbags. While this short documentary from 2010 uses humour to detail the ingenious transgenic process, it also prompts questions such as: are spidergoats a mutation too far? Or is this simply the next logical step in humanity’s millennia-long history of genetic manipulation?

Directors: Sam Gaty, George Costakis

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