Concussion protocol

6 minutes

Newton’s three-body problem

6 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Elsewhere

30 minutes

Acadiana

10 minutes

Dani

8 minutes

The ballet of elite athleticism and dire violence that was the 2017 NFL season

At its best, American football is full of grace, strategy and thrills. Unfortunately, many of the components that have made the sport so popular – speed, power, contact – also make it extremely dangerous, especially when played at the highest level. Recent research has overwhelmingly shown that, over time, even routine football collisions contribute to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease. However, the most dangerous hits are those that result in traumatic brain injuries. In 2017, the National Football League (NFL) recorded the highest number of such injuries since it started keeping track six years ago, even as it has attempted to make the game safer. A different kind of ‘highlight reel’, this short film from the US filmmaker and data visualisation artist Josh Begley features all 281 reported concussions from the 2017 NFL season. By manipulating the speed and direction of the footage, Begley grapples with both the sport’s allure and its brutality.

Director: Josh Begley

Producer: Laura Poitras

Website: Field of Vision

A millimetre makes a world of difference when calculating planetary trajectories

Calculating the trajectories of two gravitating bodies is straightforward mathematics. But introducing even just one more variable into an orbital system can make its long-term trajectory impossible to predict. In 2009, two researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz investigated just how difficult this mathematical phenomenon – known as the ‘N-body problem’ – makes forecasting the eventual fate of our own corner of space. The team ran 2,000 simulations of the solar system’s trajectory up to 5 billion years into the future, with the only variable being less than a millimetre difference in the distance between Mercury and the Sun. The simulations yielded a stunning array of results, including the possibility of Mercury careening into the Sun, colliding with Venus and destablising the entire inner solar system. This animation from TED-Ed breaks down the N-body problem with rich visuals and methodical clarity, and concludes with scientists’ efforts to minimise N-body unpredictability as humans press further into space.

Video by Ted-Ed

Director: HypeCG

Writer: Fabio Pacucci

Eight men reflect on their paths to prison – and imagine their alternative lives

An idiosyncratic patchwork of reflection, fantasy and atonement, the German director Adrian Figueroa’s experimental documentary Elsewhere invites viewers to step inside the minds of eight men serving extended terms in a German prison. As each inmate talks about the path that led him to incarceration, their distinct life stories, personalities and talents emerge, with the only clear connection between them being their shared quarters. While discussing topics ranging from the unparalleled highs of performing a robbery to the clarifying power of meditation, the men are green-screened into escapist settings aligned with their imaginary selves, and far removed from the drudgery of their locked-away lives. The result is at once enlightening and disorienting – and quite unlike any other ‘behind prison walls’ documentary you’re ever likely to see.

Elsewhere was awarded online distribution by Aeon Video at the 2020 Cheap Cuts Documentary Film Festival.

Director: Adrian Figueroa

Producer: Sibylle Arndt

The uncanny allure of the annual Cajun crawfish festival in Louisiana

Crawfish – small crustaceans also known as crayfish, crawdads or mudbugs – have long been a staple of Cajun cuisine, with the lobster-like creatures plentiful in the freshwaters of Louisiana. With an observational style and an experimental flair, Acadiana gathers scenes from a day at the state’s annual crawfish festival in Breaux Bridge. A crawfish eating competition, crawfish-inspired costumes and a float procession featuring the 2019 crowned Crawfish King and Queen are captured with a mix of anthropological curiosity and familial respect by the Québécois filmmakers Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau and Yannick Nolin. While its title references the French-Canadian roots of Cajun culture in the United States, there is something otherworldly about this short film, which went on to win several awards on the Canadian film-festival circuit.

Directors: Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau, Yannick Nolin

Producer: Jean-Pierre Vézina

Website: Kinomada

‘I hate giving you bad news’: when a daughter with breast cancer calls her mother

Danielle Hernandez is 30 and has Stage 4 breast cancer. As she calls her mother Violeta in Florida to deliver an update on her treatment from her home in Los Angeles, she oscillates between medical jargon and silver livings, with the more difficult pieces of information hidden in the subtext, only occasionally bubbling to the surface. This intimate conversation is captured by her roommate, the US filmmaker Lizzy Hogenson, in the short film Dani. Using a stop-motion technique that combines felt figures and claymation, Hogenson places her own veneer on the discussion, which is pierced by intermittent cracks of raw emotion, hard truths and silence. The result is at once affecting and distressing, as small moments of love, courage and pain spark and fade into uncertainty.

Director: Lizzy Hogenson

Producer: Kyle McClary

The ballet of elite athleticism and dire violence that was the 2017 NFL season

At its best, American football is full of grace, strategy and thrills. Unfortunately, many of the components that have made the sport so popular – speed, power, contact – also make it extremely dangerous, especially when played at the highest level. Recent research has overwhelmingly shown that, over time, even routine football collisions contribute to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease. However, the most dangerous hits are those that result in traumatic brain injuries. In 2017, the National Football League (NFL) recorded the highest number of such injuries since it started keeping track six years ago, even as it has attempted to make the game safer. A different kind of ‘highlight reel’, this short film from the US filmmaker and data visualisation artist Josh Begley features all 281 reported concussions from the 2017 NFL season. By manipulating the speed and direction of the footage, Begley grapples with both the sport’s allure and its brutality.

Director: Josh Begley

Producer: Laura Poitras

Website: Field of Vision

Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter

A red deer stag in autumn mist. Photo by Arterra/Sven-Erik Arndt/Getty

Essay/
Biology
Sex is real

Yes, there are just two biological sexes. No, this doesn’t mean every living thing is either one or the other

Paul Griffiths

An American advertisement for Royal Crown Cola from 1955. Photo by Alamy

Essay/
Gender
Angels in the market

The heart-tug tactics of 1950s ads steered white American women away from activism into domesticity. They’re still there

Ellen Wayland-Smith