Pleasures of staring at birds in the post-truth world

My introduction to the world of birdwatching (many thanks to Jędrzej Winiecki, a real pro). Damn cold and windy March morning, but the whole experience – thoroughly addictive!

Myriads of European golden plovers, thousands of Taiga bean geese, some cackling geese, some ruffs, a dozen of black-tailed godwits, one white-tailed eagle, plus twenty or thirty other species. Most of them migratory, in transit to their summer habitats. 

Simple pleasures of staring at birds (Look, there they are!) in the world of post-truths.

Time to buy a pair of wellingtons.

Sound and science hooligans on board

Here it is. Trailer of the latest, seventh installment of the Pioneers series. Artur Ekert DIY. 

Let me quote the synopsis: In 1992 Artur Ekert (b. 1961), a young maverick mathematician and physicist, invented a unique kind of quantum cryptography. Being a recipe for the perfect cipher, it also questioned some common truths about the nature of free will and randomness. Despite being intensively researched the idea remains remarkably challenging and elusive – as does its inventor. This rare movie presents Artur Ekert in his ad hoc habitat, in Singapore.

I hope you’ll enjoy the trailer (and a bonus, below) – the movie premiere soon.

Images – well you’ve seen some of them. Artur, you might know him as well, from our other projects (The Mechanics, Reality Lost, etc.). He’s a famously elusive master of quantum Zen.

The novel element, the killer element indeed, is the original music composed and performed by Jacek Mazurkiewicz, contrabassist, composer, and sound hooligan – the rising star of European jazz and improvisational scene. Just listen to this excerpt.

Jacek and Artur, honor and pleasure to have you both on board in this project. Thanks a million, guys!

PS Yes, we filmed at Rochor Centre, one of those haunting places in Singapore that are silently giving way to so called modernity.

Unfamiliarization of the city of Warsaw

Making familiar unfamiliar. Unfamiliarization. The first step in research of a given culture, they say. It happens so naturally, instinctively easily when we travel, usually providing us with an illusion of understanding. And it is so difficult to achieve when we try to defamiliarize the place we are used to. Here are some attempts of making Warsaw alien again.   

Terraforming planet Earth

Terraforming (literally, “Earth-shaping”) of a planet, moon, or other body is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to the environment of Earth to make it habitable by Earth-like life. (Wikipedia)

The land of overlapping IDs

Niederschlesien, Niederschläsing, Dolní Slezsko, Dolny Ślůnsk, Silesia Inferior, aka Dolny Śląsk. The quintessential Europe. The region which has as many names as identities. Or go back – its identity is something fluent, overlapping, ever changing, and emergent. It doesn’t conform to the framework of national identities, it does not conform to the scheme of borderlines.

Every single square meter of this region changed hands countless number of times.  Last time it happened in 1945, after the WWII, when it became a part of Poland.

Or go back again – last time it happened in 1989, right after the end of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe. The region was abandoned by the state, became a subject of the bold experiment of liberal capitalism – and it is not entirely clear whether it will recover anytime soon.

It was my first visit there – going back in summer.

Selling docs in the city of dancing huizen

So – how is it to sell a movie? Your movie. You know its weaknesses, you hate all those moments that suck (but you don’t know how to fix them), you are well aware that its idiosyncrasies – but you still deeply believe in it, you believe that perhaps you’ve managed to save this little piece of reality from getting forgotten, unnoticed. But becoming a victim of your own subjectivism and ordinary bias is so instinctive….

So – how it is to sell a science documentary movie which doesn’t fit common formats, the movie which is intentionally old fashioned and slow paced? Let the talking heads talk, someone I respect greatly said. But how to sell a talking head in the YouTube era, when attention span equals ten seconds? Well, it doesn’t come easily.

Visit to IDFA: International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam was quite an experience. Despite the fact that the Pioneers series has been screened, broadcasted, noticed, and even praised locally, breaking the barrier and making it internationally recognizable is a challenge. The more that science sells rather poorly at the Docs for Sale market. But: 1) countless lessons were learned, 2) wonderfully helpful people met, 3) new ideas conceived. And yes – some great deals were made too! More about it – soon, once it’s official. 

Enough whining and boasting – time for a trivial closing observation. While taking pictures of the old Amsterdam, I noticed nothing. Although then, editing them for export, I found myself clueless about the apparent optical distortions of the images. Houses seemed to be dancing. Each wiggled separately, leaning to the right, to the left, hanging over, falling down. One could look for a single vertical and horizontal line in vain.

But this is how it is – due to the moving foundations, laid on a sloughy ground, all the buildings have been acting like living organisms. A short visit to the Rijks Museum proves it wasn’t intended at all, of course, when the Herengracht was designed and erected. Have a look at the View of the Golden Bend in the Herengracht by Gerrit Adriaensz (1671-1672). What perfectly – and boringly – executed a layout!

The question is: what makes movies and buildings truly interesting?

This is a personal website of Karol Jalochowski, a science journalist, reporter, and documentary film maker of POLITYKA weekly (supported by CQT/NUS).