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Announcement: I’m Going to Miss You, But I Am Taking a Sabbatical

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Hello, everyone. I’m going to be taking an extended break from kottke.org, starting today. I’ve been writing here for more than 24 years, nearly half my life — I need a breather. This is something I have been thinking about and planning for years1 and I’d like to share why I’m doing it, how it’s going to work, what I hope to accomplish, and how you can help.

This is a long post and was a hard one to write — I hope you’ll give it your thoughtful attention. But first, let me introduce you to my plant.

(This is going somewhere. Trust me.)

Eight years ago when I still lived in NYC, I bought a fiddle leaf fig tree from a store in the Flower District. Here it is a couple of years ago, thriving next to my desk here in Vermont:

overhead view of my home office with a fiddle leaf fig tree

I’d recently moved into my own apartment after separating from my wife and figured a large plant in my new place would add some liveliness to a new beginning that was feeling overwhelming, lonely, and sad. For the first couple of months, I didn’t know if my tree and I were going to make it. I’d never really had a plant before and struggled getting a handle on the watering schedule and other plant care routines. It started losing leaves. Like, an alarming number of leaves.

I’d brought this glorious living thing into my house only to kill it! Not cool. With the stress of the separation, my new living situation, and not seeing my kids every day, I felt a little like I was dying too.

One day, I decided I was not going to let my fiddle leaf fig tree die…and if I could do that, I wasn’t going to fall apart either. It’s a little corny, but my mantra became “if my tree is ok, I am ok”. I learned how to water & feed it and figured out the best place to put it for the right amount of light. It stopped shedding leaves.

The fig tree was a happy plant for several years after that. And I was ok because my plant was ok — I found new routines and rhythms in my altered life, made new traditions with my kids, got divorced, met new people, moved to a new state (w/ my family and tree), rediscovered who I was as a person, and, wonderfully and unexpectedly, forged a supportive and rewarding parenting partnership and friendship with my ex. We made it through that tough time together, that plant and me.

Recently however, my fiddle leaf fig has been struggling again. It’s been losing leaves and has become lopsided — some branches are going gangbusters while others are almost bare and the plant is listing so badly to one side that the whole thing tips over without the weight of water in the pot. This is what it’s looking like these days:

a majestic fiddle leaf fig tree leans precariously to one side in a bedroom

My plant is not ok. And neither am I — I feel as off-balance as my tree looks. I’m burrrrned out. I have been for a few years now. I’ve been trying to power through it, but if you’ve read anything about burnout, you know that approach doesn’t work.

I appreciate so much what I’ve built here at kottke.org — I get to read and learn about all sorts of new things every day, create new ideas and connections for people, and think in public — and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to set my own schedule, be my own boss, and provide for my family. But if you were to go back into the archive for the past several months and read the site closely, you’d see that I’ve been struggling.

Does what I do here make a difference in other people’s lives? In my life? Is this still scratching the creative itch that it used to? And if not, what needs to change? Where does kottke.org end and Jason begin? Who am I without my work? Is the validation I get from the site healthy? Is having to be active on social media healthy? Is having to read the horrible news every day healthy? What else could I be doing here? What could I be doing somewhere else? What good is a blog without a thriving community of other blogs? I’ve tried thinking about these and many other questions while continuing my work here, but I haven’t made much progress; I need time away to gain perspective.

· · ·

So. The plan, as it currently stands, is to take 5-6 months away from the site. I will not be posting anything new here. I won’t be publishing the newsletter. There won’t be a guest editor either — if someone else was publishing here, it would still be on my mind and I’m looking for total awayness here. I’m planning on setting up a system to republish some timeless posts from the archive while I’m away, but that’s not fully in place yet. If you send me email (please do!), it might take me awhile to read it and even longer to reply — I plan to ignore my inbox as much as I can get away with. I probably won’t be on Twitter but will be more active on Instagram if you want to follow me there.

The goal of my time away from the site is resting, resetting, recharging, and figuring out what to do going forward. In this NY Times feature, Alexandra Bell said this about how art is made: “I need some space to think and live and have generative conversations and do things, and then I’ll make something, but I can’t tell you what it is just yet.” That’s the sort of energy I need to tap into for a few months.

