Something Good #33: What Is My Face?
This week’s newsletter is a movie. In 2019 I was invited to New York to take part in the Imagine Science Film Festival’s Symbiosis competition. The idea was to take a handful of filmmakers and team each up with a scientist. The teams, who had never met before, would then have exactly seven days to create an entirely original film on a small budget—enough to hire a small crew or rent some gear for a couple of days.
I had never taken part in one of those film marathon things before, but I was game for anything, especially a subsidized trip to shoot something in NYC, always a fun place to point a camera around. It all took place while I was agonizing over a film for a big tech client that, in retrospect, caused me far more anxiety than it was worth—but at the time, it felt good to just have to jump into shooting something new.
I was paired with neuroscientist Sofía Mariana Landi, who studies facial recognition, and was immediately fascinated by both her field of study and the low-fi videos she made as part of her research. Over seven fairly panicked days we conceived, shot, and edited What Is My Face?, a short doc about how faces are perceived: by scientists, by artists, by animals. How do we remember faces so well if we can barely describe them with words? Why do we see them everywhere? What even are they? What is my face?
Filming on the streets of NYC is fun as heck—we shot in Grand Central Station, the Central Park Zoo… it ruled. The entire film was shot, edited and scored (by Graham van Pelt, and Stephen Ramsay of Young Galaxy) in less than a week.
I’ve never really shown it publicly since the festival, and I think it’s time to get it out in the world. You can watch it here:
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of writing a really interesting project: The White Saviors, an original podcast from Canadaland about the very unusual WE Charity organization, the center of a huge political scandal here in Canada in 2020.
But the story that interested us went much deeper than the political fallout, and proved to be much stranger. WE was one of the biggest and most well-regarded charities in the world, embraced by everyone from Al Gore to Oprah to Justin Bieber, a pioneer in what’s called “voluntourism,” until everything went terribly wrong. I think you’ll enjoy this fast-paced five-episode limited series! Check it out at the website or on your preferred podcast player.
This week’s #nojacketsrequired comes courtesy Alex von Stein, who wasn’t in possession of the original dust jacket for this edition of The Grapes of Wrath, so please accept this composite image. As per usual, please send me your dejacketed finds, and please do so by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, as attachments bounce off of Substack’s email servers.
I really enjoyed Rosa Lyster’s meditation on “one of the strangest marriages in fiction”—George and Ann Smiley—in the recently resurrected Gawker. Longtime readers of this newsletter will know that I am very much a fan of these characters.
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