Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise

1 minute

Mary Beard: women in power

72 minutes

Newton’s three-body problem

6 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Elsewhere

30 minutes

Acadiana

10 minutes

Do the Volgelkop bop: how a newly discovered bird-of-paradise dazzles his mate

Beginning in 2004, the evolutionary biologist Ed Scholes of Cornell University in New York and the US nature photographer Tim Laman embarked on an ambitious project to find and film the 39 then-known members of the birds-of-paradise family that live in remote regions of New Guinea, Australia and nearby islands. Living in largely predator-free habitats have allowed male birds-of-paradise to develop some of the world’s most colourful plumage and elaborate mating displays, making them the favourites of many a David Attenborough nature documentary.

During a 2016 trek to west New Guinea, Laman and Scholes did one better than simply capturing new images of these birds – they discovered a new species. Now known as the Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise (Lophorina niedda), it was previously considered a subspecies of the Greater superb bird-of-paradise. However, Laman and Scholes’s documentation of the male’s mating dance revealed enough difference in its song, movement and feather display for the Vogelkop superb to be recognised as a distinct species. With its first documented observation dating back to 1930, this video marks the first known time that the male Vogelkop superb has been caught on camera in all its shimmying, brilliant black-and-blue glory.

To understand the aversion to powerful women, look to the Greeks, says Mary Beard

The Western world’s demonisation of women in power can be traced back to Ancient Greece, argues the celebrated UK classicist Mary Beard. For clear evidence of this centuries-long thread, look no further than the online depictions of Hillary Clinton as Medusa, freshly beheaded by a Trumpified Perseus, that made the rounds in the US presidential election in 2016. In this lecture at the British Museum in 2017, Beard contends that this Ancient Greek disdain for female power continues to shape language and attitudes in less obvious, but similarly destructive ways. With sharp humour and a slew of incisive examples, Beard makes the case that, to truly overcome archetypes of powerful women as irresponsible, dangerous and conniving, female power needs a new framework focused on results, and decoupled from prestige.

For a brief take on similar themes, watch this short documentary, which was commissioned by the Getty Museum on the occasion of Beard receiving their 2019 Getty Medal for contributions to the arts.

A millimetre makes a world of difference when calculating planetary trajectories

Calculating the trajectories of two gravitating bodies is straightforward mathematics. But introducing even just one more variable into an orbital system can make its long-term trajectory impossible to predict. In 2009, two researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz investigated just how difficult this mathematical phenomenon – known as the ‘N-body problem’ – makes forecasting the eventual fate of our own corner of space. The team ran 2,000 simulations of the solar system’s trajectory up to 5 billion years into the future, with the only variable being less than a millimetre difference in the distance between Mercury and the Sun. The simulations yielded a stunning array of results, including the possibility of Mercury careening into the Sun, colliding with Venus and destablising the entire inner solar system. This animation from TED-Ed breaks down the N-body problem with rich visuals and methodical clarity, and concludes with scientists’ efforts to minimise N-body unpredictability as humans press further into space.

Video by Ted-Ed

Director: HypeCG

Writer: Fabio Pacucci

Eight men reflect on their paths to prison – and imagine their alternative lives

An idiosyncratic patchwork of reflection, fantasy and atonement, the German director Adrian Figueroa’s experimental documentary Elsewhere invites viewers to step inside the minds of eight men serving extended terms in a German prison. As each inmate talks about the path that led him to incarceration, their distinct life stories, personalities and talents emerge, with the only clear connection between them being their shared quarters. While discussing topics ranging from the unparalleled highs of performing a robbery to the clarifying power of meditation, the men are green-screened into escapist settings aligned with their imaginary selves, and far removed from the drudgery of their locked-away lives. The result is at once enlightening and disorienting – and quite unlike any other ‘behind prison walls’ documentary you’re ever likely to see.

Elsewhere was awarded online distribution by Aeon Video at the 2020 Cheap Cuts Documentary Film Festival.

Director: Adrian Figueroa

Producer: Sibylle Arndt

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

Do the Volgelkop bop: how a newly discovered bird-of-paradise dazzles his mate

Beginning in 2004, the evolutionary biologist Ed Scholes of Cornell University in New York and the US nature photographer Tim Laman embarked on an ambitious project to find and film the 39 then-known members of the birds-of-paradise family that live in remote regions of New Guinea, Australia and nearby islands. Living in largely predator-free habitats have allowed male birds-of-paradise to develop some of the world’s most colourful plumage and elaborate mating displays, making them the favourites of many a David Attenborough nature documentary.

During a 2016 trek to west New Guinea, Laman and Scholes did one better than simply capturing new images of these birds – they discovered a new species. Now known as the Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise (Lophorina niedda), it was previously considered a subspecies of the Greater superb bird-of-paradise. However, Laman and Scholes’s documentation of the male’s mating dance revealed enough difference in its song, movement and feather display for the Vogelkop superb to be recognised as a distinct species. With its first documented observation dating back to 1930, this video marks the first known time that the male Vogelkop superb has been caught on camera in all its shimmying, brilliant black-and-blue glory.

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Photo by Catalina Martin-Chico/Panos Pictures

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