Today I am super excited to share with you my favourites of the month. October was rich in awesome discoveries, that’s the least we can say. Let’s start immediately with my first favourites…
The 13th (Documentary)
The 13th is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It was released on Netflix UK in October and if you have not watched it, I urge you to do so. I truly believe that everyone should watch it.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, the filmmaker behind Selma (another very good movie by the way), The 13th is a documentary focusing on the inequalities of the criminal justice system in the United States. This extremely efficient documentary develops and demonstrates the following theory: today’s police violence towards ethnic minorities and especially Black people in the United States is, first, a historical heritage. Indeed, it has its roots in both slavery and the Jim Crow laws. It has also been allowed by the implementation of a mass incarceration system in the second part of the 20th century. This mass incarceration system results from laws created by American presidents for political purposes, starting with Nixon and (surprisingly) culminating with Bill Clinton. Mass Incarceration has also been perpetuated for economical purposes: prisons are now a big industry, a lot of private societies are making huge profits from the products/services they distribute in prisons. At the same time, prisons also create free labour, which benefits to other big groups. The result of this is that Black population is over represented in the prisons of the United States: in this country, 1 over 3 Black men will go in jail at least once in his life.
This is an extremely well-made documentary which, as you can see, elaborates a complex theory to explain why Black people are so powerless in the face of the criminal justice system and police violence nowadays in this country. This theory examines the history and evolution of the criminal justice system in the United States from the abolition of slavery to the present days and is supported by plenty of examples, archive footage, statistics and interviews with historians, researchers, politicians, lobbyists and a lot of other people who have a deep knowledge of these issues or were/are involved in the criminal justice system in one way or another. OK, I think I summarized quite precisely the points made by Ava DuVernay in her documentary but you reaaaally need to watch The 13th to see how she brilliantly demonstrates all of these things. This documentary made me angry, sad and depressed, of course, but it also taught me a lot. And, despite its very depressing topic, it remains pleasant to watch. I like how it really says a story – a true one – based on facts. There is a real taste for narration in this documentary, which also has incredible aesthetic qualities and an awesome soundtrack.
And, for the little story, the title of this documentary comes from the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads the following: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”…
The 2016 Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year (Exhibition)
I was lucky enough to be able to go to see this small but wonderful exhibition at the Royal Observatory of London and, if you live in London, I would strongly recommend you to rush to see it too. This exhibition displays the 31 prize-winning images of the 2016 Insight Astronomy of the Year Competition. As you can tell from its name, these pictures are all related to astronomy as a whole. The competition is divided into several main themes (Stars; Galaxies; Our Sun; Aurorae; Planets, comets and asteroids; People and Space...) and so is the exhibition. A few pictures, taken with a camera or a telescope, are exhibited for each theme, and these pictures are of course mind-blowing. Some of them are pure photography exploits, as their authors have managed to put into picture a very difficult phenomenon to catch. Some other pictures just show us from close some impressive, strange or beautiful things from the space: a close-up of Jupiter or of a constellation. Some other pictures are more constructed and have a real photography aesthetics, if I may say. These were my favourite pictures because I found them a bit less abstract and very artistic.
Another thing I really liked about this exhibition is the way the pictures were exhibited. Next to each picture was a little caption where the photographer wrote a little something about their picture: how they got this idea, how they managed to take the picture and so on. That gave an interesting little background to each picture. In addition, there was also a blurb from one of the competition’s judges (all of these people were of course deeply concerned and involved in astronomy), emphasizing the qualities of such or such picture. Also, this exhibition is interesting because it presented, as I said, very varied pictures about different themes linked to astronomy, but also because the Insight Astronomy of the Year Competition is open to anyone, from any country, so the photographs exhibited there were from all around the world. The “Young Competition” category is also very inspiring, as it presents amazing pictures taken by young people aged 15 or under. So yes, to conclude I would say it doesn’t matter if you are into astronomy or not; as long as you like photography, you’ll love this exhibition. Also, the Royal Observatory is an incredibly beautiful place so this exhibition would be a great opportunity to visit it if, like me, you hadn’t been there before. Below are some of the wonderful pictures exhibited at the 2016 Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year, to give you a little taste…
This week one of the most terrible things happened in the USA: Donald Trump became the country’s President-elect after an incredibly violent campaign based on hatred targeting all kinds of ethnic minorities. There is much more to say about this despicable character and his resentful electoral promises but I’m going to stop here and recommend you a podcast that could help you to understand how we got there. Indeed, my third favourite this month is a podcast devoted to… Donald Trump! I don’t think all the episodes of this podcast are equally good and I don’t think this is the best podcast of the world, but I really admire its spirit. Jacob Weisberg, who hosts this podcast, decided that the podcast would exist as long as Trump would remain on the political scene. The podcast launched in March 2016, way before Trump became the Republican nominee, and Jacob Weisberg was then hoping that the podcast would last for a few months only. But, against the predictions made by Weisberg and the numerous guests on this podcast, Trump became the Republican nominee last May and so the podcast is still on… and will unfortunately be on for the next years…
This podcast is not about mocking Trump – or at least not only. It’s also about understanding how and why this happened/is happening. The episodes are short and feature very interesting guests who have always something relevant to say about Trump: writer Seth Stevenson, John E. McLaughlin, former Director of Central Intelligence who gave classified national security briefings to several nominees in the past and New York Times journalist Michael Barbaro, to name a few. As I was saying, not all the episodes are great, but some of them are really top notch. Here are links to some episodes that I really enjoyed: A Public Display of Autoeroticism, My Mom’s Voting for Him and America’s Berlusconi. But, if I had to give you only one reason to listen to this podcast, it would be this one: each episode starts with Trump impersonator John Di Domenico reading some of Trump’s latest tweets and it is absolutely awesome and hilarious, maybe my favourite part of the podcast!
Yes, another Booktuber I fell in love with! Krystal Marsh’s brand new Youtube channel is super cool and original. Krystal Marsh is American and it’s a first good point for her. Although I love English Booktube, the same books tend to be talked about again and again in there, so I do enjoy the diversity offered by this Youtube channel. Plus, Krystal Marsh is an instructor at a local community college who teaches literature and composition courses, and she also has a Master’s Degree in Shakespeare, so her videos are quite in-depth analyses of books or topics. But do not fear, they are everything except boring! Krystal Marsh is a very entertaining speaker and her videos are always very pleasant to watch. Finally, she also has a liking for biographies and feminist literature, two things I want to read more of.
That’s all for this month guys, please let me know if there is anything cool that you’ve discovered this month!