A fistful of stars

6 minutes

Acadiana

10 minutes

Dani

8 minutes

The physarum experiments

5 minutes

Kierkegaard’s horror of doubt

7 minutes

Embark on an operatic, interactive journey to a witness the birth of a star

A Fistful of Stars is a 360° video: as it plays, click and drag your cursor to explore the full experience. We recommend watching fullscreen and at the 4K setting if you have a fast internet connection.

The Orion Nebula – 1,344 light-years away – is the closest site to the Earth where large stars form. Its brightness makes it visible to the naked eye. Through the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope, though, it takes on a whole different aspect as its colours and massive clouds of dust and gas come into view, offering a magnificent realm to explore in virtual reality. Guided by the musings of the Israeli-American astrophysicist Mario Livio, the US filmmaker Eliza McNitt’s A Fistful of Stars transports us from the Hubble into the nebula to witness the birth of a star. That humans are born of stardust is a well-worn refrain in modern popular science, but the message has perhaps never been delivered with such operatic flair: a technical and visual delight, the interactive film is elevated by ‘The Hubble Cantata’, a dreamy, dramatic piece from the Italian composer Paola Prestini, performed by a 30-piece ensemble, 100-person choir and an additional two singers from New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.

Director: Eliza McNitt

Score: Paola Prestini

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

Embark on an operatic, interactive journey to a witness the birth of a star

A Fistful of Stars is a 360° video: as it plays, click and drag your cursor to explore the full experience. We recommend watching fullscreen and at the 4K setting if you have a fast internet connection.

The Orion Nebula – 1,344 light-years away – is the closest site to the Earth where large stars form. Its brightness makes it visible to the naked eye. Through the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope, though, it takes on a whole different aspect as its colours and massive clouds of dust and gas come into view, offering a magnificent realm to explore in virtual reality. Guided by the musings of the Israeli-American astrophysicist Mario Livio, the US filmmaker Eliza McNitt’s A Fistful of Stars transports us from the Hubble into the nebula to witness the birth of a star. That humans are born of stardust is a well-worn refrain in modern popular science, but the message has perhaps never been delivered with such operatic flair: a technical and visual delight, the interactive film is elevated by ‘The Hubble Cantata’, a dreamy, dramatic piece from the Italian composer Paola Prestini, performed by a 30-piece ensemble, 100-person choir and an additional two singers from New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.

Director: Eliza McNitt

Score: Paola Prestini

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