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Sichuan opera

5 minutes

ORIGINAL

What fat is for

4 minutes

The big city

6 minutes

Spacesavers

4 minutes

Can food nourish your soul?

2 minutes

The extraordinary physical and mental demands of performing Sichuan opera

With origins deep in southern China’s folk storytelling and music customs, Sichuan opera is characterised by traditional instrumentation, a distinctive singing style, elaborate, colourful costumes, changing masks that reflect characters’ emotional states, and daring stunts including martial arts, acrobatics and fire-breathing. Part of a video series on work in modern China by the US filmmaker Noah Sheldon, this short documentary profiles the Chongqing-based Sichuan opera singer Zhou Xing Yu as she prepares for her next show, reflecting on her abiding love of performing despite the intensity and pain of many years of training.

Director: Noah Sheldon

Producer: Jean Liu

Composer: Nick Zinner

Published in association with
SAPIENS
an Aeon Partner

Abundance has made fat an enemy, but it’s been a friend to humans for millennia

Despite the modern Western obsession with bodyweight, the idea that fat bodies are unsightly and unhealthy is largely unprecedented in human history. Nevertheless, the thin ideal is spreading, permeating societies where ‘a little extra’ has been celebrated, even until very recently. But, as this short video collaboration between Aeon and SAPIENS explains, the idea of fat as something we should get rid of is a historical outlier. Playfully visualised by the London-based Kazakh animator Ermina Takenova, What Fat Is For probes the complex role of fat across human society, from mysterious Palaeolithic figurines to Jamaican dance halls, treating this vital component of our bodies with the complexity, even reverence, it deserves.

Director and Animator: Ermina Takenova

Producer: Kellen Quinn

Writer: Nicola Williams

Associate Producer: Adam D'Arpino

Sound Design: Adam D'Arpino, Eli Cohn

Meet your single-celled neighbours – a microbial tour of a metropolis

From an anthropocentric point of view, big cities are one of humanity’s most majestic achievements: massive, self-contained ecosystems built by, catering to, and inhabited by huge numbers of people. But you could forgive microorganisms for claiming that cities are actually theirs. After all, they outnumber humans in urban environments by the trillions. They also affect cityscapes in a far more tangible way: city planners and epidemiologists shape urban environments with pathogenic threats in mind. 

For his experimental short film The Big City, the Canadian filmmaker Evan Luchkow put the hidden lifeforms of downtown Vancouver’s main roads under the literal microscope, documenting the various microbes he found to reveal, in his words, ‘the blurry boundary between human society and the natural world’. The result is an extraordinary and enlightening glimpse of the vast biodiversity with which we share our cities. 

Director: Evan Luchkow

The peculiar Boston tradition that (mostly) keeps the winter parking peace

After snowstorms in Boston, street parking tensions tend to rise, especially when car owners clear out spaces near their residences only to later find another driver has swiped their hard-earned spot. But walk the city’s streets in the wake of a blizzard, and you’ll notice a uniquely Bostonian visual language that aims to keep the parking peace – even if it isn’t always successful. In a decades-old winter tradition codified by a former mayor, residents in most Boston neighbourhoods are allowed to hold their spaces for up to 48 hours using everyday objects. The formerly Boston-based director Sarah Ginsburg explores the peculiar practice in her film Spacesavers. Shot during the winter of 2015 – a record-breaking season for snowfall – the wry observational short offers a distinctive vision of Boston’s winter streets where everything from lawn chairs to walkers and golf bags become ‘keep out’ signs.

Director: Sarah Ginsburg

Producer: Will Lennon

Liberation of the soul through diet – how a Jain ascetic lives

‘Soul requires spirituality. Soul does not require food.’

Nonviolence towards all forms of life is a cornerstone of Jainism, a nontheistic Indian religion that dates back to the 6th century BCE, and today has around 7 million followers. To Jainism’s strictest adherents, even a walk through the grass or drinking tea with honey can be a morally perilous proposition, given the soul-possessing living things, from plants to insects to microbes, that can be harmed in the process. Part of a video series on the intersection of food and spirituality by the Italian-born, London-based filmmaker Matan Rochlitz, this short features a Jain ascetic discussing how a restricted diet (mostly water and dry grains) guides his spiritually.

Director: Matan Rochlitz

The extraordinary physical and mental demands of performing Sichuan opera

With origins deep in southern China’s folk storytelling and music customs, Sichuan opera is characterised by traditional instrumentation, a distinctive singing style, elaborate, colourful costumes, changing masks that reflect characters’ emotional states, and daring stunts including martial arts, acrobatics and fire-breathing. Part of a video series on work in modern China by the US filmmaker Noah Sheldon, this short documentary profiles the Chongqing-based Sichuan opera singer Zhou Xing Yu as she prepares for her next show, reflecting on her abiding love of performing despite the intensity and pain of many years of training.

Director: Noah Sheldon

Producer: Jean Liu

Composer: Nick Zinner

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