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Video | The Atlantic
Video | The Atlantic
The Voices of the Loneliness Epidemic
In January 2018, Theresa May, then the prime minister of the United Kingdom, made an unusual appointment: Tracey Crouch would serve as the world’s first minister for loneliness. The position, May said, would address the fact that, for an estimated 9 million U.K. citizens, “loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.” At the time, Alice Aedy, a British filmmaker in her 20s, was disconcerted by the news. “The idea of a minister for loneliness sounded very dystopian—almost Orwellian,” Aedy told me. “I thought it was a disturbing reflection of the times.” The loneliness epidemic—as many experts are calling it—is a veritable public-health crisis. Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. A lack of social relationships is an enormous risk factor for death, increasing the likelihood of mortality by 26 percent. A major study found that, when compared with people with weak social ties, people who enjoyed meaningful relationships were 50 percent more likely to survive over time. John Cacioppo, a neuroscience professor at the University of Chicago and the world’s leading expert on loneliness, discovered the deleterious effects of social isolation at the cellular level. “We found that loneliness somehow penetrated the deepest recesses of the cell to alter the way genes were being expressed,” he writes in his book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. These are alarming findings, considering that nearly half of Americans report feeling lonely most of the time. The problem is especially acute among young adults ages 18 to 22—a conclusion that is consistent among surveys conducted in the U.K., New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Why is Generation Z so lonely? It’s a question Aedy explores in her short documentary Disconnected, premiering on The Atlantic today. Following the announcement of Crouch’s appointment, Aedy set up a hotline for young people interested in contacting the new minister for loneliness. Within 24 hours, the mailbox was full. “Nothing could prepare us for how emotive the voicemails were,” Aedy said. “On the first night we received them, we stayed up until 3 a.m. listening, sometimes in tears.” Many callers ended their message by thanking the listener for the opportunity to share their feelings, which they said provided a sense of catharsis. A selection of these voicemails is heard in Disconnected. The testimonies are intimate and disarmingly honest. “It would have been difficult to get such revealing interviews in person or on camera,” Aedy said. It’s comforting to call an anonymous hotline, where “no one is there to respond or judge—as if you were stepping into a confession box.” One caller describes his experience of being alienated in a large city. “I sit in my flat and watch people walk by and think, How am I so alone in a place with so many people?” “Everyone else is having the time of their lives,” another caller says, “and you’re the anomaly.” Audio of the calls plays over haunting, atmospheric imagery of people navigating what appears to be a sci-fi dystopia. In fact, the 16-mm cinematography was shot in Lancashire, a “loneliness hot spot” in England. “There’s a lot going on in the voice messages,” Aedy explained, “so we didn’t want the visuals to be over-prescriptive. I wanted to reflect the mood I had personally experienced when listening to the voicemails.” As for the question she originally set out to answer, Aedy found that most of the anonymous callers referenced the strange dichotomy of feeling alone while surrounded by people. “This reinforced the notion that loneliness has little to do with being physically isolated, but more about a sense of disconnection from the people around you,” Aedy said. Cacioppo, the loneliness expert, believes that social media can create a profound sense of estrangement. In his book, he writes that internet communication is a kind of ersatz intimacy: “Surrogates can never make up completely for the absence of the real thing.” After making Disconnected, Aedy agrees. “The fundamental promise of the internet—better human connection—has failed,” she said. “While we may technically be more connected, I think we are actually more isolated from each other than we have ever been.”
2020-03-10 20:41:07
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
The Truth About Stalin’s Prison Camps
Vera Golubeva spent more than six years in one of Joseph Stalin’s gulag camps. Her crime? “To this day, I still don’t know,” she says. In a new documentary from Coda Story, Golubeva remembers the excruciating details of her imprisonment. When she was arrested, along with her father, mother, and sister, Golubeva was taken to KGB headquarters and tortured. She was eight months pregnant. “I felt as if they were burying me alive,” she says in the film. Shortly before being transferred to a labor camp, Golubeva gave birth to a baby boy, who died just days later while in the care of KGB agents. “It was the worst cruelty,” she says. From 1918 to 1987, Soviet Russia operated a network of hundreds of prison camps that held up to 10,000 people each. When Stalin launched his infamous purges in 1936, millions of so-called political prisoners were arrested and transported to the gulags without trial. The first wave of prisoners were military and government officials; later, ordinary citizens—especially intellectuals, doctors, writers, artists, and scientists—were arrested ex nihilo. At the camps, many prisoners were executed or died from overwork and malnutrition. The death rate often hovered around 5 percent, although in years of widespread famine, the mortality rate could be as high as 25 percent. Historians estimate that as part of the gulag, Soviet authorities imprisoned or executed about 25 million people. “That sum is unfathomable,” Katia Patin, who produced the film about Golubeva, told me. Golubeva’s story is part of a powerful oral-history series called Generation Gulag, which Coda Story created to better understand the gulag experience. “We made a point of not relying on numbers to tell the story of the gulag,” Patin said. “Instead, we focused on individual stories as a way of capturing the gulag’s massive scale, as well as the ripple effect set in motion when the Soviet machine of repression bore down on a single person.” Now is a more important time than ever to examine this dark period of Russia’s history. In a poll conducted in 2019, 70 percent of Russians said they approved of Stalin’s role in history—a record high. And nearly half of young Russians said they had never heard of the Stalin-era purges, known as the Great Terror. In Russian school textbooks, the gulag is either glossed over or mentioned as a footnote. “Russia has misrepresented its crimes against humanity by refusing to address them,” Patin said. “It’s incredible to think that not a single person was ever held responsible for running the gulag.” In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Stalin has been rehabilitated as a figure credited with the U.S.S.R.’s victory in World War II—a narrative that leaves little room for examining his role in the gulag, Patin said. The Kremlin has warned that “excessive demonization” of Stalin is, in fact, an “attack on the Soviet Union and Russia,” and Putin has even gone so far as to praise Stalin as an “effective manager.” In 2015, Putin forced museums to remove evidence of Stalin’s crimes. (This state-sanctioned historical negationism has also included the myth that the gulag created industrial success in Russia. In fact, it was an economic disaster, as output almost never compensated for the cost of running the camp system.) On March 5, the anniversary of Stalin’s death, people across Russia gather to commemorate the millions of people who suffered under his rule. “You can say that gulag survivors have successfully reclaimed the anniversary,” Patin said, “but each year, a crowd also gathers outside the Kremlin walls, where Stalin used to be buried, with flowers and portraits of the leader.” Statues celebrating Stalin have recently been erected in Russian cities. On March 5, people leave flowers by them too. “There are two types of history in Russia: the history that belongs to the state, and history that belongs to families,” Patin said. Putin may promulgate a glorified version of Stalin to promote patriotism, but ultimately, Golubeva gets the last word. “The KGB was committing open crimes against humanity,” she says in the film. “It’s my firm belief that only people with a traitor’s heart went to work for the KGB.”
