Operation Jane Walk

16 minutes

Out of the blue

8 minutes

Soft awareness

13 minutes

Kitezh-Vladimirskoe

9 minutes

Do you have imposter syndrome?

4 minutes

Skip the bus: this post-apocalyptic jaunt is the only New York tour you’ll ever need

Operation Jane Walk appropriates the hallmarks of an action roleplaying game – Tom Clancy’s The Division (2016), set in a barren New York City after a smallpox pandemic – for an intricately rendered tour that digs into the city’s history through virtual visits to some notable landmarks. Bouncing from Stuyvesant Town to the United Nations Headquarters and down the sewers, a dry-witted tour guide makes plain how NYC was shaped by the Second World War, an evolving economy and the ideological jousting between urban theorists such as Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. Between stops, the guide segues into musical interludes and poetic musings, but doesn’t let us forget the need to brandish a weapon for self-defence. The result is a highly imaginative film that interrogates the increasingly thin lines between real and digital worlds – but it’s also just a damn good time.

Directors: Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner

Narrator: Jacob Banigan

Jim Hall, 78, has a blue body – but his outlook on life is more unusual still

‘I decided it was OK to have fun with my body … I probably have more balls than anybody!’

Jim Hall worked in urban development for four decades before retiring as the principal city planner of Baltimore. Aged 78 and beginning to feel some of his faculties slip, he is planning a move to Texas to live out his final years. These unremarkable details of his biography might seem at odds with his unique look – most conspicuously, the blue tattoo covering almost every inch of his skin. But despite the unusual choices he’s made to modify his body – including some unusual, intimate augmentations hidden from view – Hall’s outlook on life is deeply practical, centred on playfulness and an enduring sense of gratitude for what he sees as the incredible gift of being a human. With a palette that complements Hall’s own chosen colours, this short documentary from the US directors Jonathan Bregel and Steve Hoover finds wonder and wisdom in a man who is as hard to define as he is plain-spoken and pragmatic.

Directors: Jonathan Bregel, Steve Hoover

Website: friendzone

What’s it like to chat with an AI that mimics you? Uncanny conversations with Replika

Replika is a chatbot that was launched in 2017 with the aim of offering users emotional support – or, as the company’s advertising copy puts it, becoming their ‘AI friend’. To give users a personalised experience, the deep learning bot gathers information about conversation partners by asking them questions, adapts to their conversational style and, over time, attempts to mimic them. Beyond companionship, Replika’s creators believe that the technology could eventually serve as a conversational stand-in for deceased loves ones.

In Soft Awareness, Anastasia Sif Karkazis, a Danish film student and co-director of the film, engages in a series of conversations with Replika, drifting between a series of loosely connected subjects – including art, dreams and identity. Throughout, the exchanges seem to teeter between meaningful and unintelligible, offering a window on Karkazis’s inner world, how Replika ‘understands’ her, and the many hazy areas in between. Beneath the surface of these uncanny exchanges, larger questions about privacy and the contours of intimacy between humans and AI slowly emerge.

Via Labocine

Directors: Cecilie Flyger, Olivia Mai Scheibye

Co-director: Anastasia Sif Karkazis

Website: Copenhagen School of Film and Photography

Postcards from Vladimirskoye – the sleepy town near the ‘Russian Atlantis’

According to Russian legend, in the 13th century, the mythical city of Kitezh was on the verge of being ransacked by Mongols when its residents began to pray. In an instant, water spouted from the earth, at once submerging the city and protecting Kitezh from invaders. Today, in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Lake Svetloyar – the body of water that Kitezh supposedly sunk into – is a tourist destination for both the faithful and those simply wishing to enjoy its beaches. The flow of visitors, however, barely touches the small town of Vladimirskoye just a kilometre away. In Kitezh-Vladimirskoe, the Dutch photographer and filmmaker Pieter Ten Hoopen depicts town life in a series of intertwining tableaux – baptisms, kids on their bikes, old men shouting from windows – all suffused with a comically incongruent soundtrack. It’s an offbeat, charming portrait of a place, like a series of moving postcards from an ordinary town off the tourist track.

Director: Pieter Ten Hoopen

Do you feel like a fraud after a success? It can mean you’re doing something well

‘When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud, and take everything away from me?’
Tom Hanks, winner of two Oscars, four Golden Globes and six Emmys, interviewed in 2016

First coined in a 1978 research paper on high-achieving women in the workplace, the term ‘imposter syndrome’ describes those who believe they have less talent that others think, who attribute any personal successes to luck, and who worry that they’ll ultimately be exposed as the frauds they perceive themselves to be. This kind of reflexive self-doubt is not so much a ‘syndrome’ as it is a widespread state of psychological distortion, with roughly 70 per cent of people experiencing it at some point in their lives. In this video from BBC Ideas, Sandi Mann, a psychologist and lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, discusses the roots of imposter syndrome and details some practical ways to fight it.

Video by BBC Ideas

Website: We Are Tilt

Skip the bus: this post-apocalyptic jaunt is the only New York tour you’ll ever need

Operation Jane Walk appropriates the hallmarks of an action roleplaying game – Tom Clancy’s The Division (2016), set in a barren New York City after a smallpox pandemic – for an intricately rendered tour that digs into the city’s history through virtual visits to some notable landmarks. Bouncing from Stuyvesant Town to the United Nations Headquarters and down the sewers, a dry-witted tour guide makes plain how NYC was shaped by the Second World War, an evolving economy and the ideological jousting between urban theorists such as Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. Between stops, the guide segues into musical interludes and poetic musings, but doesn’t let us forget the need to brandish a weapon for self-defence. The result is a highly imaginative film that interrogates the increasingly thin lines between real and digital worlds – but it’s also just a damn good time.

Directors: Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner

Narrator: Jacob Banigan

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William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody (third from left) alongside the author’s great-great uncle Sheriff Plunkett (right) at Deadwood in 1906. From Deadwood: 1876-1976 (2005) by Beverly Pechan and Bill Groethe/Arcadia Publishing

Idea/
Love and friendship
Friendship is about loyalty, not laws. Should it be policed?

Leah Plunkett

Photo by Mark Cornick from the Soho Nights series

Essay/
Mental health
My psychosis

It was one terrifying, exciting night of delusions, hallucinations and paranoia. What would it teach a future psychologist?

Tom Hartley

From the Chansonnier of Zeghere van Male (1542), Bruges. Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 128B, Folio 116v. Courtesy ISMPL.org

Essay/
Environmental history
Human crap

We are demigods of discards – but our copious garbage became a toxic burden only with the modern cult of ‘disposability’

Gabrielle Hecht