Daybreak express

5 minutes

Collage before Cubism

4 minutes

Home (Dom)

27 minutes

The drill

3 minutes

Mary-Jane Rubenstein: multiverses, pantheism and ecology

27 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

Cut, paste and remix your way through this century-spanning history of collage

The term collage – the artistic technique of gluing different elements together – has its origins in the early modernist movement, especially in Cubist works by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. But before such combining of disparate source materials became a mode of the artistic avant garde, collage had eclectic manifestations through history and across cultures – as a method of decorating, a tool for enriching scientific texts, and a means for women to engage with areas of enquiry typically reserved for men. Created to accompany the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s exhibition Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage in 2019, this video traces the rich roots of the technique, from the invention of paper in China in 105 CE, to its rebirth as an elevated style of modern art in the 20th century.

When home is two sisters, a houseful of vulnerable men, and a lot of tough love

After she was widowed at age 32, Grażyna Sochacka founded the Panakeja Foundation – a social-assistance centre for homeless men on Sobieszewo Island in Gdańsk, Poland. Alongside her sister Wioletta Sienkiewicz, Sochacka has dedicated her life to caring for men living on the fringes of society, and often in need of intensive care due to alcoholism and other health problems. The Polish filmmaker Filip Jacobson’s observational short Home (Dom) traces the unending daily pressures the sisters face running the centre. These include changing bed sheets, providing medical assistance, keeping up with bills, and the ever-important business of doling out cigarettes. Imbued with a deep humanity and inflections of humour, the film explores the human need for a balance between structure, freedom and respect – as well as, from time to time, heavy doses of tough love.

Director: Filip Jacobson

Producers: Leszek Kopeć, Jerzy Rados

Website: Gdynia Film School

‘I want to take the bullet and save my friends’ – the grim reality of safety drills in US schools

A generation ago, children in classrooms in the United States prepared for natural disasters such as fires and tornadoes. Today, active-shooter drills force them to confront the grim possibility that someone – perhaps a fellow student – might open fire in their school. In this StoryCorps animation, one such drill prompts a mother and her 10-year-old son in Texas to discuss a question no child should ever have to consider – whether he would sacrifice himself to try to save his schoolmates. An affecting and troubling short, The Drill gives an aching human voice to the psychological toll of school shootings and the culture of fear they’ve created for schoolchildren and their parents in the US.

Director: Richard O’Connor

Producer: Shelley Gorelik

Website: StoryCorps

If you think that modern cosmology leaves no room for ‘god’, start using your imagination

‘We’re not so much abandoning the idea of the gods, we’re just trying to pull them all the way into the Universe.’

From the possibility of infinite universes to the prospect of panpsychism, puzzles have arisen in physics that can take science to some very counterintuitive places. According to Mary-Jane Rubenstein, assistant professor of religion and feminist, gender and sexuality studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, new theories and breakthroughs at the forefront of cosmology need not – and moreover, should not – elbow out theology from the conversation about our place in the cosmos. Instead, as she argues in this wide-ranging interview recorded at the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival from the Institute of Arts and Ideas in 2019, science should encourage us to build more durable myths and theologies to suit our times.

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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