2020-03-05 23:46:55
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
The Daredevil Aviatrix That History Forgot
Bessie Coleman wanted more out of life. Her parents were sharecroppers in rural Texas, and she had spent her childhood picking cotton and doing laundry for white people. It was 1915. Opportunities were scarce for African Americans—let alone women of color. If Coleman wanted more, she realized, she had to go north. She moved to Chicago as part of the Great Migration and took a job at a barbershop. In her free time, Coleman began to read about flying. She read about Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to earn a pilot’s license. She learned of the European women who served as combat pilots during World War I. Inspired by their stories, Coleman resolved to become an aviator. She applied to every flying school in the United States, but, because of widespread race and gender discrimination, she was rejected from all of them. Coleman refused to take no for an answer. She found sponsorship from the black-owned newspaper The Chicago Defender, taught herself French, and moved to France. She earned her license from France's lauded Caudron Brother's School of Aviation in just seven months. specializing in stunt flying and parachuting. In 1921, Coleman became the first black woman to earn a pilot's license. A new short documentary from PBS’s American Masters series revives the story of the daredevil aviatrix whom history forgot. The film, part of a larger series about pioneering American women called Unladylike2020, illuminates Coleman’s achievements through interviews and colorful animation. “Like many Americans, the only woman pilot I had ever heard of was Amelia Earhart,” Charlotte Mangin, who produced the film, told me. “I certainly never imagined that a woman of color was able to obtain a pilot’s license in the 1920s, let alone take the country by storm as an aviator.” What surprised Mangin most about Coleman, however, was the spirit of activism that the pilot brought to her flying shows. “She refused to perform in air shows where African Americans were not allowed to use the front entrance and sit in the stadium with white spectators,” Mangin said. “I can only imagine the courage and determination it took to be an activist in this way, at a time when discrimination and violence against people of color were rampant across America.” At age 34, Coleman’s life was cut short in a plane crash caused by an engine malfunction. Ida B. Wells spoke at her funeral service. In 1929, Coleman’s dream of opening a flying school for African Americans became a reality when William J. Powell established the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles. The school educated and inspired many outstanding black pilots, including the Five Blackbirds and the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Today, only 7 percent of all pilots in the U.S. are women; less than 1 percent are black women.
2020-03-04 21:57:13
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
The Embers of a Childhood Lost
The first thing Whitney Legge noticed at the Red Cross shelter was that, in the midst of so much chaos, the children were building houses. These kids and their families had just been evacuated from the path of a California wildfire that was raging in their hometown of Santa Rosa. They didn’t yet know it, but many were already homeless. At the temporary shelter, the kids sat alone, Legge told me, “and built homes for animals and playhouses for other kids.” When it engulfed Northern California in 2017, the Tubbs Fire was the most destructive in the state’s history, incinerating more than 2,800 homes and killing 20 people. Legge’s short documentary One Thing in Nothing, premiering on The Atlantic today, was filmed in the aftermath of the devastation. The poetic film features interviews with some of the children Legge met at the shelter as they sift through the ashes of their former home. Some of the kids talk about what they lost; others discuss the things they chose to take with them as they fled the flames. Legge was impressed by the unique blend of honesty, playfulness, and wistfulness that characterized the kids’ perspectives on their loss. “They commented on how silly they felt for having grabbed such little things” from their house, Legge said. “One very young girl said she wished she had grabbed something that reminded her a little bit more of home.” The film’s 16-mm black-and-white cinematography lends it a dreamlike quality, as if the imagery of decimated landscapes and charred objects were filtered through the lens of a painful kind of childhood nostalgia. Legge’s unexposed film was accidentally exposed to light leaks, which she decided to leave in—the flickers, she said, “are a visual metaphor for memory and fire.”
2020-03-02 23:34:45
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
Ghost Stories Keep the Roma Alive
For 500 years, the Latvian Roma people have been collecting berries in the Kurzeme forest. As one woman puts it, “a Roma without forest isn’t a Roma.” The woman is part of a Roma family that Astra Zoldnere follows in her short documentary Blueberry Spirits. “It wasn’t easy to earn their trust,” she told me. “I had to live with them in the forest for a while.” Zoldnere traded in their currency—stories—by sharing some of her own. But she quickly realized that their tales were unlike hers, or any she’d ever heard before. They were ghost stories. “I stepped out from the tent at night,” recounts a man in the film. “I was in a completely different place. One face appeared, and then another. I saw an old woman with a little girl in her arms … they’d been shot dead. Their anguished faces, cold eyes … how many people did the Germans shoot in the forest?” Like this man’s nightmarish tale, which alludes to the mass murder of the Roma people by the Nazi regime during World War II, ghost stories are important elements of oral history in Roma culture. “Ghost stories help to maintain the community’s identity in the globalized world,” Zoldnere said. “Telling them brings together different generations.” The tales are woven from the loose fabric of time that characterizes itinerant life in Roma communities. Blueberry Spirits, too, feels like a film out of time, existing somewhere in the space between reality and dreams. Zoldnere evokes this feeling through poetic, eerie imagery of thick fog seeping through the pine trees and the moon slowly rising above the clouds. “At first, I was surprised that the Roma live in a world where past, present, and future are so connected,” Zoldnere said. “Different times, places, and faces entwine to form a more circular existence.”
2020-02-28 22:01:19
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
A Secret at the Border
Raul Rodriguez was proud to be a border agent. For nearly two decades, he had searched for people and drugs hidden in cargo before it entered the United States. In his years of service as a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, he’d initiated the deportations of thousands of people. His job gave him security and a sense of purpose. One day, in 2018, that all came crashing down. Investigators came to Rodriguez’s office in McAllen, Texas, to tell him his career in immigration—and his military service before that—was based on a lie. His United States citizenship was fraudulent. He was an undocumented immigrant himself. In a new documentary from The Atlantic, Rodriguez reveals the shattering impact that this discovery has had on his life. “I can relate to people who I turned back, people that I deported,” he says. “They call it karma.” For more, read Jeremy’s Raff’s article, “The Undocumented Agent.” A version of this story appears on This American Life. You can hear it on public radio stations this weekend, and online Sunday, February 16 at 8 p.m. ET.
2020-02-14 16:00:00
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theatlantic.com
Two Couples Tried a Group Marriage. It Didn’t Work.