Here’s the way I’ve been thinking about it: there’s a passenger ferry that goes from Cape Cod to Nantucket and there’s a stretch of time in the middle of the journey where you can’t see the mainland behind you and can’t yet see the island ahead — you’re just out in the open water. That’s what I need, to be in that middle part — to forget about what I’ve been doing here for so many years without having to think about where I’m going in the future. I need open water and 5-6 months feels like the right amount of time to find it.

· · ·

This is probably a good time to admit that I’m a little terrified about taking this time off. There’s no real roadmap for this, no blueprint for independent creators taking sabbaticals to recharge. The US doesn’t have the social safety net necessary to enable extended breaks from work (or much of anything else, including health care) for people with Weird Internet Careers. I support a lot of individual writers, artists, YouTubers, and bloggers through Substack, Patreon, and other channels, and over the years I’ve seen some of them produce content at a furious pace to keep up their momentum, only to burn out and quit doing the projects that I, and loads of other people, loved. With so many more people pursuing independent work funded directly by readers & viewers these days, this is something all of us, creators and supporters alike, are going to have to think about.

I’ve said this many times over the past 5 years: kottke.org would not be possible today without the incredible membership support I have gotten from the people who read this site. Members have enabled this site to be free for everyone to read, enriching the open web and bucking the trend towards paywalling information online. I hope you will continue to support me in taking this necessary time off.

If, for whatever reason, you would like to pause/suspend your membership until I return, email me and I would be happy to do that for you. You’re also free of course to raise or lower your membership support here if you’d like. Regardless of what you choose to do, I hope I will see you back here in the fall.

· · ·

If you’re curious about what’s on my agenda for the next few months, so am I! I’m leaving on a long-planned family trip soon, but other than that, I do not have any set plans. Suggestions and advice are welcome! I’d like to spend some unrushed time with my kids, who too often see me when I’m stressed out about work. I want to read more books. Watch more good movies. Take more photos. Go on pointless adventures. I want to exercise a little more regularly and figure out how to eat a bit better. Maybe travel some, visit friends or the ocean or both. Bike more. Stare at the walls. I hope to get a little bored. I need to tend to my fiddle leaf fig tree — if my tree is ok, I will be too.

I’m going to miss this — and all of you — more than I probably realize right now, but I’m ready for a break. I’ll see you in a few months.

*deep breath*

Here I go!


· · ·

P.S. The best way to keep tabs on when the site starts up again is to subscribe to the newsletter. You can also follow @kottke on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed, or follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss anything.

P.P.S. Big big thanks to the many people I’ve talked to about this over the past few months and years, especially Anil, Alaina, David, Adriana, Tim, Caroline, Matt, Joanna, Meg, Aaron, Edith, Kara, Megan, Anna, Jackson, and Michelle. (Forgive me if I’ve forgotten anyone.) I value your wise counsel and your pointing me, hopefully, in the right direction.

P.P.P.S. A quick blogroll if you’re looking for sites and newsletters to keep you busy while I’m gone. In no particular order, a non-exhaustive list: The Kid Should See This, The Morning News, Waxy, Colossal, Curious About Everything, Open Culture, Drawing Links, Clive Thompson @ Medium, Cup of Jo, swissmiss, Storythings, things magazine, Present & Correct, Spoon & Tamago, Dense Discovery, Austin Kleon, NextDraft, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Poetry Is Not a Luxury, A Thing or Two, The Honest Broker, Interconnected, The Whippet, Craig Mod, Why is this interesting?, Sidebar, The Prepared, Life Is So Beautiful, Fave 5, Sentiers, The Fox Is Black, and Scrapbook Chronicles. Happy hunting!

Update: Hello, everyone. I want to thank you all so much for your emails, tweets, and DMs…yesterday was just a little overwhelming. I was apprehensive yesterday morning about publishing this post — I had no idea what the reaction was going to be — and, well, you folks turned it into a party. I’m so grateful for your support, advice, well-wishes, and understanding. I should not have doubted you — if this site is anything, it’s that way because of all of you. Thank you again for the support and I will see you in a few months.

