Barbican, 1969

22 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Elsewhere

30 minutes

Acadiana

10 minutes

Dani

8 minutes

The physarum experiments

5 minutes

How the Barbican brought back living into the working heart of London

‘The old rubs along with the new quite happily here, always has.’

The square mile of the City of London is the geographical, historical and financial centre of the UK’s capital. After a portion of it was destroyed in the Second World War, local authorities and architects hatched a plan to reinvent the area into a flourishing neighbourhood for urban professionals. Today, both the Barbican Estate housing complex and the Barbican Centre arts venue still seem forward-looking, with an identity that’s either an architectural landmark or an urban eyesore, depending on your taste for Brutalism. Released in 1969, when the Barbican was still very much a work in progress, this film explores – with a good bit of charm, cheese and Union Flag-waving – how the innovative project helped to reimagine the modern city.

Director: Robin Cantelon

Website: London Metropolitan Archives

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

‘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

How the Barbican brought back living into the working heart of London

‘The old rubs along with the new quite happily here, always has.’

The square mile of the City of London is the geographical, historical and financial centre of the UK’s capital. After a portion of it was destroyed in the Second World War, local authorities and architects hatched a plan to reinvent the area into a flourishing neighbourhood for urban professionals. Today, both the Barbican Estate housing complex and the Barbican Centre arts venue still seem forward-looking, with an identity that’s either an architectural landmark or an urban eyesore, depending on your taste for Brutalism. Released in 1969, when the Barbican was still very much a work in progress, this film explores – with a good bit of charm, cheese and Union Flag-waving – how the innovative project helped to reimagine the modern city.

Director: Robin Cantelon

Website: London Metropolitan Archives

Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter

Study For Liberty Displaying the Arts and Sciences, or The Genius of America Encouraging the Emancipation of the Blacks (1791-92) by Samuel Jennings. Courtesy the Met Museum/New York

Essay/
History of ideas
Philosophy’s systemic racism

It’s not just that Hegel and Rousseau were racists. Racism was baked into the very structure of their dialectical philosophy

Avram Alpert

Detail of ‘Siege of the City’ by Jean Charlot, watercolour of a fresco at Chichén Itzá. The Maya mural from the Las Monjas building clearly shows a ship with the distinct wooden planks of a Viking boat © Jean Charlot/Artists Rights Society [ARS]; Copyright Agency, 2020

Essay/
Global history
Vikings in America

Centuries before Columbus, Vikings came to the Western hemisphere. How far into the Americas did they travel?

Valerie Hansen