It was 1969, and 8-year-old Amy Grappell thought her house was haunted. She’d seen shadows pass her bedroom door in the dark of night. Once, she was sure she’d heard a ghost; the stairs creaked as if the specter were walking in the hallway. Amy mustered some courage and got out of bed. A strange man was coming out of her mother’s bedroom. Was he real? Their eyes met. “Are you sleeping with my mother?” the child asked. She meant sleeping in the literal sense—Amy didn’t know what sex was, but the whole thing seemed like a betrayal all the same. When Amy asked her mother about the man, she was told that she’d been imagining things. “I began to doubt my own sense of reality, which led to a profound sense of instability,” Grappell told me. It turned out that Amy’s parents, Paul and Deanna, had entered into a group marriage with another married couple, Eleanor and Robert, who lived in their suburban Long Island town. “The men would tiptoe out of their houses after us kids were asleep to switch wives,” Grappell said. “To keep up appearances, the right car had to be at the right house in the morning.” It was the era of free love, and the couples were struggling with the monotony of marriage. “Their individual marriages were failing, but they found that, together, they were happy,” Grappell said. The couples thought they had found an alternative to divorce—“a brave new world that would pave the way for how couples would live in the future.” The four-way affair proved so satisfying, in fact, that the couples agreed to make it official. They entered into a domestic-living experiment that they called the “quadrangle.” “It allowed them to fulfill their emotional and sexual needs while maintaining their marriages and social status,” Amy said. The new arrangement proved destabilizing for the couples’ kids. For Amy, it was especially deleterious. “When the other family moved into our home, it was like an invasion,” Grappell said. She felt neglected. “My feelings of abandonment and desperation were the enemy of their utopia.” The psychological effects haunted her for years. Ultimately, Amy found an unconventional way to process the trauma. “I had always wanted to tell this story, but wasn’t sure how,” she said. She decided to make a short documentary that would force her to talk openly with her parents. “I don’t think I had any idea how difficult it would be,” she said. “It was like walking through a minefield of the past for all of us.” The result, Quadrangle, features separate interviews with Paul and Deanna, who have been estranged for many years. An inspired editing choice has them appearing side by side on the screen, forming a diptych of converging and diverging sentiments. There’s a certain voyeuristic excitement to watching the story of the unconventional relationship unfold through individual memory. But underneath is a palpable darkness—the invisible force of the kids’ suffering, and the eventual dissolution of the relationships. “My parents strived to create a utopian version of family, but in the end, ego trumped idealism, and the relationships unraveled,” Amy said. Both couples divorced and married their foursome partners. Amy revealed that the trauma she suffered growing up as a child of a group marriage has made her more conventional in her romantic relationships. She is now married, but “not having a functional family model myself, I chose not to have kids, though I wanted them.” Amy Grappell is working on an upcoming memoir about her experience.
2020-02-13 20:21:40
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
I Signed the Petition, and Now I’m Freaking Out
In 2017, the Danish Palestinian filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel was asked to sign a petition. As part of an international tour, Radiohead was scheduled to play in Tel Aviv, and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement was urging Palestinians across the world to protest the concert. “As a filmmaker, I’ve never seen myself as an activist, so I hesitated,” Fleifel told me. “Should I or should I not sign this petition?” And if he did, Fleifel wondered, “what difference does it really make?” He signed. Immediately after, though, Fleifel began to doubt his decision. Would he be blacklisted by Israel? Would he be denied entry to the country in the future? In a panic, he phoned his friend Faris, a fellow Palestinian, who lives in the United Kingdom. “You’re trying to articulate that you have some agency,” Faris said over the phone, “whereas in reality, you’re absolutely powerless.” Their conversation, which Fleifel recorded, forms the basis of his short documentary I Signed the Petition. The friends debate the effectiveness and implications of publicly supporting the cultural boycott of Israel. Ultimately, their anxiety, frustration, and pain are a window into the meaning of Palestinian identity in today’s world. “[Our] conversation is one that I imagine many Palestinians are having amongst themselves,” Fleifel told me. “Some may agree with what’s said, and some may not. In the end, this is all my personal opinion.” For Fleifel, the act of making the film itself was a fraught one. “I had to confront my own fears as to whether I could and should be silent in the face of injustice,” he said. Now, after having screened the film at festivals around the world, Fleifel harbors no regrets: “Seeing how people have responded to the film has given me great hope.”
2020-02-11 20:23:56
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
The Nuclear Family Wasn’t Built to Last
We’re in a moment of cultural lag, says the contributing writer David Brooks. The culprit? The pervasive and enduring myth of the American family. “We have an archaic idea of what family is,” Brooks says in a new episode of The Idea File. The nuclear-family unit, Brooks argues, is a privilege of the wealthy. Around the world, 38 percent of people still live with extended family. And over the past half century, the share of people living alone in America has doubled. The nuclear family is no longer the norm—and it should no longer be the ideal. For more, read Brooks’s article, “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake.”
2020-02-10 17:18:14
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
The Ethical Folly of ‘Modern Witch-Burning’
Editor’s Note: This film contains footage that depicts hate speech. Viewer discretion is advised. When Mike Nayna boarded a crowded bus in Melbourne, Australia, in 2012, he braced for an uncomfortable commute. It was late, and many of the bus riders were intoxicated. On top of that, people had been waiting for more than an hour for the bus to arrive. Nobody seemed thrilled about the situation—except, maybe, the group of tourists who were singing French songs at the back of the bus. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a disgruntled man took stood up and began verbally attacking the tourists, spewing racist and sexist vitriol. His anger intensified, and the verbal aggression became more explicit. Other passengers began to add to the tirade. Mike was appalled. He did what many of us would do in a quickly escalating situation: He took out his phone and filmed it. What happened next is the subject of Nayna’s short documentary Digilante. “I was rewatching this footage and thinking about these guys going off and telling their friends and becoming heroes of this story,” Nayna says in the film. “At that point, I was like, If that’s the narrative you’ve got, my footage shows something else.” Nayna and his friend, the producerMark Conway, uploaded the video to Facebook. Within a week, it was uploaded to YouTube with 1 million views. “It was thrilling,” Nayna told me. “Mark and I had set out to make the video viral, so watching it spread beyond what we thought possible felt like discovering a superpower.” For a while, Nayna rode the wave. On Australian television, he was portrayed as a hero who had exposed an injustice. But as the video racked up millions of additional views around the world, a different, more morally ambiguous narrative began taking shape. He’d created a firestorm of public shaming, fueled by social media. “Seeing the anger and vitriol it generated at such a large scale made me reassess the dynamics of a media event like that,” Nayna said. “The conversations about racism it generated didn’t seem to be constructive, or even coherent, really.” Initially, Nayna had thought that exposing something ugly about his culture’s prejudices might “somehow spark a net good.” But he wasn’t achieving the results he’d hoped for. At best, sharing Nayna’s video was a shortcut to condemning racism and misogyny; it merely created the illusion of positive change. At worst, it was “a modern form of witch-burning,” with people calling for the vigilante murders of those responsible for the racist attacks. “We build a digital effigy of a human being and set it alight in some kind of group catharsis,” Nayna said. “It's not something I'll ever take part in again, and I’m fairly confident that if we’re ever able to settle into a mature code of ethics for the internet, we’ll look back at shaming as a primitive phase we went through.” To this day, Nayna struggles to find the right way to respond to people who regard him as a hero for having created the video. “It was a shitty thing that I did,” he says in the film. “If you look at the outcomes, I was exacting revenge. Do you make someone better by attacking them and making them feel horrible? I don’t think that’s true.” Eight months following the incident, two perpetrators were charged and sentenced to prison.