  1. The original plan was to do this in late spring 2020 but….you know.

Tags: Jason Kottke   kottke.org   working
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52 days ago
Jason will be missed but it's always good to refocus, because if he comes back, he'll have a more lasting motivation.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
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2 public comments
47 days ago
I'll miss Jason's perspective and writing, and mostly just want him to live a good life. He's done his part to make my world better, and he owes me nothing. I'll be thrilled if he comes back, and I'll be watching for that day.
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth
52 days ago
Why did I get weepy reading this? Is it that I want it for myself, or is it that I'll miss someone who enriches the internet so much and has for as long as I've really been on the internet? I put Kottke in Google Reader the first day I used it, and it has never left.
Louisville, Kentucky
51 days ago
Another refugee from GR here too - and hanging on to kottke just about as long. I too will feel the loss...

Threat Modeling for Digital Applications: A Quick Guide

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threat modeling, cybersecurity, PASTA, DREAD, STRIDE

Threat Modeling is a security design process to identify potential threats that may impact web and mobile digital applications and determine the correct controls to produce effective countermeasures. Discover essential steps, concepts, and best practices in this guide created with insights by Accenture.

An introduction to Threat Modeling

In recent years, the need for Threat Modeling has grown as the number and types of attacks have increased. With the rise in popularity of web and mobile applications, attackers have more opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities. Threat Modeling can be used to assess risk in digital applications and to determine the best security controls to mitigate those risks. The process of Threat Modeling involves identifying potential threats, determining the impact of those threats, and selecting the appropriate countermeasures. There are a variety of benefits that can be gained from performing Threat Modeling. First, it can help organizations to prioritize their security efforts by identifying the most critical risks. Second, it can provide a structured approach for thinking about security. Third, it can help to uncover hidden risks that may be difficult to identify using other methods. Performing Threat Modeling is a valuable step in the security design process of any digital application. By taking the time to identify potential threats and determine the best security controls to mitigate those risks, organizations can improve the security of their applications and reduce the likelihood of a successful attack. Threat modeling can be applied to software, applications, systems, networks, distributed systems, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and business processes. 

Which are the objectives of Threat Modeling?

  1. Identify Potential Threats that may impact the digital application
  2. Identify the Security Controls to apply as countermeasures
  3. Identify critical areas of design that need to be protected

1) When conducting a threat modeling exercise, the first objective is to identify potential security threats that may impact the digital application. This can be done by focusing on the assets, drawing and analyzing architectural diagrams, and then brainstorming with the development team and other stakeholders to identify what could go wrong. Once potential threats have been identified, they can be prioritized based on their likelihood and potential impact. This will help the team focus on the most serious threats first.

2) The second objective of threat modeling is to identify the security controls that can be implemented to mitigate the identified threats. The controls should be selected based on their efficacy in mitigating the threat and their feasibility to implement. Some controls may not be feasible to implement, so the team needs to weigh the benefits and costs of each control before deciding which to implement. 

3) The third objective of threat modeling is to identify critical areas of design that need to be protected. This can be done by identifying which parts of the application are most critical to its functioning and security. Once these critical areas have been identified, additional security controls can be put in place to protect them. 

Threat modeling aims to identify potential threats, security controls to apply, and critical areas to protect.

The 4-question framework of Threat Modeling 

The threat model process can be explained with a 4-questions framework. Each question has a corresponding threat modeling phase with sub-steps that allow finding the correct answers. 

1) Model System – What are you building?

 2) Find Threats – What can go wrong with it once it’s built? 

3) Address Threats – What should you do about those things that can go wrong? 

4) Validate – Did you do a decent job of analysis? 

1) The first step, modeling the system, is about understanding what you are building. This means having a clear picture of the system’s components, how they interact, and the system’s environment. This step involves creating a diagram of the system under attack and identifying the assets that need to be protected. What are its component parts? What purpose does it serve? What data does it process? What are its interfaces? Knowing the answers to these questions is necessary in order to identify potential threats to the system. In particular, data flow diagrams and architectural diagrams should be generated for the assets that the analysis is focusing on, and that need to be protected. You should also identify the system’s assets and what needs to be protected. This understanding forms the basis for the next step of finding threats. 

2) In the second step, you find potential threats to the assets identified in the previous step. This is done by brainstorming, using threat catalogues, reviewing similar systems, and looking at common attack patterns, or by using a tool such as the Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool. Strategies like STRIDE, described in the following section, can help identify threats and categorize them. The goal is to generate a list of threats that could potentially exploit the weaknesses of the system. Once you have a list of potential threats, you can begin to prioritize them. Some threats may be more serious than others, and some may be more likely to occur. It is important to consider both the severity of the threat and the likelihood of it occurring when prioritizing threats. You need to understand both the attacker’s goals and the capabilities in order to identify the threats that are most relevant.

