Daybreak express

5 minutes

Reviving the Roost

6 minutes

Throat singing in Kangirsuk

3 minutes

Mary Beard: women and power

5 minutes

Julian Barbour: what is time?

8 minutes

D A Pennebaker transformed documentary filmmaking. This is his first film

The US filmmaker D A Pennebaker – a pioneer of the documentary form – died on 1 August 2019 at the age of 94. He is perhaps best-known for his feature films Don’t Look Back (1967), a remarkable portrait of Bob Dylan while on a concert tour near the height of his fame, and The War Room (1993), which followed Bill Clinton’s run and eventual surprise victory in the 1992 US presidential election. Coming of age at a time when portable 16mm cameras with the ability to record sync sound on the fly allowed filmmakers newfound levels of freedom, Pennebaker was one of the first US documentarians to use the tools and aesthetics of cinéma vérité (or direct cinema), which emphasised recording reality with authenticity and representing stories truthfully.

With its frenetic pace, early morning hues, avant-garde touches, and playful use of shapes and patterns, Pennebaker’s first short, Daybreak Express (1953), made for a precocious debut. The sounds of an eponymous Duke Ellington composition form the film’s clattering backbone, as Pennebaker crafts an urban mosaic from Manhattan’s soon-to-be demolished Third Avenue elevated train line. While more experimental than much of the work he would be celebrated for later, Pennebaker’s career-long knack for kinetic editing, adventurous storytelling and skilfully marrying music and images still permeates nearly every frame. Today the impressionistic short plays not only as an ode to the dizzying dance of New York City transit, but the very power and potential of the documentary form itself.

Director: DA Pennebaker

Dancefloor politics – who’s in and who’s out at one of Edmonton’s oldest gay bars?

A year after reaching the legal drinking age, and before transitioning to female later on, the Canadian writer and filmmaker Vivek Shraya summoned the courage to enter the Roost, the most popular gay bar in her hometown of Edmonton. But while she found excitement within the Roost’s walls, the sense of community that she’d hoped awaited her was missing – or, at least, it was all much more complicated than she had anticipated. Even in this gay sanctuary, divisions of queerness and race, and in-groups and out-groups, created hierarchies of oppression that left her riddled with self-doubt. But then she went to Toronto, where each group had its own bar, and realised she had overlooked something important about the Roost. Set to pulsing music and neon-inspired animation, Shraya’s short film Reviving the Roost is a paean to a now-shuttered Edmonton institution, in all its sweaty, imperfect glory.

Director: Vivek Shraya

Producer: Justine Pimlott

Animator: Tim Singleton

Inuit throat singing is half performance, half game, and wholly mesmerising

In traditional katajjaq, also known as Inuit throat singing, two women stand face to face and perform a duet that doubles as something of a musical battle. Chanting in rhythm, they attempt to outlast one another, each waiting for any crack in the pace of her opponent – whether in the form of loss of breath, fatigue or laughter. In this short from the Canada-based First Nations film initiative Wapikoni Mobile, Eva Kaukai and Manon Chamberland, two throat singers from the remote Inuit village of Kangirsuk in northern Québec, face off in a friendly katajjaq duel. With sweeping imagery of the duo’s Arctic home, the short, which screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, is a transfixing melding of music and landscape.

Directors: Eva Kaukai, Manon Chamberland

Producer: Manon Barbeau

Website: Wapikoni Mobile

Why Medusa lives on – Mary Beard on the persistent legacy of Ancient Greek misogyny

‘To be men, they have to learn to silence women. I don’t think we’ve entirely got over that.’

From philosophy and politics to literature and art, the Western world has inherited much from Ancient Greece. But one disturbing cultural legacy is the enduring view of women as lesser beings who should shut up and stay out of the public intellectual sphere. Our social media is rife with examples of this persistent misogyny, which casts vocal women as stupid, shrill or some combination of the two. As the classicist Mary Beard of the University of Cambridge argues, nearly every leading female politician has been at some point depicted as Medusa – that beautiful woman of Ancient Greek myth who was transformed into a hideous beast as punishment for her own rape. In this video, commissioned by the Getty Museum on the occasion of Beard receiving their 2019 Getty Medal for contributions to the arts, she elaborates on the telling similarities between Ancient Greek depictions of women and those in our own times.

Director: Matthew Miller

Producers: Ways & Means, Christopher Broyles

From sky charts to atomic clocks, time is a mysterious story that humans keep inventing

The standardisation and accuracy of human timekeeping has improved by leaps and bounds over the millennia – from tracing the stars, to the invention of timepieces, to the atomic ‘clocks’ of today. But for all our efforts, the concept of time, including whether it’s little more than an illusion of human psychology, remains deeply puzzling. In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn for the PBS series Closer to Truth, the independent British physicist Julian Barbour endeavours to distinguish between our experience of time and its scientific underpinnings, including what has and hasn’t changed about our conception of time since we first looked to the skies to measure it.

Video by Closer to Truth

D A Pennebaker transformed documentary filmmaking. This is his first film

The US filmmaker D A Pennebaker – a pioneer of the documentary form – died on 1 August 2019 at the age of 94. He is perhaps best-known for his feature films Don’t Look Back (1967), a remarkable portrait of Bob Dylan while on a concert tour near the height of his fame, and The War Room (1993), which followed Bill Clinton’s run and eventual surprise victory in the 1992 US presidential election. Coming of age at a time when portable 16mm cameras with the ability to record sync sound on the fly allowed filmmakers newfound levels of freedom, Pennebaker was one of the first US documentarians to use the tools and aesthetics of cinéma vérité (or direct cinema), which emphasised recording reality with authenticity and representing stories truthfully.

With its frenetic pace, early morning hues, avant-garde touches, and playful use of shapes and patterns, Pennebaker’s first short, Daybreak Express (1953), made for a precocious debut. The sounds of an eponymous Duke Ellington composition form the film’s clattering backbone, as Pennebaker crafts an urban mosaic from Manhattan’s soon-to-be demolished Third Avenue elevated train line. While more experimental than much of the work he would be celebrated for later, Pennebaker’s career-long knack for kinetic editing, adventurous storytelling and skilfully marrying music and images still permeates nearly every frame. Today the impressionistic short plays not only as an ode to the dizzying dance of New York City transit, but the very power and potential of the documentary form itself.

Director: DA Pennebaker

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