2020-02-08 00:11:26
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
The Subject of an Oscar-Nominated Documentary Starts a New Life
In August 2013, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a massive chemical attack on the rebel stronghold of Al Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus. More than 1,400 civilians were killed that day. Thousands of dying patients flooded into makeshift hospitals—one of them underground, known to locals simply as “the Cave.” In the dark tunnels of that subterranean hospital, a 29-year-old pediatrician worked tirelessly to save children’s lives. Her name is Dr. Amani Ballour, and she would risk her life to work in the Cave for five years. In 2018, she was forcibly evacuated to Turkey. Three months later, at an international humanitarian conference, she would be called to give official testimony as a witness to the war crimes committed by the Assad regime in Eastern Ghouta. Dr. Ballour and her medical staff are the subjects of Feras Fayyad’s Oscar-nominated documentary The Cave, a harrowing cinéma vérité account of one of the last bastions of emergency services in war-torn Ghouta. Fayyad’s follow-up short documentary, First Eyewitness, premieres on The Atlantic today. In it, Dr. Ballour struggles to adjust to life in Turkey while establishing her new role as an advocate for Syria on the international stage. She hopes to return to practicing medicine someday, but for now she is haunted by her years in the Cave, where she treated many children with severe head injuries, including one child who was suffering so much, his mother asked Dr. Ballour to put him out of his misery. “All medical work has become suffering,” Dr. Ballour says in the film. “I can’t work like I used to. Before, I had a desire to help people … now I’m broken, unstable, and not able to integrate into society.”
2020-02-05 00:28:51
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
The Absurd Theatrics of the Border Wall
In November 2017, eight imposing edifices were built in Otay Mesa, near Tijuana. Some were topped with slick steel and spiky barbed wire; others featured bollard-style columns affixed to 30-foot-high slabs of metal and concrete. These were the winning prototypes of President Donald Trump’s border-wall design contest. The requirements were straightforward: Design an impenetrable wall built to stretch across the rugged and varied terrain of the 1,900-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The day that the filmmakers Luis Gutiérrez Arias and John Henry Theisen arrived in Tijuana to document the prototypes, a military-grade tactical team was testing the structural integrity of each design. Their short documentary, It’s Going to Be Beautiful, features evocative imagery of the border walls as they are being tested for resiliency. The film casts an absurdist light on the project itself. (All eight designs reportedly failed the basic breach test and posed significant and expensive construction challenges.) “The subject of the prototypes was interesting to us because they offered a visually striking way to portray the border conflict,” Theisen told me. “The imagery of the walls is so bizarre that the film became about expressing what we felt when we were in the vicinity of the border.” “What was interesting to me about this [border-wall contest] was its theatrical quality,” Arias told me, “and how dystopian these eight pieces of the wall looked and felt. All of these different textures and colors seemed more like a movie set or a piece of land art than a project related to national security. “We believed the images were powerful enough to say what we needed to say,” Arias added.
2020-02-01 00:24:54
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
In Duterte’s War on Drugs, Where Do All the Bodies Go?
Editor’s Note: This film contains some graphic imagery. During his campaign for the Philippine presidency in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte ran on a platform of a “relentless” war on drugs that promised to purge the country of narcotics-related violence. Once in office, Duterte encouraged vigilante death squads and police task forces to commit extrajudicial murders of suspected drug users and dealers. In his first month, nearly 600 people were killed with impunity. Now Duterte has passed the halfway point of his six-year presidency, and his crackdown is far from over. The death toll has risen to 12,000, although unofficial estimates are higher. The urban poor are the main targets of these killings; any young person in a shantytown can be seen as a suspected drug addict. Police routinely execute unarmed suspects and often plant evidence. Citizens randomly assassinate neighbors. Many victims’ bodies are found on the sidewalk, bathed in blood. Where these bodies are taken is the subject of Anders Palm Olesen and Simone Gottschau’s short documentary, Manila High. Set in the Pasay City Cemetery, a new public grave complex that’s being built to meet the needs of the rising body count, the film focuses on young caretakers who live and work on the premises. This is ground zero of the drug war; the resident gravediggers are poor, and they live in fear of ending up the next victim of a random killing. “At the cemetery, we found a micro-universe from where another layer of the war on drugs could be told,” Olesen told me. “We found absurdity in the construction of a government-funded burial complex [where] caretakers themselves are afraid of ending up in the very graves they were building.” While filming, the omnipresence of death was jarring to the directors. “The opening scene at the morgue was something you can’t really prepare yourself for beforehand,” Gottschau told me. In Manila, one of the places hit hardest by the crackdown, Olesen and Gottschau spoke with citizens who publicly supported it. A 2019 survey found that 82 percent of adult Filipinos were satisfied with the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs. “From the very beginning, it was clear to us that this was more a war on the poor than anything else,” said Olesen. “The scaremongering has the political effect of tightening Duterte’s grip on power.” “What we witnessed,” he continued, “seemed no different from the alienating tactics of the 20th century’s totalitarian dictators remodeled on a 21st-century blueprint. The politics of dividing the people between a ‘them’ versus ‘us’ is on the rise all over the world.”
