You gotta believe

3 minutes

Little brother

12 minutes

Lada

19 minutes

The great thinkers

8 minutes

A million to one

5 minutes

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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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Embarrassment is love when you’re hanging with your pre-adolescent kid brother

The Toronto-based filmmaker Dominique van Olm and her younger brother Dexter are separated by 13 years and hundreds of miles, so they spend very little time together. In Little Brother – a ‘hybrid of documentary and narrative fiction’ – van Olm takes that reality and turns it into an experiment in directing and bonding. For the project, Dexter flew to Toronto for the first time, and spent four days with his sister. Trailed by a barebones film crew, van Olm dutifully dragged Dexter to places she thought a 12-year-old boy might enjoy – including a pizzeria, an aquarium and a roller rink. The resulting short film, composed of brief, unscripted vignettes from their time together, is an accomplished and refreshingly restrained work. With a constant undercurrent of slight discomfort, subtle humour and very unspoken familial love, it traces the distinctive contours of this particular sibling relationship and the more universal afflictions of adolescence – inscrutable moods, halting communication and a perpetual state of embarrassment while in the company of family.

Director: Dominique van Olm

Producer: Darren Snowden

Website: Deviio

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Where Soviet cars go to not quite die – driving adventures in northern Russia

The Lada is a stalwart symbol of Soviet Russia. It has also been considered one of the worst cars ever made. Its heyday, if it had one, was in the 1970s, but a substantial number of vehicles remain on the roads today, and hold a special place in the hearts and minds of many Russians. To tell the story of this much-ridiculed car, the filmmaker Dieter Deswarte, the cinematographer Annegret Sachse and the sound engineer Yulia Glukhova travelled the Russian north, from Murmansk to Siberia, to find where the cheap and easily repairable – if reliably unreliable – vehicles are still in action. Along the way, they got to know a colourful range of drivers who recount the complexities of Lada ownership, and, more important still, show the car on the road – or sometimes what it takes to get it on the road. Undercutting broad Western stereotypes of a certain Russian dourness, the filmmakers find humour, warmth and kindness in their driving adventures across the icy landscape.

Lada debuted in 2014 as part of the award-winning omnibus documentary Cinetrain: Russian Winter. An ambitious and inventive filmmaking initiative, the Cinetrain project sent 21 filmmakers from around the world to all corners of Russia to explore its culture through the spectrum of stereotypes – from mail-order brides to heavy drinking. The project was inspired by the work of the influential Soviet Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Medvedkin (1900-89) who, in 1934, built a mobile film studio inside a train before setting out to document life across the country.

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The Bing Bang, reincarnation and other theories of life from budding philosophers

What’s the point of life? Kindness? Recycling? Leaving your body to science? This hybrid of animation and live-action from 2009 generates good fun and plenty of food for thought from its simple premise: asking children some of the most enduring questions in philosophy. While many of the answers – including an innovative ‘exploding monkey theory’ of Homo sapiens origins –  are simply great material for the accompanying animations, others brush up against the current limits of human understanding, prompting meaningful reflection on how we think about life. With its abundance of laugh-out-loud and heartfelt moments, the Montreal-based director Karina Garcia Casanova’s playful film is a worthy tribute to the deeply creative thinking of kids.

Director: Karina Garcia Casanova

Illustrator: James Braithwaite

Animator: Darren Pasemko

Producers: John Christou, Karina Garcia Casanova

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A Nobel laureate and a flea circus join forces for an unforgettable demonstration of inertia

The Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) was formed in 1956 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the mission to create science-education materials for US high-school classrooms. Extracted from a PSSC film from 1959, the first half of this short video finds the Nobel Prize-winning physicist E M Purcell from Harvard University detailing the basics of inertia with some help from a frictionless dry-ice puck – which, by his exceptionally impassive account, is a thing that’s ‘fun to play with’. The video gets a good deal stranger in the second half, which takes viewers on a field trip to Hubert’s Museum in New York City: a long-since defunct cabinet of 10-cent curiosities that was once a Times Square mainstay. There, Hubert’s famed in-house flea circus puts its considerable talents on display as the ringmaster leads a one-of-a-kind inertia demonstration. It all makes for an impressive proof of concept, and some delightfully dated fun.

Restoration: Tamur Qutab

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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/
Global history
Re-made in China

From Marxism to hip hop, China’s appropriations from the West show that globalisation makes the world bumpy, not flat

Amy Hawkins & Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Essay/
History of ideas
Against disenchantment

The move away from myth and toward reason is an ancient human impulse. But must enchantment be the enemy of enlightenment?

Jason Josephson Storm