3) The third step is about addressing the threats that were identified in the previous step. This means finding ways to mitigate or eliminate the risks that these threats pose. This can be done by redesigning components, changing assumptions, or adding security controls.

4) The fourth and final step is to validate the results of the previous three steps. This means checking if the threats have been properly addressed and if the security controls are effective.

There are a variety of different threat modeling strategies out there, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular threat modeling techniques and tools. 


STRIDE is a mnemonic for the six most common types of attack: Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information disclosure, Denial of service, and Elevation of privilege. It was originally developed by Microsoft in the 90s. By identifying which of these attacks are possible against a given system, you can start to put together a plan to mitigate them. Teams can use the STRIDE to spot threats while designing software architectures. 

STRIDE aims to ensure that an asset fulfills the CIA triad (confidentiality, integrity and availability).

STRIDE can be used on a model or diagram of the system to protect, that should include a breakdown of processes, data stores, data flows and trust boundaries.

STRIDE: Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information disclosure. Threat Modeling
STRIDE= Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information Disclosure, Denial of Service, and Elevation of Privilege.

The DREAD model

The DREAD model is a quantitative model that rates the severity of threats on a scale of 1 to 10, based on the following factors: D- Damage potential R- Reproducibility E- Exploitability A- Affected users D- Discoverability. By analyzing threats across these different categories and assigning a value to each, your organization can better understand what are the most important vulnerabilities in your assets and architecture, and design a plan to address them based on the priority and values assigned to each.


The Process for Attack Simulation and Threat Analysis (PASTA) is a risk-centric threat modeling framework. It allows companies and businesses to follow a series of steps to perform risk analysis and improve the overall security strategy. PASTA has a broad range and can easily scale up or scale down as needed, and many other threat modeling frameworks can map into it.


The Visual, Agile, and Simple Threat (VAST) framework is based on Threat Modeler, a threat-modeling tool.

Its strengths are usability and scalability, that helps large organizations use it in their infrastructures, 


Trike is a tool for conducting security threat assessments. As their website says, the project began in 2006 as an attempt to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing threat modeling methodologies and is being actively used and developed.


OCTAVE is a risk management methodology that focuses on identifying the Operational, Cyber, Technical, and Administrative Vulnerabilities present in a system. This information can then be used to assess the risks posed to each asset and determine how best to protect it. At its core, it helps the team share knowledge in a systematic way, so as to identify the current state of security, possible vulnerabilities, risks to critical assets, and set a security strategy.


NIST is a government-sponsored risk management framework that provides guidance on how to identify, assess, and mitigate security risks. It includes a threat modeling methodology that can be used to identify potential security risks and develop mitigation plans. 

These are just a few of the many threat modeling strategies and tools that are available. Which one you choose to use will depend on your specific needs and preferences. However, all of these techniques can be useful in helping you proactively identify and address potential security risks.

Some, like OCTAVE, focus on the practice of reviewing systems for potential threats. Others, like STRIDE or PASTA, focus on the point of view of a developer or an attacker.

Tools for threat modeling 

STRIDE, PASTA, DREAD, VAST, TRIKE, threat modeling, cybersecurity, threat modeling tools
Following a strong threat modeling strategy and the right tools is key for minimizing the possibilities of cyberattacks and mitigating their effects.

There are a number of different tools available for threat modeling. The following are some of the most popular: 

1. Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool – The Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool is a free tool that helps organizations identify, quantify, and prioritize risks. It includes a library of common threats and vulnerabilities and provides a step-by-step guide for creating threat models. 

2. OWASP Threat Dragon – OWASP Threat Dragon is a modeling tool used to create threat model diagrams as part of a secure development lifecycle. As discussed before, creating these diagrams for the assets that need to be protected is a fundamental step in threat modeling, and should be always incorporated into the development cycle of components that can be at risk of attacks. Threat Dragon also supports STRIDE; it provides modeling diagrams and implements a rule engine to auto-generate threats and their mitigations.