2020-01-30 00:52:05
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
How Keeth Smart Became the Best Fencer in the World
“I didn’t even think fencing was in my future,” says Keeth Smart in the short documentary Stay Close. “I was just holding my breath for [my sister] to make the Olympic team.” As children, Keeth and his sister, Erinn, trained at the Peter Westbrook Foundation, a scholarship program named after the first black fencer to win an Olympic medal. Based in Manhattan, the foundation teaches the sport to inner-city kids. While Erinn showed promise as a fencing prodigy, Keeth was nowhere near a natural. He was the only fencer on his team who did not qualify for the World Championships. But that was fine with him—fencing was Keeth’s ticket to a scholarship at Columbia University, where he would pursue an MBA. At least, that was the plan. Luther Clement and Shuhan Fan’s Oscar-shortlisted film tells the story of how Keeth rose to prominence in fencing despite nearly every obstacle imaginable thrown his way. In 2003, he became the first American to be named the top-ranked fencer internationally. A few years later, on the very day he learned he’d scored a spot on the Olympic fencing team, Keeth contracted terminal leukemia and given just weeks to live. Despite the prognosis, Keeth survived, but he had to start from ground zero to train for the Olympics. In 2008, he was awarded a silver medal in Beijing. What drew the co-directors to Keeth’s story, Fan told me, was not just his formidable athletic success. “Keeth’s story is one of parental love,” she said. “Fencing and Keeth’s success in the sport is beside the point. He is a loving and committed parent in the model of his own parents, and that cycle of parental love was the core [of the story] that we uncovered.” That familial love is writ large in the archive of home videos that Keeth and Erinn gave to Fan and Clement for Stay Close. The co-directors built out the rest of the film’s aesthetic to complement the intimate feel of the videos. Hand-drawn animation brings Keeth’s stories to life, with “rough sketches and mistakes and smudges in every few frames,” Clement told me. To keep things consistent, “the music also needed to sound improvised and minimalistic.” To top things off, the filmmakers frame Keeth’s story as if he were telling it while showing images on an analog slide projector. “Our idea was that the technology cues the audience to feel that they are in an intimate interaction, because you only show a slide projector or VHS to family or close friends,” Clement said.
2020-01-22 21:11:49
2021-05-08T10:37:21.000000
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theatlantic.com
In Rising Seas, a Girl Learns to Swim
Eight-year-old Dulce is afraid of water. But she has to get over it, her mother, Betty, insists—it’s time to learn how to swim. In their coastal Colombian village, this is an essential rite of passage; Iscuandé is dependent on harvesting piangua shellfish, a type of edible mussel that’s a delicacy in nearby Ecuador. The village’s cockle harvest has traditionally been the province of women, and it’s time for Dulce to contribute. Besides, her mother says, what will happen to Dulce when the ever-rising seawater drowns the village? The short documentary Dulce, directed by Guille Isa and Angello Faccini, is a coming-of-age story told against the backdrop of climate change. Mangroves around the world serve as a carbon sink, and in places like coastal Colombia, they also help to mitigate the effects of rising sea levels by acting as a bulwark. When the documentary crew initially traveled to Iscuandé, they were on assignment by Conservation International to cover the threats to some 35,000 acres of mangrove forests in the area, which are being destroyed by development and unregulated logging. “No one had any idea we’d stumble on individuals as compelling as Dulce and Betty,” Darrell Hartman, one of the film’s producers, told me. “The first time we saw Dulce, she was standing on the dock looking at us as we got closer in a boat,” Isa told me. “I thought to myself: Who is this girl? She had this presence—this deep look. We were immediately drawn to her and knew she [would become] our character.” Isa and Faccini filmed Dulce as Betty taught her how to swim over the course of three emotional days. Faccini set up his camera a measured distance away from his subjects, enabling him to capture the kind of steady, composed shots that are atypical of documentaries. “We were extremely careful about how we approached the scenes,” Faccini told me. “We tried to be as invisible as possible and let the performances find their own rhythm.” “[Documentary] films are about relationships—about how comfortable the people you are shooting feel with you having a camera pointing at them without being judged,” Isa added. “It is about trust and respect.” In many ways, Dulce is a microcosmic story about the great existential threat of climate change. Her fear of swimming mirrors the anxiety that’s being felt around the world, especially by younger people and those who live in and depend on fragile coastal ecosystems.
2020-01-17 22:11:06
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theatlantic.com
A 97-Year-Old Philosopher Ponders Life and Death: 'What Is the Point?'
In his 1996 book about death, Herbert Fingarette argued that fearing one’s own demise was irrational. When you die, he wrote, “there is nothing.” Why should we fear the absence of being when we won’t be there ourselves to suffer it? Twenty years later, facing his own mortality, the philosopher realized that he’d been wrong. Death began to frighten him, and he couldn’t think himself out of it. Fingarette, who for 40 years taught philosophy at the University of California at Santa Barbara, had also written extensively on self-deception. Now, at 97, he wondered whether he’d been deceiving himself about the meaning of life and death. “It haunts me, the idea of dying soon, whether there’s a good reason or not,” he says in Andrew Hasse’s short documentary Being 97. “I walk around often and ask myself, ‘What is the point of it all?’ There must be something I’m missing. I wish I knew.” Hasse, Fingarette’s grandson, turned the camera on the philosopher in the last months of his life. The two were very close—when Hasse was a child, Fingarette would invent stories and record them on tape to send to his grandson, who lived 300 miles away, so that he could listen to them before bed. “My grandfather was one of the most thoughtful men I’ve ever met,” Hasse told me. Being 97 is a poignant film that explores the interiority of senescence and the struggle of accepting the inevitable. Hasse quietly observes the things that have come to define his grandfather’s existence: the stillness of time, the loss of ability, and the need to come to terms with asking for help. “It’s very difficult for people who have not reached a state of old age to understand the psychology of it, what is going on in a person,” Fingarette says. In one scene, Fingarette listens to a string quartet that was once meaningful to his late wife. He hasn’t heard the piece since her death seven years earlier—“her absence is a presence,” he says in the film—and becomes overwhelmed with grief. Hasse made the artistic choice to omit his voice from the film, so while he was filming the scene, he had to stifle the urge to comfort his grandfather. “It’s very difficult to watch anyone in that kind of pain and not be able to console them, especially someone you love so dearly,” Hasse said. “I found myself sitting just a few feet away from him, unable to reach out because there was a camera between us. All I wanted to do was put a hand on his shoulder, embrace him, be with him in his pain.” After what felt to Hasse like an eternity, the filmmaker handed his grandfather a tissue to wipe away his tears. The scene ends just before this happens. Fingarette died in late 2018. Just weeks earlier, Hasse had shown him the final cut of the documentary. “I think it helped give him perspective on what he was going through,” he said. “He loved talking about what a mysterious process it had been to film all these little moments of his life and then weave them together into a work that expressed something essential about him.” The day before he died, Fingarette uttered his final words. After spending many hours in silence with his eyes closed, Hasse said, his grandfather suddenly looked up and said, “Well, that’s clear enough!” A few hours later he said, “Why don’t we see if we can go up and check it out?” “Of course, these cryptic messages are up to interpretation,” Hasse said, “but I’d like to believe that he might have seen at least a glimpse of something beyond death.” In the film, Fingarette admits that there “isn’t any good answer” to the “foolish question” of understanding mortality. “The answer might be … the silent answer.”
