Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

28 APRIL, 2011

Human Planet: BBC Unravels Earth’s Secrets

By:

What rainforest tribes in the jungle have to do with reindeer swimmers in the Arctic.

What are the secrets of this amazing planet we call home, and what exactly is our place in it? This question has been tickling humanity’s curiosity in a profound way since time immemorial and, now, the BBC is making an unprecedented effort to answer it.

Human Planet — an ambitious, jaw-dropping, exquisitely cinematic series exploring mankind’s rich and complex relationship with nature across the globe, out this week on DVD, Blu-ray and video-on-demand.

Filmed on more than 80 locations across remote lands, underwater worlds and aerial heights, it covers everything from the first recorded footage of the world’s last uncontacted tribe in the Brazilian rainforest…

It’s important for humanity these people exist. They remind us it is possible… to live in a different way.” ~ Jose Carlos Meirelles

…to fox hunting with a golden eagle in Mongolia…

…to extreme fishing at Victoria Falls…

…to the magnificent swim of 3,000 reindeer across the icy Arctic waters.

At once exhilarating and profoundly humbling, Human Planet is the kind of journey you go on and never fully come back from, your worldview and self-conception forever changed by the intensity and richness of the experience.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

27 APRIL, 2011

Mark of Cain: The Language of Russian Criminal Tattoos

By:

What encrypted visual communication has to do with the Russian justice system.

The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia is among Brain Pickings‘s most popular books of all time. Its curious subject — the poetic, fading art form and language of Russian criminal tattoos — is also the subject of filmmaker Alix Lambert’s 2001 documentary, The Mark of Cain, which is now available online under a Creative Commons license.

Lambert traveled on a shoestring budget to document the complex social hierarchy of Russia’s prison system, where inmates use highly symbolic tattoo art as a mark of rank. Since its earliest documented cases in the 1920s, this practice has remained largely a taboo and is actually illegal in Russian prisons, yet some estimates suggest that in the last generation alone, more than 30 million of Russia’s inmates have been inked. The unique visual language of the tattoos encrypts everything you need to know about an inmate without ever asking, from the number of convictions an inmate has to his rank in the crime world.

The Mark of Cain explores this fascinating subculture and its duality — its role in prison survival on the one hand and, on the other, the permanent mark it leaves on inmates as they try to reintegrate into society — though a layered look at everything from the actual creation of tattoo ink to the devastating conditions of the prisons to the intimate first-hand stories of prisoners revealed in hard-earned interviews.

The film is also available on DVD and served as source material for David Cronenberg’s excellent Oscar-nominated 2007 film Eastern Promises about the Russian mob in London, starring Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen.

via Meta Filter

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

22 APRIL, 2011

An Eyeful of Sound: How Synesthesia Works

By:

The color of Friday, or what the absence on silence has to do with the presence of light.

I have a long-standing fascinating with synesthesia, the rare neurological condition that leads stimulation in one sensory pathway to trigger an experience in another — a neural short-circuiting that enables such strange phenomena as hearing colors, seeing sounds, and tasting smells.

The ongoing effort to understand the synesthetic experience stretches from beautiful ways of visualizing music in color to studying the brain of a synesthetic autistic savant. Now comes An Eyeful of Sound — a remarkable animated documentary about audio-visual synesthesia, which attempts to add an intimate, visceral layer to our intellectual understanding of the peculiar condition.

All sounds have color. The alphabet has color. Days of the week have color. Each day has a color and a certain shape.

What makes strange phenomena like synesthesia all the more fascinating is that they raise unsettling questions about some of the most fundamental givens of the “normal” brain: Does color even exist, or is it merely a product of our fancy? (Goethe had some thoughts on the subject.) Do things have inherent, static smells, tastes, sounds and colors, or do we arbitrarily confer those qualities by manufacturing them in our own minds? Are life’s sensory qualities static and permanent — is the sky always blue, lemons always sour — or are they fluid and dynamic attributes on a spectrum of which we just happen to experience arbitrary slices?

HT @kirstinbutler

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

19 APRIL, 2011

Bompas & Parr, Jelly Architects

By:

Last year, we looked at artists creating incredible edible landscapes out of food, condiments and spices. But hardly does the unusual medium become a greater feat of architecture than when its raw material is the least architectural of substances: jelly. Just ask British food consultancy Bompas & Parr, better known as Jellymongers.

In this short documentary, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr talk about the whimsical “food experiences” they’re known for, and how they rendered everything from St. Paul’s Cathedral to Buckingham Palace in gelatinous form using their signature blend of science, cutting-edge technology and architecture — just the kind of cross-pollinating of disciplines we believe is fundamental to creativity.

The whole reason we events is to give people their own stories. They’re very active participants. If you go into a restaurant, you don’t want to be talked at by a waiter the entire time. Actually, the really important thing is the conversations you have with your diners around us and around the food.”

The film comes from the fine folks at Berlin-based visual culture mongers Gestalten, who also brought us the excellent Shepard Fairey interview on copyright, Big Brother and social change, among other fantastic micro-documentaries about creative culture mavericks and pioneers.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.