Eyes of exodus

28 minutes

Ins holz (In the woods)

13 minutes

H₂O

12 minutes

Live streamer

6 minutes

Furniture poetry

5 minutes

What happens when refugees start to outnumber residents on a small tourist island

The Greek island of Kastellorizo is normally a sleepy tourist destination, with its population of just a few hundred mostly isolated from the events of the outside world. But life on the picturesque island shifted dramatically with the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011 and the ensuing refugee crisis. Located just a mile off the south coast of Turkey, for a while Kastellorizo became an impromptu waypoint for Syrian refugees arriving on smugglers’ boats, seeking asylum elsewhere in Europe. With limited resources to accommodate the enormous influx of people, the residents received them in varying ways: some did everything they could to help; others lashed out in anger; most landed somewhere in the middle, struggling to provide aid without upending their own lives. Intertwining the perspectives of several Syrian refugees and Kastellorizo residents, Alexandra Liveris’s documentary humanises the bitter realities of the ongoing migrant crisis, in which both displaced people and those receiving them are pushed to their limits.

Director: Alexandra Liveris

Surgeons with chainsaws – the breathtaking craft of logging on a Swiss mountainside

In most of the world, logging is now largely the work of massive machinery. But in the steeply sloped woods above Lake Ägeri in Switzerland, a combination of chainsaws, jacks, muscles and gravity is still the most effective means of bringing down trees for lumber. Once every four years, skilled loggers travel to the area to collect mature trees in a sustainable harvesting tradition that, in turn, allows saplings to take in sunlight and flourish. After felling the trees at careful angles, the workers send them careening through the woods with spectacular speed and force until they reach the water below with a satisfying splash. From there, the timber is floated downriver into town. The loggers’ confident expertise masks the immense dangers of the job, which could easily turn deadly in an instant. With stunning cinematography, Ins holz (In the woods) offers a rare look at this nearly extinct practice and the culture that surrounds it, making for a deeply visceral and visually stunning celebration of a hard day’s work.

Directors: Thomas Horat, Corina Schwingruber Ilic

Website: Mythenfilm

A meditative cinepoem from 1929 captures the reflective, ethereal wonders of water

The US photographer and filmmaker Ralph Steiner (1899-1986) is widely considered to be a pioneer of both media, celebrated for his century-spanning work in modernist photography and documentary and avant-garde film. H₂O (1929), his debut short and one of the earliest US art films, is a meditative, visual ode to water in its many forms, focused on the liquid’s various textures and shape-distorting reflective qualities. In a series of static yet dynamic shots, water-spewing pipes and fire hydrants, waterfalls, raindrops, slow-flowing streams, and the shimmering surfaces of near-stagnant bodies appear on screen, with the visuals gradually becoming more abstract as Steiner transitions to closeups of water surfaces. This version of the film features a new original piano score from the Illinois-based composer William Pearson, commissioned by Aeon. H₂O is frequently mentioned alongside another documentary touchstone of the same year: Regen, by the Dutch directors Joris Ivens and Mannus Franken, which celebrates Amsterdam in the rain.

Director: Ralph Steiner

Composer: William Pearson

When being watched is your work – life inside a Chinese live-streaming company

On China’s state-controlled internet, live-streaming fills a role similar to YouTube in the United States, allowing young people to keep up with, and even interact with, their favourite internet personalities. It’s also boomed into a multibillion dollar industry, driven by ‘gifts’ – small amounts of money sent from viewers to streamers – and brand partnerships. Live Streamer chronicles a day in the life of one Beijing-based web personality, Jing Zi, as she offers beauty tips, sings songs and, most popularly, eats for her young fanbase. The work is challenging, requiring her to entertain viewers for up to seven hours a day, but she also says it feels good to be cared for by so many fans. Live Streamer is part of the Shanghai-based US filmmaker Noah Sheldon’s Work-is documentary series, which ‘sets out to catalogue the labour force of China in a more intimate and granular way, using voices and personal histories to colour the notion of what it means to be working in modern China’.

Director: Noah Sheldon

Producer: Jean Liu

Playing peekaboo with Wittgenstein: what do objects do when we’re not looking?

Warning: this film features rapidly flashing images that can be distressing to photosensitive viewers. 

‘What prevents me from supposing that this table either vanishes or alters its shape when no one is observing it, and then when someone looks at it again, changes back? But one feels like saying – who is going to suppose such a thing?’ – Ludwig Wittgenstein in On Certainty (1969)

Inspired by the Austrian philosopher’s posthumously published words above on the limits of human perception to account for the outside world, the UK filmmaker Paul Bush constructed the experimental short Furniture Poetry (1999). The stop-motion animation brings to life a universe where fruits, furniture and tableware shift colour and shape when we’re not looking. The result is a simultaneously jarring and amusing visual poem – a dizzying, madcap meditation on our uncertain reality and the limits of knowledge.

Director: Paul Bush

What happens when refugees start to outnumber residents on a small tourist island

The Greek island of Kastellorizo is normally a sleepy tourist destination, with its population of just a few hundred mostly isolated from the events of the outside world. But life on the picturesque island shifted dramatically with the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011 and the ensuing refugee crisis. Located just a mile off the south coast of Turkey, for a while Kastellorizo became an impromptu waypoint for Syrian refugees arriving on smugglers’ boats, seeking asylum elsewhere in Europe. With limited resources to accommodate the enormous influx of people, the residents received them in varying ways: some did everything they could to help; others lashed out in anger; most landed somewhere in the middle, struggling to provide aid without upending their own lives. Intertwining the perspectives of several Syrian refugees and Kastellorizo residents, Alexandra Liveris’s documentary humanises the bitter realities of the ongoing migrant crisis, in which both displaced people and those receiving them are pushed to their limits.

Director: Alexandra Liveris

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