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The botanist

20 minutes

Maybe it’s me

6 minutes

Gargantuan

1 minute

The beauty of gefilte fish

11 minutes

Timelapse of the future

29 minutes

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Resilience and ingenuity – a Tajik teacher’s hydroelectric station made from Soviet scraps

‘Sometimes life forces you to do some things…’

For Raïmberdi Mamatumarov, life in Tajikistan has meant ceaselessly adapting to new realities and overcoming challenge after challenge. After a nomadic life during his younger years, Mamatumarov witnessed the modernisation of his small village of Shaymak under Soviet collectivisation. With this massive change came an opportunity to study botany at university, after which Mamatumarov returned home to work as a science teacher. But when the Berlin Wall came down, Tajikistan descended into civil war and famine ravaged the country, prompting Mamatumarov to put his skills and knowledge to work in order support his family through the crisis. Beautifully shot and carefully constructed, The Botanist by the Canadian filmmakers Maude Plante-Husaruk and Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis details Mamatumarov’s extraordinary effort to build an improvised hydroelectric station from scraps following the Soviet Union’s collapse. In doing so, the film is both a chronicle of his remarkable life and a robust reminder that genius is not confined to the places where it is most lavishly rewarded and popularly celebrated.

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What happens to our own memories when family elders start to forget us?

‘I remember everything…’ So begins Maybe It’s Me, in which the Greek-born, London-based animator Dimitris Simou grapples with how to hold on to memories of the summer when his grandfather’s memory began to decline. Reflecting on the simultaneous robustness and fragility of memory – its power to summon a vivid scene from a single scent, and its unsettling tendency to deteriorate with age and illness – Simou recalls several distressing interactions as his grandfather slipped into dementia and no longer recognised him. Where Simou’s own memories fail him, his visuals deconstruct, revealing unfinished animations and moments of darkness that mirror the uncertainties of his recollections. The animation was a film festival favourite in 2018, screening at the BFI London Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) and the Palm Springs International ShortFest, among others.

Director: Dimitris Simou

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The difference between an enormous beast and a puny newt is just a matter of perspective

Originally broadcast on BBC2’s The Late Show in 1992, this delightfully simple and clever short from the UK artist John Smith deploys a camera, an amphibian and an alarm clock to show how the chasm between ‘gargantuan’ and ‘minute’ is all in the framing.

Director: John Smith

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Delicious? Gross? The great fish dish that divides – and unites – families on Passover

Celebrated annually in early spring, Passover commemorates the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus. The holiday is generally marked by a large gathering of family and friends known as a Seder, and includes a reading of the Haggadah, a text that recounts the exodus from Egypt, and provides a guide to the traditional Passover meal, which includes matzoh (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs. This short documentary from the US director Rachel Fleit focuses on the tradition as celebrated by the Hermelin family of Detroit, in particular their relationship with a Passover dinner staple – gefilte fish. Though it plays no part in the Exodus story (it originated with Ashkenazi Jewish communities in eastern Europe), this dish of ground whitefish – with a flavour ranging from savoury to sweet, depending on the recipe – is nonetheless the most discussed culinary offering at the table. But despite its deeply polarising taste and texture, the annual gefilte fish is embraced by generations of Hermelins as a symbol of cultural tradition and familial bonds, imbued with ‘the joy of Judaism’.

Director: Rachel Fleit

Producers: Shiny Pictures, Union Entertainment

Website: The Gefilte Film

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Deep time and beyond: the great nothingness at the end of the Universe

‘The Universe becomes a cosmic boneyard, strewn with remnants of dead stars.’

This is the way the Universe ends, not with a bang, but with an unfathomably profound and gradual chill. Or, at least that’s one guess held by many scientists – but we don’t really know, and it’s entirely possible that we never will. This video from the US filmmaker and musician John Boswell starts in 2019 and plays out one theory of how everything – truly everything – will end. With the speed of the passage of time doubling every five seconds, inventive visual interpretations of cosmological phenomena, and narrated by science luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees and Janna Levin, the video guides us deep into a possible evolution of the Universe. Impressively translating theoretical physics and astronomically vast scales of time and space into 29 breathtaking minutes, Timelapse of the Future takes us all the way into the sublime of the unimaginable, with all the wonder and terror that might provoke.

Via Kottke

Video by John Boswell

Website: melodysheep

Aeon for Friends

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Resilience and ingenuity – a Tajik teacher’s hydroelectric station made from Soviet scraps

‘Sometimes life forces you to do some things…’

For Raïmberdi Mamatumarov, life in Tajikistan has meant ceaselessly adapting to new realities and overcoming challenge after challenge. After a nomadic life during his younger years, Mamatumarov witnessed the modernisation of his small village of Shaymak under Soviet collectivisation. With this massive change came an opportunity to study botany at university, after which Mamatumarov returned home to work as a science teacher. But when the Berlin Wall came down, Tajikistan descended into civil war and famine ravaged the country, prompting Mamatumarov to put his skills and knowledge to work in order support his family through the crisis. Beautifully shot and carefully constructed, The Botanist by the Canadian filmmakers Maude Plante-Husaruk and Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis details Mamatumarov’s extraordinary effort to build an improvised hydroelectric station from scraps following the Soviet Union’s collapse. In doing so, the film is both a chronicle of his remarkable life and a robust reminder that genius is not confined to the places where it is most lavishly rewarded and popularly celebrated.

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Essay/
Physics
Time to update the Nobels

Science today is an intricate, collaborative, global enterprise. Nobel prizes for individual scientists are an anachronism

Brian Keating

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
Cognitive gadgets

Our thinking devices – imitation, mind-reading, language and others – are neither hard-wired nor designed by genetic evolution

Cecilia Heyes