1929: interviews with elderly people throughout the US

15 minutes

De artificiali perspectiva, or anamorphosis

14 minutes

Pien, queen of the bees

16 minutes

The greatest Briton?

5 minutes

The psychologist who sparked the gay rights movement

7 minutes

The stories and views of elderly people in 1929 offer a riveting account of US history

‘I hope, ladies and gentlemen, you have seen me and you have also heard me.’

The iconic Fox Movietone News, which ran in the United States from 1927 to 1963, was one of the first newsreels to marry moving pictures and sound. Pieced together from Movietone News footage made available by the Moving Image Research Collections at the University of South Carolina, this short film features interviews with elderly people across the US shot in 1929. The (notably all-white) interviewees include the 94-year-old Rebecca Latimer Felton, the avowed racist and one-time slave-owner who served as the first female US senator when she was appointed for a single day in 1922; several Civil War veterans; and a longtime train conductor on his very last run. The result is by turns a charming, jarring and surprising window into US history and a not-so-distant past when the interviewees were distinctly aware of what they perceived to be the gravity of recounting their stories.

Editor: Guy Jones

The Renaissance art illusion that proved everything is a matter of perspective

By the 16th century, European painters had become masterful at crafting illusions of perspective, giving viewers an impression of lifelike, three-dimensional depth on flat surfaces. Building on this well of Renaissance knowledge, a small handful of artists began pushing linear perspective further still, crafting works that required the viewer to occupy a single vantage point – or series of vantage points – in order to be fully understood. Today, this sort of visual illusion, known as anamorphosis, is responsible for viral internet phenomena such as the 3D street paintings of the Rome-based artist Kurt Wenner. At its inception, however, the technique was used to both provocative and whimsical effect, often adding subversive new meanings to works once revealed. In this short film, the celebrated US animation team Stephen and Timothy Quay, better known as ‘the Brothers Quay’, evoke a dark fairytale with their exploration of the technique, which combines stop-motion puppetry with some notable examples of anamorphosis from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Directors: The Brothers Quay

Producer: Keith Griffins

Website: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In between chemotherapy, 10-year-old Pien finds kinship with the honeybees she keeps

Pien is 10 and having treatment for cancer. After learning that crop pesticides and other human activities pose a mounting threat to bees and, by extension, the many foods they pollinate – she developed a passion for the creatures and took up beekeeping. Despite occasional stings, she finds a kinship with the insects, which, like her, are small, industrious and fighting for their survival. While her doctors are hopeful that Pien will make a full recovery, her chemotherapy treatments are an unwelcome intrusion on time she’d much prefer spending with her friends and her colony. With atmospheric cinematography and an observational style, the Dutch filmmaker Ellen Vloet’s short documentary Pien, Queen of the Bees is a sweet and touching portrait of childhood – even as weighty challenges for Pien and her hive hover throughout.

Director: Ellen Vloet

Director of Production: Roel van ’t Hoff

Hero or scoundrel? An iconoclastic biography of Winston Churchill

Most mainstream portrayals of Winston Churchill, such as the critically acclaimed film The Darkest Hour (2017), focus on his role in the Second World War, standing tall in the face of potential Nazi obliteration with a combination of brilliant foresight, fighting spirit and soaring rhetoric. While this is, of course, an important part of the celebrated British prime minister’s legacy, the characterisation paints an extremely incomplete picture of his life, leaving out a great number of important, unflattering facts. This short from the UK filmmaker Steve Roberts deploys a combination of claymation and biting iconoclasm to shine a light on the failing-up nepotism, political opportunism and murderous white supremacy that are often glossed over in surface-level treatments of Churchill’s biography.

Director: Steve Roberts

The pioneering psychologist who proved that being gay isn’t a mental illness

‘What is called this year “evil” and whatever, next year may constitute the blessing of the human race.’

Throughout much of the 20th century in the United States, homosexuality was considered a mental illness by the medical establishment. This view created a cruel set of circumstances for gay people, as a lack of serious research into homosexuality allowed social institutions to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and medical institutions could subject gay people to psychologically and physically damaging therapies.

This brief video essay explores the legacy of the late US psychologist Evelyn Hooker (1907-96), whose groundbreaking studies of homosexuality would help lay the groundwork for the modern gay rights movement. Inspired by her friendship with a gay student she met while teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles in the 1940s, Hooker began to study mental stability in straight and gay male populations. Ultimately, her work revealed that there was no correlation between homosexuality and psychological maladjustment. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association finally removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders amid pressure from gay rights activist, who cited Hooker’s pioneering work in their arguments.

Video by University of California

Website: Fig 1

The stories and views of elderly people in 1929 offer a riveting account of US history

‘I hope, ladies and gentlemen, you have seen me and you have also heard me.’

The iconic Fox Movietone News, which ran in the United States from 1927 to 1963, was one of the first newsreels to marry moving pictures and sound. Pieced together from Movietone News footage made available by the Moving Image Research Collections at the University of South Carolina, this short film features interviews with elderly people across the US shot in 1929. The (notably all-white) interviewees include the 94-year-old Rebecca Latimer Felton, the avowed racist and one-time slave-owner who served as the first female US senator when she was appointed for a single day in 1922; several Civil War veterans; and a longtime train conductor on his very last run. The result is by turns a charming, jarring and surprising window into US history and a not-so-distant past when the interviewees were distinctly aware of what they perceived to be the gravity of recounting their stories.

Editor: Guy Jones

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

Saint John the Evangelist Causes a Pagan Temple to Collapse (c1370) by Francescuccio Ghissi. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Essay/
The ancient world
Fiddling while Rome converts

A generation of pagan bureaucrats amassed wealth and status while Roman emperors Christianised the world around them

Edward Watts

Photo by Eve Arnold/Magnum

Essay/
Neuroscience
The need to touch

The language of touch binds our minds and bodies to the broader social world. What happens when touch becomes taboo?

Laura Crucianelli