Lost world

16 minutes

Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise

1 minute

Walter Lippmann, public opinion and propaganda

18 minutes

Eli

4 minutes

I came from the unknown to sing

11 minutes

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Sand grab: how Singapore’s growth is taking the land out from under Cambodians’ feet

Singapore is a tiny country with outsized influence. The Southeast Asian island nation packs some 5.6 million people into just 278 square miles, making it the third most densely populated country in the world. Its wealth is mostly built on oil but, due to a growing population, a booming economy and rising sea levels brought on by climate change, land is quickly becoming its most precious resource. Uninterested in reining in expansion, the government has a plan: through what is known as ‘land reclamation’, Singapore has expanded its size by some 24 per cent since it first gained independence in 1965, and plans to expand another 8 per cent by 2030.

Between 2007 and 2017, much of the sand used for Singapore’s physical growth was dredged and shipped from Cambodia, with little say from the villagers who were most affected. Lost World follows Vy Phalla, a Cambodian woman whose way of life is stolen from beneath her feet, as the industrial dredging process damages the waterways and mangrove forests that she and her fishing community depend on. Tracing Phalla’s journey from her modest island home to Singapore’s lush Cloud Forest botanical gardens – a tourist attraction built on reclaimed soil – this short documentary offers a vital perspective on artificial land, which has emerged as an urgent environmental and geopolitical issue over the past decade. Read more about Lost World at Emergence Magazine.

Director: Kalyanee Mam

Producers: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, Adam Loften

Website: GO Project Films

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Do the Volgelkop bop: how a newly discovered bird-of-paradise dazzles his mate

Beginning in 2004, the evolutionary biologist Ed Scholes of Cornell University in New York and the US nature photographer Tim Laman embarked on an ambitious project to find and film the 39 then-known members of the birds-of-paradise family that live in remote regions of New Guinea, Australia and nearby islands. Living in largely predator-free habitats have allowed male birds-of-paradise to develop some of the world’s most colourful plumage and elaborate mating displays, making them the favourites of many a David Attenborough nature documentary.

During a 2016 trek to west New Guinea, Laman and Scholes did one better than simply capturing new images of these birds – they discovered a new species. Now known as the Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise (Lophorina niedda), it was previously considered a subspecies of the Greater superb bird-of-paradise. However, Laman and Scholes’s documentation of the male’s mating dance revealed enough difference in its song, movement and feather display for the Vogelkop superb to be recognised as a distinct species. With its first documented observation dating back to 1930, this video marks the first known time that the male Vogelkop superb has been caught on camera in all its shimmying, brilliant black-and-blue glory.

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Before Chomsky, there was Lippmann: the First World War and ‘manufactured consent’

While the ‘manufacture of consent’ is an idea now mostly associated with Noam Chomsky, the phrase was actually coined by the US journalist and writer Walter Lippman in his influential book Public Opinion (1922) – a fact that Chomsky and Edward S Herman, his co-author of Manufacturing Consent (1988), readily acknowledge. Lippman contended that, because the world is too complex for any individual to comprehend, a strong society needs people and institutions specialised in collecting data and creating the most accurate interpretations of reality possible. When used properly, this information should allow decisionmakers to ‘manufacture consent’ in the public interest. However, in one of the most damning critiques of democracy, Lippman identifies how public opinion is instead largely forged by political elites with self-serving interests – powerful people manipulating narratives to their own ends. This video essay from the YouTube channel Then & Now dives into Lippman’s legacy, starting with his study of the rise of the importance of public opinion during the First World War, and extending through an examination of why, a century after Public Opinion, democracy still has a major mass-media problem.

Director: Lewis Waller

Video by Then & Now

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How the devotion of a canine companion enhanced the life of a disability advocate

Lorna Marsh, a UK dance instructor and disability rights advocate, uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy quadriplegia, which also limits the use of her arms. When the charity Canine Partners for Independence offered her an assistance dog, Marsh was initially reluctant to accept, worried that a working dog might not enjoy a fulfilling life. But she soon found that beyond helping her live with more freedom, her new dog Eli was a true companion, their relationship brimming with affection, mutual enjoyment and a bit of mischief. The UK filmmaker and casting director Leanne Flinn’s film Eli (2010) is a day in the life of Marsh and her canine partner, featuring many of the roughly 300 commands Eli has been trained to perform, as well as a hefty dose of play. The heartwarming short was created as part of the straight 8 project, which challenges filmmakers to craft shorts using only a single cartridge of Super 8 film with no additional post-production editing.

Director: Leanne Flinn

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‘My cell is smaller than my size’ – how writing poetry saved a political prisoner

The poet Ghazi Hussein was born to a Palestinian family exiled in Syria. Starting at age 14, he was subjected to 20 years, on and off, of imprisonment and torture, and deemed ‘guilty of carrying thoughts’ though never formally charged. In prison, Hussein often felt hopeless and wished for death but, through his poetry, he was able to build a mental sanctuary that saved his life. In 2000, he arrived in the UK, where, after a three-year legal struggle, he and his family gained political asylum, settling in Edinburgh. Now a BAFTA award-winning playwright and acclaimed poet, Hussein continues to draw on his experience of oppression, using his writing to explore and confront the racism he encounters in Scotland. Despite this, he still considers Edinburgh his first and only home, a place where he has a voice. In this short film by the UK-Iranian artist Roxana Vilk, Hussein reflects on the pain and perseverance that has defined his life, performing poems from his book Taking it Like a Man: Torture and Survival, a Journey in Poetry (2006).

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Sand grab: how Singapore’s growth is taking the land out from under Cambodians’ feet

Singapore is a tiny country with outsized influence. The Southeast Asian island nation packs some 5.6 million people into just 278 square miles, making it the third most densely populated country in the world. Its wealth is mostly built on oil but, due to a growing population, a booming economy and rising sea levels brought on by climate change, land is quickly becoming its most precious resource. Uninterested in reining in expansion, the government has a plan: through what is known as ‘land reclamation’, Singapore has expanded its size by some 24 per cent since it first gained independence in 1965, and plans to expand another 8 per cent by 2030.

Between 2007 and 2017, much of the sand used for Singapore’s physical growth was dredged and shipped from Cambodia, with little say from the villagers who were most affected. Lost World follows Vy Phalla, a Cambodian woman whose way of life is stolen from beneath her feet, as the industrial dredging process damages the waterways and mangrove forests that she and her fishing community depend on. Tracing Phalla’s journey from her modest island home to Singapore’s lush Cloud Forest botanical gardens – a tourist attraction built on reclaimed soil – this short documentary offers a vital perspective on artificial land, which has emerged as an urgent environmental and geopolitical issue over the past decade. Read more about Lost World at Emergence Magazine.

Director: Kalyanee Mam

Producers: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, Adam Loften

Website: GO Project Films

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