Letters from the Field — April 2018 Issue

25 films from the Science New Wave

Two weeks ago the sun crossed the celestial equator from southern to northern hemisphere. For those in the north, this means days longer than nights, warmer temperatures, deeper thaw, migrations, fresh growth — all those signifiers collected under the word “spring”. At Labocine, we too turn towards the shifting seasons and head outdoors. It’s time to get out of the lab, a time to launch new field projects and investigate the natural world. Across forest, jungle, or tundra, plunging into biomes and observing agricultural issues. For those south of the equator, flip all of those signs: fall is upon us but we can still look back over the growing seasons of the last six months. Either way, this is chance to check in with all of those lifeforms living among and besides us across the globe.

Coronation Park

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Coronation Park (Su Rynard)

Coronation Park is constructed from shots of bare maple and oak trees in winter. The images are paired with the single word breathe. Inspired by the many languages spoken in the city of Toronto where the film was shot, the words rhythmically appear then disappear, each time in a different language. This pairing of text and image suggests a plea for the trees to “breathe”, to come back to life, to transform themselves from bare branches to the green leaves of spring. The winter leafless trees also resemble human body parts, limbs and veins, thus this plea is also for the humans — the living city. Occasionally automobiles blur and stutter past the trees both revealing the location of Coronation Park as a busy urban island and presenting an urban paradox: the traffic produces copious amounts of carbon dioxide, while the trees absorb it, releasing oxygen back into the air — ultimately, trees “breathe” for our city.

Hope Island

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Hope Island (Charles Lindsay)

Ctenophora / Comb Jellies are the oceanic species that recently initiated a radical re-drawing of the Tree of Life — from the bottom up. This video was captured during a full moon upwelling at Hope Island, British Columbia — as raw material for installations that consider alternate evolutionary paths and the idea of life elsewhere in the universe.

SUB: Are hipsters becoming a subspecies of humans?

Are hipsters becoming a subspecies of humans? What is life expectancy? How do they dress? How fast does their beard grow?

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SUB: Are hipsters becoming a subspecies of humans? (Charlotte Rabate)

Washingtonia

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Washingtonia (Konstantina Kotzamani)

The giraffe is the animal with the biggest heart. The distance between its head and its heart is three meters, so the heart is big enough to send the blood all the way up. When the giraffe is lying down, its heartbeat touches the ground-it goes underground. All animals are tuned to the heartbeat of the giraffe. In the heart of the summer, in the midst of the tropical heat, the giraffe’s heart is no longer heard, the animals are thrown into confusion. As they search for this beat, it is then that the strangest things happen.

How to Found an Ant Colony

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Every spring, established ant colonies exile their royalty — small populations of reproductive female and male ants. These winged layabouts suddenly spring into action, flying up into the air to enter clouds of mating ants, called leks. They mate for the first and last time with ants from neighboring colonies. Males die soon afterward. But for a would-be queen, the dramatic encounter marks the beginning of an odyssey that few will endure. This film documents the ceaseless activity of a single queen raising her first batch of brood.

The Loneliest

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The Loneliest (Lilian Mehrel)

Go ‘behind-the-scenes’ of British nature show Ocean Discovery in this tragicomic mockumentary: Violet (a camera-girl with a wry sense of humor) and Ingrid (a marine biologist with a singular passion for whales) go looking for the loneliest whale in the world (with a voice too high for the others to hear.)

Biosemiotic Borneo

Biosemiotic Borneo ­– a more explicitly sonic than visual piece of art — lingers around a giant Banyan tree that stands in the Meratus Mountains in Southeast Borneo. Drawing attention to the semiotic processes of world-making in nature, the audio-visual work explores how artists and field biologists go about sensing and making sense of dense forest ecologies of Borneo using new methods that describe entire genetic assemblages as fluid text. The sensory richness of the forest inspired this piece to be a form of music in the way geophilosophy recasts natural selection as musical composition, which binds together the coevolution of a tree, birds, insects and symbiont microorganisms.

