The Sun is always shining

3 minutes

Hunting for Hockney

3 minutes

Hurricane Katrina, frame by frame

6 minutes

A woman like me

9 minutes

The super zoom

3 minutes

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It’s easy to get caught up in constructing our selves, but what does it cost us?

Western psychology holds that humans are not born with a sense of self, but rather that the self is constructed over time, gradually emerging within the first two years of life. Further, much scientific research says that everything that exists in human awareness – sight, sound, even time itself – is all a construction of the mind. So what are the pitfalls of treating these constructs as objective truths? According to Mahāmudrā Buddhist teaching, explored here by the clinical psychologist Daniel Brown at Harvard University, the more enamoured we are of our selves, the more fixed we are in our own ‘realities’, limiting the possibilities of our awareness. Playing with these reflections on the self and awareness, the San Francisco-based animator Claudia Biçen uses a series of ink-and-pencil portraits of Brown to bring him into being and then let him disappear.

Video by Claudia Biçen

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A dreamy animated tale of grief, friendship and a road trip to David Hockney’s house

‘You were too young to lose your mum. And we were too young to be organising a funeral.’

When her friend’s mother died, the UK filmmaker Alice Dunseath and her friend set out on an unplanned road trip through Yorkshire, mostly because they didn’t know what else to do. The only destination they gave themselves was the house of the artist David Hockney, supposedly somewhere in the town of Bridlington. Dunseath’s brief animation echoes some of Hockney’s signature stylistic flourishes, including dreamlike landscapes and saturated colours, but her narration offers an arresting counterpoint to the images – a simple, aching account of how grief can both heighten and numb the senses, render words meaningful and meaningless, and make goals simultaneously important and absurd.

Video by Alice Dunseath

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Who is ‘looting’ and who is ‘finding food’? How image gatekeepers shape the news

In August 2005, Alysia Burton Steele was just two months into her job as a photo editor on The Dallas Morning News when she decided to dispatch the photographer Irwin Thompson to New Orleans to document the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Her newspaper’s bold journalistic work went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2006. In this short interview, Burton Steele describes how her team approached their coverage of the storm and its aftermath, and discusses the telling disparity between how news outlets presented African Americans and white people affected by the tragedy. This video is part of Topic’s Frame by Frame series, in which ‘celebrated photojournalists explore images of the people and events that helped shape the American experience, and discuss how working with photographs impacts them personally’.

Director: Yvonne Michelle Shirley

Producer: Jennie Bedusa

Website: Topic

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When a deafblind woman from Denmark met a woman like her in Nepal

‘I dreamt I was the deafblind woman we visited … And there was no information, nothing, just isolation.’

Sensory experience, cultural differences and degrees of privilege collide in a meeting between two deafblind women: Dorte Eriksen from Denmark and Budhi Maya Gurung from Nepal. Commissioned by the Danish Deafblind Association to document a trip to help deafblind people in Nepal, the Mexican-Danish filmmaker Isabel Morales Bondy found herself filming the two women’s remarkable encounter. A Woman Like Me is assembled entirely without spoken words. Instead, viewers get to see as if through Eriksen’s eyes and hear only what the director does as witness to the women’s language of touch. Acknowledging the opacity of this experience, Morales Bondy chose not to subtitle the women’s meeting, prompting profound questions about language, communication and human connection. 

Director: Isabel Morales Bondy

Producer: Lars Feldballe Petersen

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A quantum odyssey from the tip of a pen to the dark side of human knowledge

The classic short film Powers of Ten (1977) propelled viewers on a journey from a Chicago park into deep space and then back down to the scale of a single proton. In The Super Zoom, the Brazil-based graphic designer Pedro Machado’s visualisation dives even deeper into the realm of the subatomic and theoretical. While the original film by Charles and Ray Eames zoomed in to a scale of 10-16 metres at most, Machado’s film draws on 40 years of quantum research – not to mention significant advances in 3D rendering technology – to drill down to the unfathomably small scale of 10-33 metres, brushing up against the limits of human knowledge and imagination. The mindbending animation uses a framework of quantum gravity in which a gravitational field exists at these smallest conceivable scales.

Director: Pedro Machado

Aeon for Friends

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It’s easy to get caught up in constructing our selves, but what does it cost us?

Western psychology holds that humans are not born with a sense of self, but rather that the self is constructed over time, gradually emerging within the first two years of life. Further, much scientific research says that everything that exists in human awareness – sight, sound, even time itself – is all a construction of the mind. So what are the pitfalls of treating these constructs as objective truths? According to Mahāmudrā Buddhist teaching, explored here by the clinical psychologist Daniel Brown at Harvard University, the more enamoured we are of our selves, the more fixed we are in our own ‘realities’, limiting the possibilities of our awareness. Playing with these reflections on the self and awareness, the San Francisco-based animator Claudia Biçen uses a series of ink-and-pencil portraits of Brown to bring him into being and then let him disappear.

Video by Claudia Biçen

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Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Secular pilgrimage

Visiting Wittgenstein’s home evokes the philosopher’s serious, ascetic mind (no doubt he would disapprove its restoration)

Julian Baggini

Essay/
Love and friendship
My friend, my self

Female friendship is central to much recent fiction and film. What can it say about the role of relationships in identity?

Susan Bright