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You gotta believe

3 minutes

Can food nourish your soul?

2 minutes

Birth control your own adventure

5 minutes

The acrobatic fly

3 minutes

What the psychic saw

5 minutes

Goddesses of antiquity offer Moses a path away from patriarchy – via funk and soul

The Book of Exodus chronicles the Israelites’ flight from slavery in Egypt under the guidance of Moses, and their eventual covenant with the Abrahamic God. While Jews celebrate this founding myth as a triumph, the Jewish US writer, cartoonist and filmmaker Nina Paley wonders whether the events of Exodus might represent a disaster rather than a triumph: the episode marks a pivot away from ‘humankind’s original deity’ Mother Earth, towards ‘agriculture, and its attendant sins of property, hierarchy and slavery’. Her animated feature film Seder-Masochism (2018) recasts the events from Exodus as a struggle between the prehistorical ‘Great Mother’ and the Abrahamic ‘forces of patriarchy’. In this brief excerpt from the film, feminine figurines and statues of goddesses from antiquity tower above a rather small and forlorn Moses. Capturing the triumphant spirit of the traditional Exodus reading, and turning it on its head, they dance and sing – somewhat surreally – to The Pointer Sisters’ 1976 hit You Gotta Believe, its repeated refrain asking: ‘You gotta believe in something, why not believe in me?’

Video by Nina Paley

Website: Seder-Masochism

Liberation of the soul through diet – how a Jain ascetic lives

‘Soul requires spirituality. Soul does not require food.’

Nonviolence towards all forms of life is a cornerstone of Jainism, a nontheistic Indian religion that dates back to the 6th century BCE, and today has around 7 million followers. To Jainism’s strictest adherents, even a walk through the grass or drinking tea with honey can be a morally perilous proposition, given the soul-possessing living things, from plants to insects to microbes, that can be harmed in the process. Part of a video series on the intersection of food and spirituality by the Italian-born, London-based filmmaker Matan Rochlitz, this short features a Jain ascetic discussing how a restricted diet (mostly water and dry grains) guides his spiritually.

Director: Matan Rochlitz

Period drama: one woman’s journey through birth control

The multitude of female birth-control products on the market hardly means there’s a perfect option for everyone. From the combined oral contraceptive (commonly known as the Pill), to the IUD (intrauterine device, aka the coil) to the NuvaRing, the availability of choice can mask one major downside: for some, the side-effects of birth control are a problem in their own right. In her short film Birth Control Your Own Adventure, the Pakistani-American filmmaker Sindha Agha presents her personal journey through all the options, starting at age 11, when she was prescribed the Pill for the pain of endometriosis. Agha relates her struggle to find the least-worst option with witty visuals and a vivid design. In its intimate detail, the short is especially enlightening for those who don’t menstruate, prompting the question: what about male birth-control products?

Director: Sindha Agha

Feet of strength! Spotlight on the amazing agility of houseflies

Pesky though they might be, houseflies are remarkable biological specimens – strong enough to carry up to half their own body weight and, as you’ve likely noticed when trying to swat one, exceptionally quick and nimble. For his 1910 short The Acrobatic Fly, the pioneering British naturalist and filmmaker F Percy Smith put the strength and dexterity of houseflies on display, filming one as it juggled items including a cork and a miniature barbell. Perhaps most impressive, however, is a sequence that features a fly rotating a ball with another fly balancing atop it, like a tiny circus act. For more slightly creepy early film fun from F Percy Smith, watch To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly.

Director: F Percy Smith

The psychic, the skeptic and the life-and-death prophecy that came true

When the US filmmaker Matthew Palmer’s mother was 28 and childless, she received an unsettling prediction from a psychic: she would have a son, and her husband would die when their son was 13, but it would be ‘okay’. Uninterested in having children and skeptical of psychics, she wrote it off for a time. But when she finally did have a son following a nearly fatal and life-altering case of pneumonia, the prediction creeped back into her mind. She then often used the story, half-jokingly, to warn her husband about his smoking habit. And when Palmer was 13, his father died suddenly of cardiac arrest. Constructed from old home videos and phone conversations with his mother, Palmer’s deeply personal film What the Psychic Saw reflects on his father’s death in the context of the uncanny prediction. An unusual meditation on grief, the short offers no easy answer for the psychic’s eerily accurate words, or whether unexpectedly losing a close, beloved family member can ever really feel ‘okay’.

Video by Matthew Palmer

Goddesses of antiquity offer Moses a path away from patriarchy – via funk and soul

The Book of Exodus chronicles the Israelites’ flight from slavery in Egypt under the guidance of Moses, and their eventual covenant with the Abrahamic God. While Jews celebrate this founding myth as a triumph, the Jewish US writer, cartoonist and filmmaker Nina Paley wonders whether the events of Exodus might represent a disaster rather than a triumph: the episode marks a pivot away from ‘humankind’s original deity’ Mother Earth, towards ‘agriculture, and its attendant sins of property, hierarchy and slavery’. Her animated feature film Seder-Masochism (2018) recasts the events from Exodus as a struggle between the prehistorical ‘Great Mother’ and the Abrahamic ‘forces of patriarchy’. In this brief excerpt from the film, feminine figurines and statues of goddesses from antiquity tower above a rather small and forlorn Moses. Capturing the triumphant spirit of the traditional Exodus reading, and turning it on its head, they dance and sing – somewhat surreally – to The Pointer Sisters’ 1976 hit You Gotta Believe, its repeated refrain asking: ‘You gotta believe in something, why not believe in me?’

Video by Nina Paley

Website: Seder-Masochism

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Essay/
The Home
Creating some slack

A household is a miniature ecosystem with inputs, outputs and flows: thinking like this can make life a whole lot better

Misty McLaughlin & Michael Erard

Essay/
Gender
Suffragettes and slaves

The women’s suffrage movement was saturated with metaphors of ‘shackles’, ‘bonds’ and ‘slavery’. Was it justifiable?

Ana Stevenson