2020-01-15 00:02:00
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theatlantic.com
The Future of Food Is Zero Waste
As the world starts to reckon with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s dire climate warnings, a good place to begin is food waste. Every year, one-third of the food produced globally for human consumption—1.3 billion tons—is wasted. (Americans in particular throw away 40 percent of their food, despite the fact that most of it is perfectly edible.) In aggregate, the world’s annual food waste produces 3.3 billion tons of carbon. That’s more greenhouse-gas emissions than from 37 million cars. Needless to say, a global effort in the reduction of food waste would go a long way toward mitigating our carbon footprint. Some people are taking matters into their own hands. Five years ago, Douglas McMaster, a British chef, decided that he wanted to open a restaurant. He traveled the world visiting Michelin-starred restaurants he admired so that he could replicate their success, but was quickly disillusioned. “It was criminal, some of the things that I witnessed with [food] waste,” McMaster says in Matt Hopkins’s short documentary A Failure of the Imagination. “I started to realize that the food industry is a complete disaster. It’s unsustainable… Our expectations and desires are unnatural.” McMaster returned to England with the idea of opening a zero-waste restaurant, meaning that it would produce no trash. There wasn’t a manual for his mission—such a thing didn’t exist. “I had a vision of a food system that was better, a food system for the future,” McMaster says in the film. “Little did I know that it was going to be the hardest thing that I’ve ever done.” A Failure of the Imagination depicts the restaurant’s grueling five-year journey from idealistic concept to fruition. “We kept striking brilliant ideas, but [the success rate] would be, like, one in 100,” McMaster says in the film. “There are only so many knocks you can take before waving the white flag.” Failure, though, turned out to be an essential part of the process—“we needed to fail to learn,” the chef says. In 2014, McMaster opened Silo in Brighton, just an hour outside London. The concept was to return to a preindustrial food system, forming what McMaster calls a “closed loop.” The menu is entirely dictated by seasonal produce. McMaster buys ingredients directly from farmers, fishermen, and foragers to avoid packaging that can’t be reused. Anything he can’t source locally is made in-house—the kitchen mills flour, churns butter, rolls oats, brews vinegar, makes yogurt and chocolate, and cultures cream. Silo even features an on-site brewery, with drinks made from foraged and fermented plants, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. When Silo does generate waste, it goes directly into the restaurant’s gargantuan food compressor to be composted. McMaster believes that Silo’s success is far from an anomaly. In fact, he thinks every restaurant can adopt this idea. “Two hundred years ago, every restaurant was a zero-waste restaurant,” he says. “It’s a very simple, very realistic model that works with nature and not against it. Not only is it ecologically viable, but it’s also economically viable.” Just last week, McMaster reopened Silo in London to rave reviews. Marina O’Loughlin, a restaurant critic for The Times of London, wrote that “nothing fails to impress,” adding that McMaster “wreaks preternatural deliciousness out of the most unlikely components with food that is complex, multilayered, and sophisticated as any high-end swankpot, but with an almost living freshness and vibrancy.”
2020-01-10 23:19:28
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theatlantic.com
How Cities Became Childless
The American city was once a great place to start a family. Today’s cities, however, are decidedly not for children—or for families who want children. In a new episode of The Idea File, the writer Derek Thompson explains how urban living became so inhospitable to families and details the consequences of this major shift in the demographics of the American metropolis. “You have high-paying jobs concentrated in cities,” Thompson says, “but you also have a situation where it’s harder and harder to raise a family in those areas. It almost forces individuals to make a choice: capital or kids?” For more, read Thompson’s article “The Future of the City Is Childless.”
2020-01-09 18:01:05
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theatlantic.com
No Animal Should Have to Die Alone
When Alexis Fleming adopted her pit bull, Maggie, the dog had been severely neglected. Fleming, who comes from a family of dairy and sheep farmers, decided to move somewhere more rural in her native Scotland so that she could give Maggie the care and attention she needed. The dog eventually recovered from her history of abuse, and Fleming and Maggie enjoyed seven years together. Then, in 2015, Maggie experienced unexpected complications from surgery, and Fleming, who wasn’t nearby, had to make the difficult decision to end her pet’s life. “I couldn’t be with Maggie when she died,” Fleming wrote on her website, “so I decided that, in her memory, I would build a home for other animal-folk who found themselves in need of a friend and home as their lives wind down.” Isa Rao’s poignant short documentary Crannog follows Fleming at her sanctuary, where she provides palliative care for more than 90 terminally ill animals. Some of the dogs, sheep, chicken, pheasants, and pigs that currently live at the Maggie Fleming Animal Hospice were abandoned by their owners and left to die in a shelter. Others were discarded by farmers due to a disease or disability and would have met their end at the slaughterhouse. “Alexis has created a tiny safe space where animals can live and die in peace while experiencing kindness—often for the first time in their lives,” Rao told me. “To her, there is no difference between human and animal suffering.” Fleming is herself no stranger to suffering. She has Crohn’s disease, an incurable affliction of the digestive tract. A few years ago, she was given just weeks to live. After a successful major surgery, she’s now doing better, but she lives with a range of symptoms, including debilitating fatigue and extreme chronic pain. In Crannog, Fleming is shown caring for a dying sheep despite her own physical pain. Her compassion and self-sacrifice seem to know no bounds. While filming, Rao was taken by the bond she observed between Fleming and the farm animals at the sanctuary. “It was the first time that I ever saw sheep, pigs, and even chickens come up to a person to receive back scratches,” she told me. “They nuzzled their snouts and beaks into her arms. They wanted to be close to her.” Fleming knows each animal’s personality intimately and attends to their individual preferences. Behavioral and neuroscientific studies clearly indicate that a wide range of animals, including pigs, cetaceans like dolphins, and birds, exhibit evidence of consciousness. Rao, who has a doctoral degree in cognitive neuroscience, said that while these findings may seem intuitive to people who own pets, many people experience cognitive dissonance when it comes to considering the feelings of farm and wild animals. “A lot of us would agree that many animals are conscious beings and can feel pain, but we at the same time often just accept animal suffering as something normal,” she said. “We still do not give animals the same consideration as humans, in particular in death and sickness. If we want to be ethically consistent, we should treat farm and wild animals with at least the same dignity and respect as we treat our pets. We need to treat them as living creatures that can feel and should not be exploited—whose lives have value, whose suffering should be avoided.”
