What the psychic saw

5 minutes

Little brother

12 minutes

Lada

19 minutes

The great thinkers

8 minutes

A million to one

5 minutes

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The psychic, the skeptic and the life-and-death prophecy that came true

When the US filmmaker Matthew Palmer’s mother was 28 and childless, she received an unsettling prediction from a psychic: she would have a son, and her husband would die when their son was 13, but it would be ‘okay’. Uninterested in having children and skeptical of psychics, she wrote it off for a time. But when she finally did have a son following a nearly fatal and life-altering case of pneumonia, the prediction creeped back into her mind. She then often used the story, half-jokingly, to warn her husband about his smoking habit. And when Palmer was 13, his father died suddenly of cardiac arrest. Constructed from old home videos and phone conversations with his mother, Palmer’s deeply personal film What the Psychic Saw reflects on his father’s death in the context of the uncanny prediction. An unusual meditation on grief, the short offers no easy answer for the psychic’s eerily accurate words, or whether unexpectedly losing a close, beloved family member can ever really feel ‘okay’.

Video by Matthew Palmer

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Embarrassment is love when you’re hanging with your pre-adolescent kid brother

The Toronto-based filmmaker Dominique van Olm and her younger brother Dexter are separated by 13 years and hundreds of miles, so they spend very little time together. In Little Brother – a ‘hybrid of documentary and narrative fiction’ – van Olm takes that reality and turns it into an experiment in directing and bonding. For the project, Dexter flew to Toronto for the first time, and spent four days with his sister. Trailed by a barebones film crew, van Olm dutifully dragged Dexter to places she thought a 12-year-old boy might enjoy – including a pizzeria, an aquarium and a roller rink. The resulting short film, composed of brief, unscripted vignettes from their time together, is an accomplished and refreshingly restrained work. With a constant undercurrent of slight discomfort, subtle humour and very unspoken familial love, it traces the distinctive contours of this particular sibling relationship and the more universal afflictions of adolescence – inscrutable moods, halting communication and a perpetual state of embarrassment while in the company of family.

Director: Dominique van Olm

Producer: Darren Snowden

Website: Deviio

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Where Soviet cars go to not quite die – driving adventures in northern Russia

The Lada is a stalwart symbol of Soviet Russia. It has also been considered one of the worst cars ever made. Its heyday, if it had one, was in the 1970s, but a substantial number of vehicles remain on the roads today, and hold a special place in the hearts and minds of many Russians. To tell the story of this much-ridiculed car, the filmmaker Dieter Deswarte, the cinematographer Annegret Sachse and the sound engineer Yulia Glukhova travelled the Russian north, from Murmansk to Siberia, to find where the cheap and easily repairable – if reliably unreliable – vehicles are still in action. Along the way, they got to know a colourful range of drivers who recount the complexities of Lada ownership, and, more important still, show the car on the road – or sometimes what it takes to get it on the road. Undercutting broad Western stereotypes of a certain Russian dourness, the filmmakers find humour, warmth and kindness in their driving adventures across the icy landscape.

Lada debuted in 2014 as part of the award-winning omnibus documentary Cinetrain: Russian Winter. An ambitious and inventive filmmaking initiative, the Cinetrain project sent 21 filmmakers from around the world to all corners of Russia to explore its culture through the spectrum of stereotypes – from mail-order brides to heavy drinking. The project was inspired by the work of the influential Soviet Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Medvedkin (1900-89) who, in 1934, built a mobile film studio inside a train before setting out to document life across the country.

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The Bing Bang, reincarnation and other theories of life from budding philosophers

What’s the point of life? Kindness? Recycling? Leaving your body to science? This hybrid of animation and live-action from 2009 generates good fun and plenty of food for thought from its simple premise: asking children some of the most enduring questions in philosophy. While many of the answers – including an innovative ‘exploding monkey theory’ of Homo sapiens origins –  are simply great material for the accompanying animations, others brush up against the current limits of human understanding, prompting meaningful reflection on how we think about life. With its abundance of laugh-out-loud and heartfelt moments, the Montreal-based director Karina Garcia Casanova’s playful film is a worthy tribute to the deeply creative thinking of kids.

Director: Karina Garcia Casanova

Illustrator: James Braithwaite

Animator: Darren Pasemko

Producers: John Christou, Karina Garcia Casanova

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A Nobel laureate and a flea circus join forces for an unforgettable demonstration of inertia

The Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) was formed in 1956 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the mission to create science-education materials for US high-school classrooms. Extracted from a PSSC film from 1959, the first half of this short video finds the Nobel Prize-winning physicist E M Purcell from Harvard University detailing the basics of inertia with some help from a frictionless dry-ice puck – which, by his exceptionally impassive account, is a thing that’s ‘fun to play with’. The video gets a good deal stranger in the second half, which takes viewers on a field trip to Hubert’s Museum in New York City: a long-since defunct cabinet of 10-cent curiosities that was once a Times Square mainstay. There, Hubert’s famed in-house flea circus puts its considerable talents on display as the ringmaster leads a one-of-a-kind inertia demonstration. It all makes for an impressive proof of concept, and some delightfully dated fun.

Restoration: Tamur Qutab

Aeon for Friends

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The psychic, the skeptic and the life-and-death prophecy that came true

When the US filmmaker Matthew Palmer’s mother was 28 and childless, she received an unsettling prediction from a psychic: she would have a son, and her husband would die when their son was 13, but it would be ‘okay’. Uninterested in having children and skeptical of psychics, she wrote it off for a time. But when she finally did have a son following a nearly fatal and life-altering case of pneumonia, the prediction creeped back into her mind. She then often used the story, half-jokingly, to warn her husband about his smoking habit. And when Palmer was 13, his father died suddenly of cardiac arrest. Constructed from old home videos and phone conversations with his mother, Palmer’s deeply personal film What the Psychic Saw reflects on his father’s death in the context of the uncanny prediction. An unusual meditation on grief, the short offers no easy answer for the psychic’s eerily accurate words, or whether unexpectedly losing a close, beloved family member can ever really feel ‘okay’.

Video by Matthew Palmer

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