Biosemiotic Borneo (Ursula Biemann)

Stella 50.4N1.5E

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Stella 50.4N1.5E (Elsa Brès)

Facing a sea of dunes, hands are putting together a heap of documents — maps, samples, 3D scans of landscape, thermographies. They elaborate a manifold, experimental and invading cartography of a moving landscape. This manipulation work erects Stella -an unpopulated seaside resort- as a milieu where the relationship between the instability of earthly matter and the authority of geometry becomes graspable. The perception process shifts, buildings are worn away, landscape is an architecture.

Arrábida — There is Only One Earth

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Arrábida — There is Only One Earth (Tinne Zenner)

A film centred on the production of landscape and concrete in the Arrábida Natural Park, Portugal. Covering a vast area of coast, caves, mountains and forest, the park is inhabited by a massive concrete factory that branches through the landscape. Documenting the various layers of the sourced material, the factory body and the constructed landscape, the film looks at how time is physically embedded in the matter and how the molecular particles act in a circular re-shaping of the whole. The film merges 16mm footage shot in the area of Arrábida with 3D animation of the topographic landscape as an equal analogue layer.

A Commons Sense

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A Commons Sense (Chintan Gohil)

biopiracy |ˌbʌɪəʊˈpʌɪrəsi|
noun [ mass noun ]
the practice of commercially exploiting naturally occurring biochemical or genetic material, especially by obtaining patents that restrict its future use, while failing to pay fair compensation to the community from which it originates.

The Shark in the Park

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The Shark in the Park (Polynoid)

The Shark in the Park visualizes the growth and development process of a special strawberry species called “Parco Pistris” which has been discovered by a Korean scientifical research group KSPRI in 2016. KSPRI commissioned animation-director-collective Polynoid to take their research and create a visualisation that would feature all of the actually pretty stunning facts about the plant and still be entertaining in order to bring the piece not only to a biology focused but wider and younger audience.

The Magnificent Life Underwater

In this animated parody of a classic undersea adventure show, an authoritative narrator reveals the wonders and mysteries of the sea — although the banal habits of these homely aquatic creatures are oddly familiar

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The Magnificent Life Underwater (Joël Vaudreuil)

In this animated parody of a classic undersea adventure show, an authoritative narrator reveals the wonders and mysteries of the sea — although the banal habits of these homely aquatic creatures are oddly familiar.

The Stability of the System

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The Stability of the System (Sasha Litvintseva & Isabel Mallet)

The Stability of the System is an exploration into the material agency of images and of forms and their ability to call each other into being.The film begins with a mathematical point willing itself into dimensional existence, inventing/discovering space, then time. Shot on the volcanic island of Lanzarote, the film’s images are eruptions willed into existence by the creative act of the molten rock. The landscape absorbs all subjectivity, hallucinating the tragic death of Robert Smithson in its monochrome of endless black lava fields and scorching white of a cloudless sky. In the end the filmmaker dissolves into the landscape, no longer able to see — the landscape sees for her.

Below 0°

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Below 0° (Itai Hagage & Jonathan Gomez)

A meteorologist who narrates his experience in the Arctic through a voice recording; And how his life is linked physically and spiritually to nature. Below 0 ° is an animated short film that uses fictional documentary as its main narrative resource.

Sowing the Seeds of Change

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Sowing the Seeds of Change (Doreen Edemafaka)

Desertification in Kenya resulting from unsustainable development and use of trees for firewood, has caused substantial environmental damage such as Drought, land erosion, dried up river bed due to insufficient amount of rain and lose of wildlife and birds; Social damage such as families going hungry because their crops have failed, villagers having to walk long distance to find water or firewood and villages losing their land to developers.

Migration

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Migration (Fluorescent Hill)

A vintage nature film explores the migratory pattern of a herd of wild creatures.