3. IriusRisk – IriusRisk is a product that allows you to generate a diagram of your architecture through easy drag and drop methods, like draw.io. It then generates a threat model in minutes, highlighting the possible risks your architecture may have, and it generates a series of possible countermeasures to hypothetical attacks. It also allows to receive real-time threat scores and quickly generates reports.

4 – draw.io https://www.diagrams.net/  are online tools that allow you to create diagrams using most cloud provider resources and objects, useful to analyze the possible vulnerabilities of your architecture and assets.

Main Takeaways

Cybersecurity is among the most fundamental areas any company should invest in. Malicious hackers are always eager to find vulnerabilities to steal valuable information or inject dangerous software into a company’s private network (e.g., ransomware).

Every company should follow threat modeling guidelines to ensure that their infrastructure is safe from all attacks. In this article, we described the main steps to follow. Accenture provides companies with their extensive expertise in cybersecurity, computer networks, and threat modeling. Through their support, your company can be guided in each step when building critical infrastructure and pipelines, so that they’re safer from external attacks. A threat modeling report will analyze the assets involved, generating an overall diagram, an architecture and data flow, and it will identify and highlight potential threats with relative priorities, also suggesting security controls that can mitigate the threat impacts.

The post Threat Modeling for Digital Applications: A Quick Guide appeared first on Codemotion Magazine.

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Measuring TCP performance over Fibre, geostationary satellite and Starlink

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63 days ago
Interesting analysis. My very first network job had me using GEO satellite connectivity for the corporate WAN all over North America. It sucked so bad for client-server applications or things like syncing NTP. I haven't played with LEO satellites, but despite the space junk and astronomy clutter I think they're viable for WAN use.
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth

Watch this new heart-pounding edit of last year's South African armored car heist

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YouTuber preposteRUSS says, "Using rarely seen front and back camera angles from the actual N4 highway assault in Pretoria, South Africa that went viral in 2021, I edited together a real-time action sequence so you can see exactly what went down in this daring escape." — Read the rest

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68 days ago
Holy crap - the scariest thing I've seen today. The driver is a serious badass.
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth

Eton Elite 750 Radio

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Eton Elite 750 Radio


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This substantial bit of kit from radio maker Eton can tune in radio broadcasts on just about every wavelength. It can receive signals in AM, FM, LW, SW, SSB, and VHF aircraft bands, and has a built-in 360º rotating AM antenna to help pull in the most distant signals. Its digital tuner can store up to 100 channels per band.

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93 days ago
I feel old because it's been literally decades since I've seen a Squelch dial. Guess I might need this radio for my bunker...
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth

From a volcano love story to an all-girl metal band, 15 documentaries you can’t miss

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A person in a volcanologist’s suit walks; in the background, fiery orange lava fills the frame.
Fire of Love is among the many exciting nonfiction movies to watch for this year. | Sundance Institute

The most exciting nonfiction from this year’s Sundance.

Just look at any streaming service’s offerings: Nonfiction cinema (or just “documentaries,” if you prefer) is in its heyday. Filmmakers are bending and twisting and experimenting with the form, and the results are often more exciting than what’s happening with their fictional counterparts.

So it’s no surprise that this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which often premieres the year’s buzziest and most brilliant documentaries, was loaded with fascinating, challenging, and entertaining offerings. From playful explorations of the natural world to portraits of countries — and even one film shot entirely in virtual reality — here are the 15 nonfiction films to watch for this year, and where to find them.

2nd Chance

Richard Davis, a white man in shorts and a camo jacket, stands in front of a camo-painted car parked on a driveway next to a large lawn. Sundance Institute
A still from 2nd Chance.

Ramin Bahrani usually makes fiction films (like White Tiger or Chop Shop), but for his first feature documentary he turned to Richard Davis, the man who invented the concealable bulletproof vest. Bahrani sees Davis — with his gun obsession, self-mythologizing, penchant for ignoring inconvenient facts, and cult of personality — as a kind of stand-in for America, and 2nd Chance makes the strong case that he’s right. Through startlingly candid interviews, wild archival footage, and a keen visual sense, Bahrani shows how Davis’s invention changed the world, and what the true lasting effects of that change have been.

How to watch it: 2nd Chance is awaiting distribution.

32 Sounds

A white man stands in a room surrounded by sound panels, holding a large and fancy microphone and wearing headphones. Sundance Institute
A still from 32 Sounds.

