Passepartout is all about documentaries and visual stuff I find worth seeing.

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The hip, the artsy and the unnecessary: certain kinds of photos I’m really tired of seeing

I look at photos all the time. I search for them, I analyze them and I try to understand what they say. And there are some types of photos I am really tired of. And huh…they are everywhere. Aesthetically, they are fine or good or very good. It’s not this what bothers me. Many of the photos that strike me as unnecessary and bore me to death are well composed and good quality. Yet, there’s more than that to a photo. I’m usually looking for concept, connotations, the feeling they give, the story they tell. I expect photos to give something to my eyes, my heart or my mind, and preferably to a combination of at least two of these. And below you can see some kinds of photos that I’m really tired of seeing.

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Kumare (2012, directed by Vikram Gandhi)

This is one of those documentaries that I think everyone should watch. For this doc, Vikram Gandhi (who later on gave this really entertaining and insightful TEDx talk about his film and his ideas behind it) becomes Kumare, this fake guru who gets genuine followers and no matter what he does it’s being looked high upon, as long as it seems spiritual. Deepak Chopra said this film is perhaps the greatest lesson a guru can teach. It is a film about how people in search for something more to life, and having a fascination of Eastern spirituality, are willing to follow just anyone who fits the imagery of an Eastern guru. And it’s about how little people understand or question. If it looks and acts like what they know a guru should look like and act like, then it’s all good. That is a lesson and something to think about.

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The magic, the kitsch and the love: Svetlana Novikova’s surprising animal art

What? You don’t like this? No, no, this cannot be. It’s 7 in the morning, autumn is coming, days are shorter… Can you tell me without blinking that you can take a look at this tomcat below and not get a warm and fuzzy feeling? I certainly do get that feeling and with this discovery, my love for kitsch art got an upgrade. These remarkable paintings are made by Russian painter Svetlana Novikova, and on her website she says her goal is to create one of a kind, exclusive original pieces of art that have a personal emotional impact. It seems to me she succeeds pretty well in doing that.

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150 meters above the ground: beautiful wildlife in Botswana

I can bet that if I give you a map of Africa right now, you won’t be able to show me where Botswana is. I can also bet that after seeing these eye-candy photos you’ll want to fill this gap in your knowledge. Marcel Proust’s famous quote – the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes – may apply. American photographer Zack Seckler got new eyes from 150 meters above the ground and discovered just this: a mix of patterns and out of this world beauty.

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What Remains (2005, directed by Steven Cantor)

Some years ago, this photo of this young girl smoking was literally covering half of the Fotomuseum in The Hague. My specialty is photojournalism and what I thought when I saw this photo is very much proof of how focusing on something for a long time, can create certain patterns of thought and can make us see connotations. I remember looking at it and thinking – issue: child prostitution/ problem: makes it seem mysterious and Lolita-like/observation: even then, the simple beauty and the candid look in the child’s eyes is arresting, and it does make a point, through contrast, a rough one. And… I was completely wrong. Instead, this is an art photo called Cigarette Candy, and it is part of the Immediate Family series through which American photographer Sally Mann became well known in 1992. Seeing these photos made me want to know more. And this is how I ended up watching What Remains.

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Ukraine is Not a Brothel (2014, directed by Kitty Green)

Kitty Green’s debut film Ukraine is not a Brothel tells the story of the controversial Ukrainian organization Femen and the women behind it. And despite my allergy to Femen’s thirst for media attention which seems to be a purpose in itself, I found the film interesting and insightful. The story is personal and the surroundings have a distinct feel, the sad beauty specific to post-communist countries. More than that, the film reveals the paradoxes and contradictions behind this controversial organization.

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Fictitious Dishes

Fictitious Dishes: some of literature’s most famous meals made real

Literature helped me survive most of the long and boring days of my (first 12 years of) formal education. I secretly read in class, keeping the book on my knees, under the desk. I love stories and what they taught me, and up to this day I believe that ‘skipping class’ and diving deep into my books is one of the best choices I ever made. It was during that period that I read most of the stories from which designer and writer Dinah Fried took the inspiration for this project. She cooks, designs and photographs some of the most famous meals from some of the most famous novels. And seeing each of these photos, feels like the first time you watch a film made after a book you really loved.

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The creepy-kitsch update: dictators and their fluffy toys

It seems to me that Photoshop can create the most surprising and disturbing kitsch images. And I have already confessed my love for kitsch in this post about Zarathustra the obese cat, appearing in some very famous paintings. Now Chinese artist Chunlong Sun blew my mind this morning with this very convincing images of dictators and their toys. They’re terrible and at the same time I simply can’t take my eyes off them. How does someone come up with this?

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The night bunch: Traer Scott’s photos of nocturnal animals (I want to touch)

Remember my post about animals that are at home when you’re not? Well, this is a different one. At night, when you’re sleeping, these ones are not. That’s all you need to know. And then look at this eye-candy photos made by Traer Scott and gathered all together in a book called Nocturnal.

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Sfantu Gheorghe: photos and stories from the Danube Delta

Some months ago I traveled to the Danube Delta, in Romania. I spent a week in Sfantu Gheorghe, a small and beautiful fisherman village at the very point where the Danube arm with the same name goes into the Black Sea. I went there to learn about the community and to write about them and about the Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania conservation initiative that is being implemented there. My article on this subject has been published in Guernica Magazine.

But I feel I haven’t told the whole story yet. And there is something magical about Sfantu Gheorghe that I feel people should go see and experience and enjoy. Something that is beautiful in itself, but incomplete without knowing just a bit more about the life, the past and traditions of this place.

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Father and Daughter: a bitter-sweet animation to watch online

On a slow Sunday evening, you just have to see this emotional and nostalgic short animation about the bond between a father and his daughter. Father and Daughter is a Dutch animation made in 2000 by Michaël Dudok de Wit, and the same year it won the Oscar for Animated Short Film. The drawings are minimal and seem made in charcoal and watercolor. The story is beautiful and sad. And the soundtrack is probably one of the most well known Romanian tunes, a waltz called Waves of the Danube, composed by Ion Ivanovici in 1880.

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Toy stories: kids from around the world and their precious posessions

My most precious possession when I was 3, was a clown named Micky. He was made of that kind of synthetic velvet that can give you goose bumps when you run your hand on it. He was half blue and half orange and his head was made of rubber. One day, he lost the rubber head. No one knows what happened to it. But to the stupefaction of my entire family, I loved him nonetheless. At a point, my mom tried to replace him with a new identical Micky. But – and this is something that defined me since I was tiny – I never cared for identical replacements. I cared for the headless Micky who had all the stories.

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The silent drive: Volkswagen Beetle joins The Silent evolution

Some time ago, I wrote about the magical underwater world created by Jason deCaires Taylor in Cancun’s National Marine Park, in Mexico. 400 sculptures create an artificial home for fishes and crustaceans and everyone else needing a home after having been displaced by the humans messing up with their natural habitat. The Silent Evolution is an unusual conservation project, and the result does not only benefit nature but also creates a magical underwater world. And now, a real size 8 ton Volkswagen Beetle has been added.

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