The last rhinos

9 minutes

Acadiana

10 minutes

Dani

8 minutes

The physarum experiments

5 minutes

Kierkegaard’s horror of doubt

7 minutes

Can the market save an endangered species? South Africa’s rhino horn conundrum

Rhinoceros horns are worth more than their weight in gold – literally, about $65,000 per kilo. This is due to strong black-market demand in China and South Asia, where beliefs about the horn’s healing and aphrodisiac properties persist. The species is on the brink of extinction, with a global population under 30,000 and shrinking, while poaching increases in response to growing demand. As of late 2015, the extraordinary creature’s fate rests largely in the hands of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the country’s highest judicial authority, which is considering a case brought by two rhino breeders, John Hume and Johan Kruger, to overturn the domestic ban on selling rhino horn. Supporters of a legalised horn trade argue that it would encourage investment in rhinos, spurring an increase in the population and more security to protect the valuable property the animals represent. Moreover, they say, the horns can be removed largely painlessly and grow back at a rate of a kilo a year. Critics counter that leaving the rhino’s fate to market forces is irresponsible, unethical and unlikely to succeed. Legalisation, they believe, would create more unsustainable demand, encourage false ideas about the horn’s medicinal value, and set an untenable precedent for conservation of all species based solely on their economic utility.

Nuanced and evenhanded, The Last Rhinos is a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to protect and live alongside wildlife in the 21st century.

Director: Brian Dawson

The uncanny allure of the annual Cajun crawfish festival in Louisiana

Crawfish – small crustaceans also known as crayfish, crawdads or mudbugs – have long been a staple of Cajun cuisine, with the lobster-like creatures plentiful in the freshwaters of Louisiana. With an observational style and an experimental flair, Acadiana gathers scenes from a day at the state’s annual crawfish festival in Breaux Bridge. A crawfish eating competition, crawfish-inspired costumes and a float procession featuring the 2019 crowned Crawfish King and Queen are captured with a mix of anthropological curiosity and familial respect by the Québécois filmmakers Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau and Yannick Nolin. While its title references the French-Canadian roots of Cajun culture in the United States, there is something otherworldly about this short film, which went on to win several awards on the Canadian film-festival circuit.

Directors: Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau, Yannick Nolin

Producer: Jean-Pierre Vézina

Website: Kinomada

‘I hate giving you bad news’: when a daughter with breast cancer calls her mother

Danielle Hernandez is 30 and has Stage 4 breast cancer. As she calls her mother Violeta in Florida to deliver an update on her treatment from her home in Los Angeles, she oscillates between medical jargon and silver livings, with the more difficult pieces of information hidden in the subtext, only occasionally bubbling to the surface. This intimate conversation is captured by her roommate, the US filmmaker Lizzy Hogenson, in the short film Dani. Using a stop-motion technique that combines felt figures and claymation, Hogenson places her own veneer on the discussion, which is pierced by intermittent cracks of raw emotion, hard truths and silence. The result is at once affecting and distressing, as small moments of love, courage and pain spark and fade into uncertainty.

Director: Lizzy Hogenson

Producer: Kyle McClary

Creeping through mazes, repelling adversaries – the slow-motion smarts of slime moulds

To the naked eye, the organism Physarum polycephalum – commonly referred to as ‘slime mould’ – might seem an unexceptional creature, despite its bright-yellow glow, as its acellular existence is dedicated to tracking nutrients at a speed of 1mm per hour. But this protist’s surprising computational cunning becomes apparent when viewed in time-lapse, revealing a life form that seems to possess intelligence despite lacking a nervous system. Between 2009 and 2018, the UK artist and researcher Heather Barnett conducted a series of clever experiments in which she probed slime moulds’ capacities for forming complex tube networks and adjusting to obstacles. For this short film, Aeon Video compiled Barnett’s ‘creative collaborations’ with P polycephalum into a montage that builds in complexity, emphasising the slime moulds’ surprisingly sophisticated capacities for problem-solving.

Director: Heather Barnett

Sound designer: Graham Barton

Editor: Tamur Qutab

Want to think for yourself? Start with an agonising state of doubt, says Kierkegaard

Influenced by Socrates’ sense of irony, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) came to believe that a state of doubt – disorienting and horrifying as it could sometimes be – was the cornerstone of a sound philosophical practice. This scepticism of objective truth and ardent belief in thinking for oneself is omnipresent in his pseudonymous works, in which his assumed names sometimes even spar with one another. While amusing, the peculiar literary device also undercuts any sense that the works were written by a voice of authority. In this video from the London Review of Books, the British philosopher and historian Jonathan Rée traces the theme of doubt in Kierkegaard’s life and work using his unfinished, posthumously published novel Johannes Climacus: Or a Life of Doubt as a starting point.

Video by the London Review of Books

Producer: Anthony Wilks

Can the market save an endangered species? South Africa’s rhino horn conundrum

Rhinoceros horns are worth more than their weight in gold – literally, about $65,000 per kilo. This is due to strong black-market demand in China and South Asia, where beliefs about the horn’s healing and aphrodisiac properties persist. The species is on the brink of extinction, with a global population under 30,000 and shrinking, while poaching increases in response to growing demand. As of late 2015, the extraordinary creature’s fate rests largely in the hands of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the country’s highest judicial authority, which is considering a case brought by two rhino breeders, John Hume and Johan Kruger, to overturn the domestic ban on selling rhino horn. Supporters of a legalised horn trade argue that it would encourage investment in rhinos, spurring an increase in the population and more security to protect the valuable property the animals represent. Moreover, they say, the horns can be removed largely painlessly and grow back at a rate of a kilo a year. Critics counter that leaving the rhino’s fate to market forces is irresponsible, unethical and unlikely to succeed. Legalisation, they believe, would create more unsustainable demand, encourage false ideas about the horn’s medicinal value, and set an untenable precedent for conservation of all species based solely on their economic utility.

Nuanced and evenhanded, The Last Rhinos is a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to protect and live alongside wildlife in the 21st century.

Director: Brian Dawson

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Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of mind
The value of uncertainty

In fiction, it grips us. In life, it can unravel us. How can brains hooked on certainty put its opposite to good use?

Mark Miller, Kathryn Nave, George Deane & Andy Clark

Study For Liberty Displaying the Arts and Sciences, or The Genius of America Encouraging the Emancipation of the Blacks (1791-92) by Samuel Jennings. Courtesy the Met Museum/New York

Essay/
History of ideas
Philosophy’s systemic racism

It’s not just that Hegel and Rousseau were racists. Racism was baked into the very structure of their dialectical philosophy

Avram Alpert