Sam Green’s 32 Sounds is a playful, thoughtful documentary, best watched wearing headphones or in a live performance (really!). Green narrates the film, which explores the world of sound and its meaning for human existence. At times, text on screen instructs the viewer to close their eyes to experience the sound more fully. The sound is carefully designed so that you feel like you’re in the film, rather than just an observer, in a way that’s even more immersive than a state-of-the-art movie theater. It’s a delightful, joyous film that changes the way you look at — or maybe listen to — the world.

How to watch it: 32 Sounds will tour as live performances; check the website for details.

A House Made of Splinters

Two little girls sit together in a dimly lit hallway. Sundance Institute
A still from A House Made of Splinters.

A documentary of stunning intimacy, A House Made of Splinters is an observational film about children living in a group home in Lysychansk, Ukraine; it’s designed to be a temporary living situation for children in at-risk situations. The women who run the home are caring and nurturing, but that can’t change the struggles the children face every day: longing for parents whose alcoholism keeps them from even visiting, or fearing violence at home, or worrying that they’ll be separated from their siblings and friends. There are no easy answers, but Simon Lereng Wilmont’s careful camerawork and clear rapport with the children lead to uncommonly candid footage and, occasionally, a sense of hope.

How to watch it: A House Made of Splinters is awaiting distribution.

All That Breathes

A young Indian man sits closely looking at a bird, who is standing on his desk, looking back at him. Kiterabbit Films/Sundance Institute
A still from All That Breathes.

Delhi’s rapidly worsening air quality and religious violence form the backdrop for All that Breathes, Shaunak Sen’s lyrical portrait of two men who work to save injured and sick birds in the city. Their quest to find resources for their perpetually underfunded operation winds together with meditations on the nature of the birds, particularly kites, birds of prey that have been forced to adapt to the changing city. “Delhi is a gaping wound, and we’re a Band-Aid on it,” one of them says. Their work stands as a metaphor for the huge task that bringing healing to the city’s human residents might be, too. After all, we all breathe the same air.

How to watch it: All That Breathes is awaiting distribution.


Against a blue sky and blue water, a Black man stands with his back to us, looking out at the water. Participant/Sundance Institute
A still from Descendant.

One of the festival’s most blistering and brilliant documentaries, Descendant tracks the attempt to find and surface the Clotilda, the last ship carrying enslaved people to arrive in the United States, long after the slave trade (but not slavery itself) was made illegal. Director Margaret Brown weaves together the stories of the descendants of those who arrived on the Clotilda with the history of the region, and of the powerful family that’s tried to bury and deny its story for so long. It’s an engrossing, often thrilling story with implications that echo across America today.

How to watch it: Descendant was acquired by Netflix and is awaiting a release date.

Downfall: The Case Against Boeing

A group of people stand holding photos of their loved ones, who were killed in plane crashes. Netflix/Sundance Institute
A still from Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.

Rory Kennedy’s enraging documentary traces the events that led to two crashes of the Boeing 737 Max planes and the deaths of hundreds of people. Boeing’s slide from a well-respected company built on trust and attention to detail to a company that hid the truth to satisfy the demands of profit is familiar, but terrifying nonetheless. And Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is an exceptionally strong expose, one with a clear thesis, a powerful, direct argument to make, and implications that extend far beyond just Boeing.

How to watch it: Downfall: The Case Against Boeing will premiere on Netflix on February 18.

Fire of Love

Two figures in volcanologist suits stand in front of a pale yellowish-brown sky spotted with lava bursts. Sundance Institute
A still from Fire of Love.

Fire of Love, the tale of married volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, was one of the festival’s breakout hits. When you see it, you’ll know why. Narrated by Miranda July and directed by Sara Dosa, Fire of Love is a tale of romance, both between Katia and Maurice and between the Kraffts and volcanoes. It’s no spoiler to say the couple perished in a volcanic explosion in 1991 (the film tells us this from the start), which means the whole tale is overlaid with bittersweet retrospection. But their passion for volcanoes, and the way they thought it might translate into helping mankind, helps us see who they really were, and the result, built largely from archival footage, is breathtaking. (Plus, lots of eye-popping lava shots!)

How to watch it: Fire of Love was acquired by National Geographic Documentary Films and will be theatrically released later this year.

