EXCLUSIVE

Letting you go

18 minutes

Building beauty with biology

5 minutes

A brief history of melancholy

5 minutes

The Sutton Hoo helmet

19 minutes

Gut hack

12 minutes

What it’s like to stand by your daughter in her choice to die

Doctor-assisted suicide for the chronically mentally ill is currently legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland, despite being one of the most contentious points in the ongoing right-to-die debate. Letting You Go follows one such Dutch patient, 27-year-old Sanne, who, after nearly a decade of pursuing treatments for her chronic depression, insomnia and borderline personality disorder, has chosen to end her suffering and pursue a planned death. While clearly shaken, Sanne’s father has made the difficult decision to stand by his daughter’s choice, reasoning ‘she couldn’t, and shouldn’t, do this alone’. Unflinching, honest and humane, the Dutch director Kim Faber’s film is both a moving portrait of father and daughter, and an intimate look at one of the most controversial medical ethics issues of our times. The film played at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in 2014 and AFI DOCS film festival in 2015.

Director: Kim Faber

Producers: Anna Beerstra, Randy Vermeulen

Director of Photography: Christian van Duuren

Editor: Martin Gerrits

The uncanny art inspired by evolution and generated by ‘crossbreeding’ images

When viewing the work of the US artist and tool developer Joel Simon, you might find that his images are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before – which makes sense, as they weren’t quite born of nature or a human mind. Inspired by the biological properties of evolution and emergence, Simon uses simple programming rules, which, when applied over and over, give rise to uncanny images that augment the human imagination. His most recent work, explored in this video from Science Friday, applies a machine-learning framework known as a generative adversarial network (GAN) to two images. Guided by human users via Simon’s website Artbreeder, his programs ‘crossbreed’ pictures of everything from animals to artworks. Fascinating digital artefacts in their own right, the resulting, author-less images raise complex questions at the nexus of art, programming and design.

Video by Science Friday

Producer: Luke Groskin

From imbalanced humours to brain chemistry – on the evolution of melancholy

The Ancient Greeks blamed sadness on bodily humours called ‘melaina kole’ (black bile). Today, clinical depression is often understood as an imbalance of brain chemicals – although this is a paradigm that many experts believe is overdue for an update. This animation from TED-Ed offers a brief examination of the history of melancholy, scoping how philosophers, poets, writers and scientists have envisioned and altered our understanding of the experience across the ages.

Video by TED-Ed

Director: Sharon Colman

Writer: Courtney Stephens

The meanings and mysteries of the iconic Sutton Hoo helmet brought vividly to life

The early Anglo-Saxon artefact known as the Sutton Hoo helmet has, since its origins in the 7th century, passed through many incarnations, including: exquisite armour, long-dormant burial object, astounding archeological discovery and high-stakes puzzle. Today, the Sutton Hoo helmet – so named for the site in the English county of Suffolk at which it was discovered in 1939 – lives on as one of the British Museum’s most famous pieces. In this video, Sue Brunning, curator of the museum’s European Early Medieval Insular Collection, examines the iconic object, revealing the multitude of meanings and mysteries it holds. Through her investigation, Brunning brilliantly captures how history is an ever-fluid work in progress, being made and remade as new discoveries are brought – often quite literally – to light.

Video by the British Museum

When medicine offers no relief, a biohacker begins a radical self-experiment

In 2015, the US scientist, artist and self-described ‘biohacker’ Josiah Zayner undertook a controversial project to help resolve his lifelong gastrointestinal issues. The plan was to replace the vast colonies of microbiota on and inside his body via transplants from a healthy donor – and then document the proceedings. Although an accomplished biologist with a PhD in biophysics and two years as a NASA researcher under his belt, Zayner’s endeavour was frowned upon by much of the scientific community, with critics condemning the project for operating outside the normal boundaries of bioethics. Especially controversial was Zayner’s plan to self-administer a faecal transplant – a risky procedure usually reserved for potentially fatal conditions. In their documentary Gut Hack, the filmmakers Mario Furloni and Kate McLean follow Zayner’s fascinating, radical and not-for-the-squeamish quest for relief. In so doing, they also confront deeper issues of ethics and autonomy at the core of contemporary science.

Directors: Mario Furloni, Kate McLean

Producer: Laura Heberton

What it’s like to stand by your daughter in her choice to die

Doctor-assisted suicide for the chronically mentally ill is currently legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland, despite being one of the most contentious points in the ongoing right-to-die debate. Letting You Go follows one such Dutch patient, 27-year-old Sanne, who, after nearly a decade of pursuing treatments for her chronic depression, insomnia and borderline personality disorder, has chosen to end her suffering and pursue a planned death. While clearly shaken, Sanne’s father has made the difficult decision to stand by his daughter’s choice, reasoning ‘she couldn’t, and shouldn’t, do this alone’. Unflinching, honest and humane, the Dutch director Kim Faber’s film is both a moving portrait of father and daughter, and an intimate look at one of the most controversial medical ethics issues of our times. The film played at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in 2014 and AFI DOCS film festival in 2015.

Director: Kim Faber

Producers: Anna Beerstra, Randy Vermeulen

Director of Photography: Christian van Duuren

Editor: Martin Gerrits

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The Madness of Joanna of Castile (1866) by Lorenzo Vallés. Courtesy of the Museo del Prado, Madrid

Essay/
Meaning and the good life
Final thoughts

Do deathbed regrets give us a special insight into what really matters in life? There are good reasons to be sceptical

Neil Levy

At the Maison Blanche psychiatric hospital in Paris, 1954. Photo by Jean-Philippe Charbonnier/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Essay/
History of science
Shocked

It damages memory and cognition, and brings no lasting relief. Why is ‘electroshock’ therapy still a mainstay of psychiatry?

John Read