Winter’s watch

14 minutes

Home stream

11 minutes

My little piece of privacy

3 minutes

Three pioneers who predicted climate change

5 minutes

Peter and Ben

10 minutes

The profound solitude of a winter spent alone on an island caring for an empty hotel

‘It’s the great waiting of winter … hulking there and biding its time until life comes back.’

A meditation on the appeals and challenges of solitude, Winter’s Watch accompanies Alexandra de Steiguer who for 19 winters has been the ‘caretaker’ of the Oceanic Hotel on Star Island in New Hampshire while it is closed during New England’s coldest months. Tasked with tending to the island’s 43 acres by herself, de Steiguer finds peace and meaning in being alone with her thoughts, and creative inspiration for her photography, though at times her mind has turned to ghosts and intruders. With breathtaking cinematography from the US filmmaker Brian Bolster, Winter’s Watch was a film festival favourite in 2017, appearing at AFI Docs, Camden International Film Festival, DOC NYC and Palm Springs International ShortFest, among many others.

Director: Brian Bolster

Executive Producer: Thomas Harrington

A street-level view of homelessness from a woman living through it

Many portraits of homelessness still end up ‘othering’ people, despite their storytellers’ best intentions. The UK-based Italian filmmaker Giulia Gandini wanted to try something different, aiming to capture an account of homelessness without imposing her own biases. Lily Blackham had been living on London’s streets for 18 months after escaping an abusive relationship when Gandini gave her an iPhone to chronicle her experiences over three days and tell her own story. The resulting short film, Home Stream, is a touching first-person glimpse into the many practical and emotional complications of homelessness and rough sleeping – from feeling invisible to passersby to not having money for sanitary pads. In doing so, Gandini and Blackham build a deeply humanising portrait of a life on the margins, replete with heartache and struggle, but not without moments of joy.

Via Directors Notes

Directors: Giulia Gandini and Lily Blackham

A curtain that twitches as people walk by creates a delightful paradox of privacy

In 2010, the German artist Niklas Roy embarked on a project to take back a small slice of privacy in an era and in a place – his Berlin workshop – where it can be quite hard to come by. The resulting installation, My Little Piece of Privacy, comprised a surveillance camera, ‘computer vision’ software and a small, motorised curtain, which followed pedestrians as they walked past his storefront. As you might imagine, the moving curtain had an inverse (and amusing) effect, causing passersby to spend far more time in front of his window than they would have otherwise. This short video, featuring scenes from the installation set to a retro arcade-inspired score, makes a highly entertaining spectacle out of Roy’s clever provocation of privacy.

Via Colossal

Director: Niklas Roy

Score: Holy Konni

Climate change science is centuries, not decades old, and it was pioneered by a woman

The notion that human activities might be warming the planet started coming into focus in the 1960s and ’70s, before a scientific consensus emerged in the 1980s and ’90s. But the rough outlines of the science surrounding humanity’s greatest contemporary threat has a surprising, little-known history that dates back roughly two centuries. This brief animation from BBC Ideas traces our modern understanding of the greenhouse effect through the work of three pioneering scientists, beginning with the US scientist and women’s rights activist Eunice Foote, whose 1856 work on the heat-trapping effects of CO2 was buried for decades before being rediscovered in 2010.

Video by BBC Ideas

Animator: Peter Caires

After 30 years of solitude, Peter forms an unlikely friendship with a fellow loner

‘I had left my flock, and Ben had left his.’

After taking a walk through a remote Welsh valley, Peter committed himself to a life there, and disconnected from the outside world. In doing so, he found a solitary inner peace – a peace he maintained for nearly three decades, until, one day, he stumbled upon a lamb that had been left for dead. Finding kinship with the fellow ‘dropout’, Peter took the abandoned creature home and named him Ben. The short Peter and Ben (2007) by the UK filmmaker Pinny Grylls captures the duo’s relationship three years after their chance meeting, as Peter attempts to return Ben to the wild. With a melancholic piano score and sweeping views of the Welsh countryside, her touching film lends a lyrical beauty to this tale of unlikely connection and camaraderie between outsiders.

Director: Pinny Grylls

Producer: Victoria Cameron

Score: Will Hood

The profound solitude of a winter spent alone on an island caring for an empty hotel

‘It’s the great waiting of winter … hulking there and biding its time until life comes back.’

A meditation on the appeals and challenges of solitude, Winter’s Watch accompanies Alexandra de Steiguer who for 19 winters has been the ‘caretaker’ of the Oceanic Hotel on Star Island in New Hampshire while it is closed during New England’s coldest months. Tasked with tending to the island’s 43 acres by herself, de Steiguer finds peace and meaning in being alone with her thoughts, and creative inspiration for her photography, though at times her mind has turned to ghosts and intruders. With breathtaking cinematography from the US filmmaker Brian Bolster, Winter’s Watch was a film festival favourite in 2017, appearing at AFI Docs, Camden International Film Festival, DOC NYC and Palm Springs International ShortFest, among many others.

Director: Brian Bolster

Executive Producer: Thomas Harrington

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

Detail from Sunset (Zarathustra), 1917 by Christian Rohlfs. Landesmuseum Oldenburg, Germany. Photo by AKG

Essay/
Stories and literature
The inward gaze

In Hermann Hesse’s novels, as in his life, self-discovery walked a tightrope between deep insights and profound solipsism

M M Owen

Scientists near the Daneborg research station in Greenland, July/August 2014. Photo by Jean Gaumy/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of science
The necessity of awe

In awe we hold fast to nature’s strangeness and open up to the unknown. No wonder it’s central to the scientific imagination

Helen De Cruz