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Greetings from Aleppo

17 minutes

Skip day

17 minutes

Cosmologist Pedro Ferreira on dark energy

3 minutes

ORIGINAL

What fat is for

4 minutes

The big city

6 minutes

Gunfire and dance parties – the contradictions of everyday life in Syria’s civil war

From 2012 to 2016 Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, was one of the central battlegrounds of the country’s civil war. In December 2016, government forces defeated and subsequently expelled rebel groups from the city in what was considered a turning point in the conflict. This short documentary was shot by the Syrian artist Issa Touma while Aleppo was still besieged, and offers a jarring look at everyday life in a war zone. Through visits to family and fellow artists, Touma shows a city of surreal contradictions, where street cleaning carries on while gunshots ring out in the distance, and people marry, have babies and make art amid threats of death and destruction. Touma’s perspective is a powerful counterpoint to mainstream news coverage of the war, which is focused on winners, losers, body counts and abject suffering. Instead, he delivers a complex, dissonant portrait of humanity and perseverance fraught with confusion and tragedy.

Directors: Issa Touma, Floor van der Meulen, Thomas Vroege

Website: Topic

When skipping school for a day at the beach is to be torn between the present and the future

On the Monday after prom, a bit before graduation, getting to class is the last thing on the minds of high-school seniors from the small industrial city of Pahokee in Florida. Instead, they’re off on a 60-mile drive to have a celebratory day at the beach. In between selfies and shenanigans, they reflect on their diverging paths, including friendships, romances and plans for the future. With intimacy and ease, Skip Day moves among these young people on the cusp of enormous changes, eliciting the mixed emotions and uncertainties that so frequently accompany coming of age. A favourite on the film festival circuit in 2018, Skip Day won the Illy Prize for best short film at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, among other honours.

Along with The Rabbit Hunt, the short is part of a group of documentaries by the filmmakers chronicling the lives of teens in Pahokee.

Directors: Ivete Lucas, Patrick Bresnan

Producer: Maida Lynn

Website: Otis Lucas

The mysterious ‘something’ behind the accelerating expansion of the Universe

Dark energy is the term that scientists have given to the mysterious ‘something’ deemed responsible for the accelerating expansion of the Universe. However, unlike gravity, which pulls things together, physicists and cosmologists still can’t explain what dark energy really is or how it does what it does, despite the fact that it theoretically makes up a substantial part of everything. In this upbeat animation, Pedro Ferreira, professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, points to the scenarios that his field faces – the ‘incredibly exciting’ one and the ‘doomsday’ one – perhaps taking solace in knowing that there are only two. 

Produced by Massive and Pioneer Works

Animation and Direction by Daniel Stankler

Sound by Zing Audio

Words by Pedro Ferreira

Created by Nadja Oertelt

Published in association with
SAPIENS
an Aeon Partner

Abundance has made fat an enemy, but it’s been a friend to humans for millennia

Despite the modern Western obsession with bodyweight, the idea that fat bodies are unsightly and unhealthy is largely unprecedented in human history. Nevertheless, the thin ideal is spreading, permeating societies where ‘a little extra’ has been celebrated, even until very recently. But, as this short video collaboration between Aeon and SAPIENS explains, the idea of fat as something we should get rid of is a historical outlier. Playfully visualised by the London-based Kazakh animator Ermina Takenova, What Fat Is For probes the complex role of fat across human society, from mysterious Palaeolithic figurines to Jamaican dance halls, treating this vital component of our bodies with the complexity, even reverence, it deserves.

Director and Animator: Ermina Takenova

Producer: Kellen Quinn

Writer: Nicola Williams

Associate Producer: Adam D'Arpino

Sound Design: Adam D'Arpino, Eli Cohn

Published in association with
SAPIENS
an Aeon Partner

Meet your single-celled neighbours – a microbial tour of a metropolis

From an anthropocentric point of view, big cities are one of humanity’s most majestic achievements: massive, self-contained ecosystems built by, catering to, and inhabited by huge numbers of people. But you could forgive microorganisms for claiming that cities are actually theirs. After all, they outnumber humans in urban environments by the trillions. They also affect cityscapes in a far more tangible way: city planners and epidemiologists shape urban environments with pathogenic threats in mind. 

For his experimental short film The Big City, the Canadian filmmaker Evan Luchkow put the hidden lifeforms of downtown Vancouver’s main roads under the literal microscope, documenting the various microbes he found to reveal, in his words, ‘the blurry boundary between human society and the natural world’. The result is an extraordinary and enlightening glimpse of the vast biodiversity with which we share our cities. 

Director: Evan Luchkow

Gunfire and dance parties – the contradictions of everyday life in Syria’s civil war

From 2012 to 2016 Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, was one of the central battlegrounds of the country’s civil war. In December 2016, government forces defeated and subsequently expelled rebel groups from the city in what was considered a turning point in the conflict. This short documentary was shot by the Syrian artist Issa Touma while Aleppo was still besieged, and offers a jarring look at everyday life in a war zone. Through visits to family and fellow artists, Touma shows a city of surreal contradictions, where street cleaning carries on while gunshots ring out in the distance, and people marry, have babies and make art amid threats of death and destruction. Touma’s perspective is a powerful counterpoint to mainstream news coverage of the war, which is focused on winners, losers, body counts and abject suffering. Instead, he delivers a complex, dissonant portrait of humanity and perseverance fraught with confusion and tragedy.

Directors: Issa Touma, Floor van der Meulen, Thomas Vroege

Website: Topic

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Essay/
Education
Gold among the dross

Academic research in the US is unplanned, exploitative and driven by a lust for glory. The result is the envy of the world

David Labaree

Essay/
History
Collective psychiatry

Chinese psychiatry remains committed to the political ideal of mental hygiene, long after its discrediting in the West

Emily Baum