2020-01-07 23:28:59
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theatlantic.com
An Unexpected Gold Rush in Small-Town Maine
In the dark of the night, a group of fishermen huddles around a net. They’re gathered at a riverbank in Ellsworth, Maine, collecting one of the most lucrative seafood in the world: elvers, or baby glass eels. A 5-gallon bucket brimming with these translucent creatures is worth $50,000—higher than prices for gold. “It’s like Christmas!” exclaims Rick Sibley, one of the fishermen. “I can’t wait to see what’s in that net.” This is a scene from Rachael Morrison’s short documentary Elvers, premiering today on The Atlantic. Filmed at the peak of a veritable gold rush, Elvers peels back the curtain on a black market in the United States to reveal a tragedy of the commons. Freshwater eels are a highly-coveted delicacy in Asian cuisine. In Japan, the world’s top consumer of eels, elvers are grown from their “ghost in the water” juvenile stage—as Sibley put it in the film—to adulthood, when they are killed and served as unagi. Little is known about the eel lifecycle, however, so they can’t be bred in captivity and factory-farmed. The Asian aquaculture industry instead relies on wild-caught elvers from rivers and coastal waters. In the past, this Asian market was for the most part fed by European and Japanese eels. American eels were worth around $24 per pound, just a fraction of international eel sales. But European and Japanese eel populations have declined by 90 percent since the ’80s. In 2010, the European eel was listed as critically endangered, leading the European Union to ban all exports. Then, in 2011, a massive earthquake rocked Japan, destroying the country’s major aquaculture operations. By 2012, global demand for eels had skyrocketed the price for a single pound of elvers to $2,000. Maine is one of only two states, along with South Carolina, where elver fishing is legal. (The states issue 425 and 10 elver licenses per year, respectively.) In 2012, 21,611 pounds of elvers were caught—four times more eels than were harvested in 2009. At the peak of the gold rush, there was no legal limit to how many elvers a licensed fisherperson could catch. Most of the transactions were off the books, made in cash out of pickup trucks along rivers in remote rural areas. A black market soon emerged on the moonlit waterways across the Atlantic seaboard. Licensed dealers bought glass eels from poachers, mixed them with legally-caught eels in Maine, and doctored shipping dossiers en route to Asia. For the fishermen of Ellsworth, the gold rush was a welcome economic boom and an end to the struggle to hold down multiple jobs. “We’re so poor here,” says Darrell Young, a licensed elver fisherman interviewed in Elvers. “We have no money. When you sit here thinking about how eels are worth $2,000 a pound...you could go get a quarter of that and fill my refrigerator full of food or pay a bill, maybe.” This would all come crashing down in 2014. Beginning in 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office of Law Enforcement—along with a long list of local, state, and federal agencies—launched Operation Broken Glass, an undercover sting operation to address elver poaching and trafficking. It resulted in 19 arrests, and new regulations were imposed on the elver fishing industry. Today, licensed fishermen receive personalized catch limits and are required to have transaction cards that the government uses to closely monitor sales. Buyers are required to operate a brick-and-mortar establishment. Meanwhile, the fate of the species hangs in the balance. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has red-listed and declared all three species of freshwater eel to be endangered. The American eel is precipitously in decline; the population has dropped to 1% of its highest levels. “This is a universal story,” Morrison told me, “about how we mismanage natural resources in the global economy.”
2020-01-04 00:17:24
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theatlantic.com
A Substance Like Nothing Else on Earth
Amber is precious, but it’s not a gem. It’s fossilized tree resin—a substance that forms over millions of years, capturing ancient detail as the sap oozes. Amber specimens have led to a “mind-blowing” number of scientific discoveries, the writer Katharine Gammon says. “The amount of detail you can get in fossilized specimens inside the amber is eons ahead of other types of fossils.” Why, then, has one scientist called for an ethical moratorium on the mining of amber? For more, read Gammon’s article “The Human Cost of Amber.” Life Up Close is a project of ​The Atlantic​, supported by the HHMI Department of Science Education.
2019-12-31 20:19:54
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theatlantic.com
The Many Faces of the Occult
Iqbal Ahmed’s film explores a rapidly-growing sector of spirituality. The demographic trends tell an incontrovertible story: The American church is in decline. In 2018 and 2019, 65 percent of Americans identified as Christians—down 12 percent from the previous decade. While Christianity’s numbers and influence are waning, other demographics are gaining ground; by 2051, if current trends continue, religiously unaffiliated Americans, so-called religious nones, could constitute as large a percentage of the population as Protestants. Occultism is also on the rise. In 2014, the Pew Research Center found that 0.4 percent of Americans, or about 1 million to 1.5 million people, identify as Wicca or Pagan—potentially outnumbering the 1.4 million mainline members of the Presbyterian Church. By 2050, the number of practicing pagans in America is projected to triple to 6.6 million, or 1.5 percent of the population. To tell the story of the dramatic rise of neo-paganism in America, though, you quickly run into a roadblock. “No two pagans seem to agree on the same definition” of paganism, Iqbal Ahmed, who spent two years researching a large community of pagans in Southern California for his short documentary Pagans, told me. Because of this confusion, Ahmed said, “it’s no wonder that relatively informed laypeople might have still have misconceptions about paganism.” In fact, Ahmed came to the world of paganism with his own set of preconceived notions. “Paganism conjured images of ’80s films about satanic cults,” he said. “I envisioned blood rituals, pentagrams, and hedonism.” Pagans, which is featured on The Atlantic today, aims to dispel some of this haze. By focusing on an intimate community of pagans who live within 200 miles of one another and often worship together, Ahmed’s film showcases paganism’s diversity of people and beliefs. “I found pagans of every ilk,” Ahmed said. Among his film’s subjects are teachers, social workers, and PTA members who engage in various pre-Christian practices steeped in ceremony and superstition. Paganism is an umbrella term. It comes from the Latin paganus, which refers to those who lived in rural areas. As Christianity spread within the Roman empire, it was mostly practiced in the cities; in the country, people who believed in the “old ways” came to be known as pagans. Paganism, the catchall term, came to encompass many different cultures, including Greco-Roman, Celtic, Germanic, and Slavic tribes. According to the Pagan Federation, modern pagans can be defined as followers of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion. While many meaningful distinctions can be drawn between its sub-sects, such as Wicca, witchcraft, Druidry, and Christo-Paganism, many pagans share core religious tenets. The most important principles are the responsibility for one’s own beliefs and the freedom to choose one’s own deity (and relationship to it). This is often expressed as “Do what you will, as long as it harms none.” Most pagans also revere nature, which they view as a manifestation of the divine—not as the fallen creation, as is the view of dualism. “Paganism, by its very nature, is free and often somewhat amorphous,” said Ahmed. “There was never any judgment within the community. It was very much live-and-let-live.” Although Ahmed never met a “typical” pagan, he did notice some commonalities among the people he encountered in the pagan community. For one, many members of the community were disillusioned by institutionalized Judeo-Christian belief systems. “They found formal religion restrictive and had negative experiences with the Christian church in their past,” Ahmed said. All of the pagans that Ahmed met valued an à la carteversion of spirituality. “They picked and followed specific aspects that worked for them,” he said. “The real breakdown of beliefs was really unlimited.” Ahmed quickly realized that the freedom and multiplicity of belief systems did not undermine the serious nature of these alternative spiritual practices. “All of the pagans I met came very seriously to paganism itself,” he said. “No one casually appropriated these beliefs. Most became pagans due to a deep and underlying need to find a value system that more closely approximated their own previously unarticulated beliefs.” “There was a sweet sincerity to what I saw,” he added. “There was a genuine spiritual connection throughout.” Of the eight major holidays that most pagans observe, Ahmed was able to attend ceremonies for four: Yule (winter solstice), Beltane (festival of the fire), Litha (summer solstice), and Samhain (the witch’s new year). “Each holiday celebration that I saw had very specific rituals, whether through chanting, singing, processions, or other actions,” Ahmed said. “Most people who identify as pagans participate in some combination of these events, though many likely perform them privately.” Pagans is a mesmerizing portrait of a little-known subculture. Ahmed’s respect and fascination for the subject are evident in the film’s cinematic imagery and attention to deep personal detail—an aspect of the film that was hard-won as Ahmed worked to gain the trust of wary participants over the course of years. “Everything surprised me about this world—the people, the ceremonies, the humor, the authenticity, the search for personal ‘truth,’” Ahmed said.