Milieu

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Milieu (Damien Faure)

Mr Nishida is an entomologist. He has a close bond to the natural environment. On a scientific expedition to the island of Yakushima, an island of mountains shrouded in a seemingly eternal mist, he serves as our ferryman for discovering the spiritual beliefs that accompany the relationship that the island’s inhabitants have with nature. As the surveyors of these mountains covered in luxurious forest, they let us meet the divinities, mischievous spirits and moving landscapes with which they coexist, by visiting a Taoist temple and its Zen garden or an altar in its moss-lined setting in the undergrowth. In the calm of the forest, among the century-old cedars, the ideas of philosopher and geographer Augustin Berque illuminate our reflections on the close connections between nature and culture, the relationship of a society to its environment.

The Shaman and the Scientist

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The Shaman and the Scientist (Sarah Hutt)

This short documentary explores the topic of traditional plant medicine from two perspectives — that of Don Juan Tangoa Paima, a curandero who works with Ayahuasca medicine in the Peruvian Amazon and through the research of Dr. Dennis McKenna, an American Ethnobotanist looking for new plant compounds to treat schizophrenia and dementia. The story takes viewers from jungle to lab asking what is the value of undiscovered knowledge in the worlds most biodiverse biomes, and what’s at stake if we allow those precious resources to be lost.

Territory

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Territory (Eleanor Mortimer)

The rock of Gibraltar is shared between two primate species: people and monkeys. The monkeys populated the upper rock long before the latest human inhabitants, the British, arrived, and now, 300 years on, there are tensions between the two. Attempts to expel the monkeys from the town with peashooters are in vain, as the animals rise to the challenges of the new game. This leads the government to resort to more drastic tactics.

Leafcutters

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Leafcutters (Catherine Chalmers)

“Leafcutters” is an unusual collaboration with millions of wild ants. Focusing on four supposedly unique human traits — language, ritual, war and art — the narrative aims to blur the boundaries between culture and nature.

Common Insects of North America

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Common Insects of North America (Angela Stempel)

A film about bugs having the time of their lives.

Shape Shifting

Granting culture to nonhumans, Shape Shifting outlines a cartography of a landscape found in many parts of Asia, which in Japan is called satoyama — space between village and mountain. Satoyama signifies the diffusions between ‘wild’ and ‘designed’ and can be understood as a membrane arranged through exchanges and encounters between humans and nonhumans. The basis for satoyama’s productivity in agriculture and forestry is based on an increase of biodiversity. The more collaborations between species and cycles of materials are created — the more stable ecosystem and films can be formed.

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Shape Shifting (Elke Marhöfer & Mikhail Lylov)

White Planet

White Planet represents the border between dream and reality. It is a planet with a milky atmosphere, where the ground emanates light and on which the earth’s spatial-temporal rules, feelings and perceptions are altered. The planet is a wrinkled giant animating overflow, eating and disorienting the observer: it is not possible to recognize direction, size and distance.

White Planet (Francesco Mattuzzi)

Wild Plants

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Wild Plants (Nicolas Humbert)

An exploration of people’s associations with plants.

A Toad Story (Kunsten å leggje seg paddeflat)

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A Toad Story (Are Pilskog)

In a deep fjord in Norway a small community is changed forever, as a new European road route threatens the local toads. A Toad Story is a warm film about seeing greatness in the planets smallest creatures.

Labocine is an Imagine Science Films initiative to extend our film programming to a broader and more diverse audience. We have over 1,500 film titles from 200 countries for all ages brought to you by artists, scientists, filmmakers and educators.

By experimenting with cinematic form and style, we are committed to provoking scientific intrigue and understanding, always ensuring compelling and well-founded narratives. Periodically, we release Spotlights online. On the first Tuesday of every month, enjoy our issue selections which complement newsworthy science by proposing a surgically curated online festival. From documentary to fiction to lab footage, we hope to always challenge the way you understand, interpret and appreciate scientific ideas and perspectives.

Submissions: If you would like to submit a film or propose a program for Spotlights, write to us at film@labocine.com

Stay tuned and email us for more information at info@labocine.com.

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