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Down from the mountains

15 minutes

ORIGINAL

The forgotten (female) quantum pioneer, Grete Hermann

4 minutes

My dead dad’s porno tapes

14 minutes

Commodity city

10 minutes

Can apes really ‘talk’ to humans?

8 minutes

Why millions of children are left to raise themselves in the Chinese countryside

While industrialisation has prompted unprecedented economic growth and allowed for the rise of a new middle class in China, urbanisation has also left some 9 million children in the countryside alone or in the care of relatives as their parents work in cities far from home. Down from the Mountains chronicles the lives of three children, the oldest of whom is 14, who when not in school live often unattended on a farm in Liangshan, an autonomous region for the Yi ethnic group. With their parents working in the distant city of Huizhou, where they make headphones for $15 per day, only their grandmother, who lives a 40-minute walk away, is able to supervise them and help with farm work on occasion. The UK-born director Max Duncan’s short film brings us into the lives of this fractured family as Jiajia, the mother, considers a permanent return home.

The full-length version of this film was produced in collaboration with ChinaFile, a project of the Asia Society Center on US-China Relations, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Director: Max Duncan

Producers: Susan Jakes, Muyi Xiao, Motsi Ithlop

Why millions of children are left to raise themselves in the Chinese countryside

While industrialisation has prompted unprecedented economic growth and allowed for the rise of a new middle class in China, urbanisation has also left some 9 million children in the countryside alone or in the care of relatives as their parents work in cities far from home. Down from the Mountains chronicles the lives of three children, the oldest of whom is 14, who when not in school live often unattended on a farm in Liangshan, an autonomous region for the Yi ethnic group. With their parents working in the distant city of Huizhou, where they make headphones for $15 per day, only their grandmother, who lives a 40-minute walk away, is able to supervise them and help with farm work on occasion. The UK-born director Max Duncan’s short film brings us into the lives of this fractured family as Jiajia, the mother, considers a permanent return home.

The full-length version of this film was produced in collaboration with ChinaFile, a project of the Asia Society Center on US-China Relations, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Director: Max Duncan

Producers: Susan Jakes, Muyi Xiao, Motsi Ithlop

Splitting the truth: the philosopher that physics forgot

In the early 20th century, Newtonian physics was upended by experiments that revealed a bizarre subatomic universe riddled with peculiarities and inconsistencies. Why do photons and electrons behave as both particles and waves? Why should the act of observation affect the behaviour of physical systems? More than just a puzzle for scientists to sort out, this quantum strangeness had unsettling implications for our understanding of reality, including the very concept of truth.

The German mathematician and philosopher Grete Hermann offered some intriguing and original answers to these puzzles. In a quantum universe, she argued, the notion of absolute truth must be abandoned in favour of a fragmented view – one in which the way we measure the world affects the slice of it that we can see. She referred to this idea as the ‘splitting of truth’, and believed it extended far beyond the laboratory walls and into everyday life. With a striking visual style inspired by the modern art of Hermann’s era, this Aeon Original video explores one of Hermann’s profound but undervalued contributions to quantum theory – as well as her own split life as an anti-Nazi activist, social justice reformer and educator.

Animation by Kaleida Studio

Directed and Animated by Julie Gratz and Ivo Stoop 

Designed by Julie Gratz    

Produced by Kellen Quinn 

Writers: Sally Davies and Elise Crull

Sound designers: Eli Cohn, Ben Chesneau, Maya Peart

Narrator: Jan Cramer

What you can tell about a person from the junk they leave behind

The Canadian filmmaker Charlie Tyrell delves into his late father’s belongings in an effort to better understand the man’s inscrutable inner life, including his somewhat cold and distant demeanour towards his three children. Finding no answers in those titular, poorly hidden VHS tapes, Tyrell tugs at the roots of his family tree, uncovering an intergenerational cycle of abuse that makes him reconsider his complicated relationship with his father. Crafted with humour and heart, Tyrell’s inventive and deeply personal collage of animations, archival footage and audio recordings was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018, among others.

Director: Charlie Tyrell

Producer: Julie Baldassi

Writers: Josef Beeby, Charlie Tyrell

Five miles of fake flowers, cat cushions and muzak: enter the world’s largest market

The Yiwu International Trade City in China is the world’s largest wholesale market for consumer goods, stretching some five miles and featuring roughly 75,000 vendors. The Chinese-American filmmaker Jessica Kingdon’s observational documentary Commodity City employs static shots of everyday scenes from the market – mostly without dialogue – to convey the seemingly endless stretches of vendor booths that specialise in everything from cat pillows to Santa figurines. Through these vignettes, Kingdon captures the incongruous interplay of boredom and commerce, vastness and claustrophobia that characterises this otherworldly space, offering a hypnotic anthropologic exploration of consumer culture and capitalism.

Director: Jessica Kingdon

Producers: Daniel Cooper, Kira Simon-Kennedy

People have been trying to talk with apes for nearly a century. How far have we got?

Since the early 20th century, a number of curious (and sometimes ethically dubious) psychological studies have tried to figure out if we can communicate with great apes using language. In the 1970s, the answer was reported to be an unequivocal ‘yes’ after Koko, a female western lowland gorilla, learned to sign at her handler, a graduate student at Stanford University, using a modified version of American Sign Language. But more recent critiques of the Koko studies (and others) dispute the idea that great apes have had truly meaningful two-way language communication with humans. This video from NPR’s Skunk Bear offers a brief survey of the history of ape-human communication research, suggesting that ‘Can we talk with them?’ might be the wrong question to ask.

Video by Skunk Bear

Producers: Ryan Kellman, Adam Cole

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