2019-12-24 01:17:39
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theatlantic.com
Capturing the Architect of the Holocaust
In the final days of World War II, as the Red Army advanced on Berlin and the Third Reich teetered on the edge of total military collapse, Adolf Hitler famously shot himself in his bunker. A wave of suicides would follow—high-ranking Nazi officials such as Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Philipp Bouhler, and Martin Bormann killed themselves before being captured by Allied forces. Many war criminals, however, managed to escape. As many as 9,000 Nazi officers and collaborators found refuge in South America; the majority fled to Argentina, which had maintained a close relationship with Nazi Germany. Among those who evaded capture was Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi SS lieutenant colonel who masterminded the identification, assembly, and transportation of European Jews to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. After the fall of the Third Reich, Eichmann, who had come to be known as the architect of the Nazi genocide, was apprehended, but escaped from a detention camp and went into hiding in Austria. An Austrian-born bishop, Alois Hudal, helped Eichmann obtain falsified identity documents issued by the Vatican, enabling him to get an Argentine visa and an International Red Cross passport. (Hudal eventually admitted to abetting Nazi war criminals.) In the years following the war, Argentine President Juan Perón, a longtime admirer of Hitler’s and other fascist regimes, had established a network of so-called ratlines—escape routes—through ports in Spain and Italy to smuggle thousands of former SS officers and Nazi Party members out of Europe. As the Nuremberg Trials brought Nazi war criminals to justice in 1945 and 1946, Eichmann lay in wait. In 1950, a fugitive who had assumed the alias of Richard Klement boarded a steamship to Buenos Aires. He would establish a middle-class lifestyle in the suburbs of the city with his wife and children, working at a Mercedes-Benz factory. The thrilling story of how it all came crashing down is told in Randall Christopher’s new animated documentary, The Driver Is Red. A Holocaust survivor who was living in Buenos Aires became suspicious about his daughter’s new boyfriend and his family. Armed with surreptitious photographs of Klement, the father alerted Israeli intelligence, and Eichmann’s identity was confirmed beyond reasonable doubt. Mossad Special Agent Zvi Aharoni was sent to Buenos Aires to orchestrate an illegal surveillance and abduction scheme, Operation Finale. Eichmann was apprehended in 1960 and smuggled to Israel, where he would finally face justice. He was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was executed in Jerusalem in 1962. Christopher’s film noir–inspired animation depicts the dramatic story of Eichmann’s capture. The actor Mark Pinter, reading from Aharoni’s book about the historic Nazi manhunt, lends the late Aharoni’s voice. “The first words Adolf Eichmann uttered to me were, ‘I have already resigned myself to my fate,’” wrote Aharoni, a German-born Jew who escaped with his mother and brother on one of the last trains out of Germany before World War II. Christopher told me he made the film because he grew up largely ignorant of the Holocaust. This is an alarming trend. A recent survey found that 22 percent of Millennials admitted to not having heard of the Holocaust, while 41 percent of Americans and 66 percent of Millennials said they don't know about Auschwitz. “In my opinion, we simply must make a deliberate, dedicated effort to know the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust—the most catastrophic event in human history,” Christopher said. The filmmaker believes it is especially important to study Weimar Germany, because “these events sprang from a democratic society with values and culture not much different from what we have today in the West.” “People simply didn’t recognize that certain decisions and policies—though maybe not so terrible in themselves—open the door for more dangerous scenarios,” Christopher continued. “Nobody was voting for World War II when they voted for Hitler. But in voting for Hitler to do things like get rid of the communists and to bypass a dysfunctional Parliament, they also voted in favor of a situation where World War II and the Holocaust would be a possibility.” Christopher believes that if the U.S. Congress “remains dysfunctional and unable to work together,” this might pave the way for a similar autocratic leader—something once considered “unthinkable in America.”
2019-12-22 20:36:14
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theatlantic.com
Will Congress Fulfill a 184-Year-Old Promise?
On December 29, 1835, the Cherokee Nation signed the Treaty of New Echota. Like many treaties the U.S. government signed with Native American tribes, this one benefited the United States at the expense of the Native nation. The Cherokee were forced to relinquish their ancestral lands. During their relocation to Oklahoma, on what became known as the Trail of Tears, a quarter of their population perished. Most of the treaty’s promises went unfulfilled. One provision in the treaty stipulated that the Cherokee were “entitled to a delegate in the House of Representatives of the United States.” Nearly 200 years later, the Cherokee Nation has named their delegate: Kimberly Teehee, a former policy adviser to President Barack Obama and a longtime leader within the Cherokee Nation. Now the government has to honor this centuries-old promise. In a new documentary, The Atlantic follows Teehee on her quest to give her nation a voice in Congress. “If we don’t get it done now,” Teehee says, “it might not happen.”
2019-12-20 22:17:52
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theatlantic.com
Why Dating Is Hard for Millennials
The landscape of modern romance is peppered with dating apps. It’s how most new couples meet. In the latest episode of The Idea File, staff writer Ashley Fetters explains the social implications of online dating. “More people than ever are dating in a limitless marketplace,” she says in the video. “Today’s dating pool, I think, has a different skill set.” For more, read two of Fetters’s articles, “The 5 Years That Changed Dating” and “Why It’s So Hard for Young People to Date Offline.”
2019-12-19 17:00:00
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theatlantic.com