Balloonfest

7 minutes

Throat singing in Kangirsuk

3 minutes

Mary Beard: women and power

5 minutes

Julian Barbour: what is time?

8 minutes

The driver is red

15 minutes

The amazing and awful outcome of releasing 1.5 million balloons into the sky

In 1986, the United Way of Cleveland hatched a plan to raise money and set a world record by releasing 1.5 million balloons into the sky. Publicised as an event to redeem Cleveland from bad press and pejorative labels such as ‘The Mistake on the Lake’ following economic struggles and environmental degradation, the event backfired in ways both utterly predictable and entirely unexpected. In this short documentary, the US director Nathan Truesdell uses archival footage to reconstruct the unfolding of the ill-fated ‘Balloonfest 86’, to wry – but not entirely unsympathetic – effect, while hinting at a greater point about the limits of grandiose symbolic gestures.

Director: Nathan Truesdell

Producer: J Gonçalves, Charlotte Cook

Website: Topic

Inuit throat singing is half performance, half game, and wholly mesmerising

In traditional katajjaq, also known as Inuit throat singing, two women stand face to face and perform a duet that doubles as something of a musical battle. Chanting in rhythm, they attempt to outlast one another, each waiting for any crack in the pace of her opponent – whether in the form of loss of breath, fatigue or laughter. In this short from the Canada-based First Nations film initiative Wapikoni Mobile, Eva Kaukai and Manon Chamberland, two throat singers from the remote Inuit village of Kangirsuk in northern Québec, face off in a friendly katajjaq duel. With sweeping imagery of the duo’s Arctic home, the short, which screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, is a transfixing melding of music and landscape.

Directors: Eva Kaukai, Manon Chamberland

Producer: Manon Barbeau

Website: Wapikoni Mobile

Why Medusa lives on – Mary Beard on the persistent legacy of Ancient Greek misogyny

‘To be men, they have to learn to silence women. I don’t think we’ve entirely got over that.’

From philosophy and politics to literature and art, the Western world has inherited much from Ancient Greece. But one disturbing cultural legacy is the enduring view of women as lesser beings who should shut up and stay out of the public intellectual sphere. Our social media is rife with examples of this persistent misogyny, which casts vocal women as stupid, shrill or some combination of the two. As the classicist Mary Beard of the University of Cambridge argues, nearly every leading female politician has been at some point depicted as Medusa – that beautiful woman of Ancient Greek myth who was transformed into a hideous beast as punishment for her own rape. In this video, commissioned by the Getty Museum on the occasion of Beard receiving their 2019 Getty Medal for contributions to the arts, she elaborates on the telling similarities between Ancient Greek depictions of women and those in our own times.

Director: Matthew Miller

Producers: Ways & Means, Christopher Broyles

From sky charts to atomic clocks, time is a mysterious story that humans keep inventing

The standardisation and accuracy of human timekeeping has improved by leaps and bounds over the millennia – from tracing the stars, to the invention of timepieces, to the atomic ‘clocks’ of today. But for all our efforts, the concept of time, including whether it’s little more than an illusion of human psychology, remains deeply puzzling. In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn for the PBS series Closer to Truth, the independent British physicist Julian Barbour endeavours to distinguish between our experience of time and its scientific underpinnings, including what has and hasn’t changed about our conception of time since we first looked to the skies to measure it.

Video by Closer to Truth

A spy thriller for an era in which the Holocaust risks being forgotten

‘The noose that had hung his friends after the war for what they had done, the noose that he thought he had escaped, had found him.’

In the wake of the Second World War, former SS officials and Nazi collaborators fled Europe, hoping to evade prosecution and knowing that South American governments were sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Adolf Eichmann, the chief ‘architect’ of the Holocaust, was the highest ranking member of the Third Reich to escape to the continent, where he made Buenos Aires his new home and ‘Ricardo Klement’ his new name.

The US artist Randall Christopher’s animation The Driver Is Red follows the Israeli mission that captured Eichmann on 11 May 1960, forcing him to finally stand trial for his crimes. With the pace and tension of a spy thriller, the short documentary frames the fervour for justice as a tribute to those who committed themselves to tracking down Nazi war criminals long after the Second World War’s end. Now that very few people with memories of Nazism’s rise are still alive, Christopher made the film freely available online, warning of the ominous spectre of ‘extreme nationalism, open racism, attacks on the press [and] reckless talk of war’ in our own era.

Director: Randall Christopher

Producers: Jared Callahan, Randall Christopher, Spencer Rabin

Website: The Driver Is Red

The amazing and awful outcome of releasing 1.5 million balloons into the sky

In 1986, the United Way of Cleveland hatched a plan to raise money and set a world record by releasing 1.5 million balloons into the sky. Publicised as an event to redeem Cleveland from bad press and pejorative labels such as ‘The Mistake on the Lake’ following economic struggles and environmental degradation, the event backfired in ways both utterly predictable and entirely unexpected. In this short documentary, the US director Nathan Truesdell uses archival footage to reconstruct the unfolding of the ill-fated ‘Balloonfest 86’, to wry – but not entirely unsympathetic – effect, while hinting at a greater point about the limits of grandiose symbolic gestures.

Director: Nathan Truesdell

Producer: J Gonçalves, Charlotte Cook

Website: Topic

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Essay/
Virtues and vices
Modesty means more, not less

True modesty is not to be timid or meek but a way of being in the world that means you don’t get in the way of your life

Nicolas Bommarito

Essay/
Political philosophy
Project and system

There are two ways of seeing order in the world: as a spontaneous system or as an intentional project. Which way lies freedom?

Paul Kahn