Free Chol Soo Lee

A black-and-white archival photo of a crowd of media and attorneys surrounding a Korean man. Grant Din/Sundance Institute
A still from Free Chol Soo Lee.

In 1973, a Korean immigrant named Chol Soo Lee was accused of a murder in San Francisco — a murder he didn’t commit. While he was imprisoned, a “Free Chol Soo Lee” movement sprung up across the country, propelled by people who saw his situation as about not just him, but about the status of people of Asian descent in America. Free Chol Soo Lee, directed by Eugene Yi and Julie Ha, tells his story both during the movement and after, pointing out the ways that both going to prison and becoming an unlikely icon affected Lee’s life when the hubbub faded.

How to watch it: Free Chol Soo Lee was acquired by Mubi and is awaiting a release date.

I Didn’t See You There

A low-to-the-ground angle shows the torso and legs of a person walking across the street on a crosswalk, and the silhouette shadow of a person in a wheelchair. Reid Davenport/Sundance Institute
A still from I Didn’t See You There.

Filmmaker Reid Davenport employs a first-person point of view for his documentary I Didn’t See You There, in which he lets us see the world through his own eyes. Davenport is disabled and often uses a wheelchair to get around Oakland, where he lives and makes films. He narrates the film, a sometimes funny and sometimes furious window into the casual inconveniences and less casual indignities he runs into in a world not built for him, and reflects on the legacy of figures like P.T. Barnum who turned disabilities into something to be both stared at and ignored. It’s a must-see.

How to watch it: I Didn’t See You There is awaiting distribution.

My Old School

A white man with grey hair and thin spectacles sits at a desk in a science classroom. Tommy Ga-Ken Wan/Sundance Institute
Alan Cumming in My Old School.

Just a flat-out fun documentary (and thus a rather rare breed), My Old School is a tale of a very weird event at a Scottish school in the 1990s. Former students are interviewed by director Jono McLeod — who also went to the school — about their memories of one unusual schoolmate. (He was also interviewed for the film, but refused to be shown on camera, so actor Alan Cumming lip-synchs to the audio.) Watching My Old School is like listening to a bunch of friends tell you about the wildest memory they share, and with flashbacks rendered in animation that recalls ’90s shows like Daria, it’s a romp of a period piece, too.

How to watch it: My Old School is awaiting distribution.

Riotsville, USA

An archival photo of a crowd of military men pretending to be protestors, with a tank looming over them. They hold signs that say things like “We Want Action” and “Help Help.” National Archives and Records Administration/Sundance Institute
A still from Riotsville, U.S.A.

Did you know — I certainly didn’t — that in 1968, following a summer of unrest across the nation, the US military set up two model “towns,” called Riotsvilles? There military personnel and police forces from across the US could learn how to quell “civil disorders.” Director Sierra Pettingill draws on archival footage shot by the military to tell the story of the Riotsvilles and of the bigger attempt to keep citizens (and, some claimed, “outside agitators”) from protesting. Constructed like an essay, Riotsville, USA asks what we make of this footage today, “embedded as we are in the future they were meant to ensure,” and traces a damning path to today’s militarization of the police and rhetoric that still echoes in the halls of power.

How to watch it: Riotsville, USA is awaiting distribution.


Two young women holding metal guitars and wearing leather outfits play their instruments in a field of tall grass. Rita Baghdadi/Sundance Institute
A still from Sirens.

Sirens is about the only all-female metal band in Lebanon, but it’s about a lot more than that. Rita Baghdadi centers her story — which is so rhythmic and well-edited that you could mistake it for a carefully plotted scripted film — on the relationship between the band’s co-founders, Lilas and Sherry, and the ways their relationship echoes challenges they’re living through. Unrest in Beirut, family tensions, and the physical danger that queer women like themselves face in their country make for a tumultuous life, and they rely on one another and on the issues they address in their music to maintain hope for a better future.

How to watch it: Sirens is awaiting distribution.


A bearded Israeli man wears headphones. A pile of cassette tapes and an old-looking radio are in the foreground. In the background you can see a map of Israel. Yonathan Weitzman/Sundance Institute
Teddy Katz in Tantura.

The nature of self-mythologizing on a national scale rises to the top in Tantura, which centers on the now-elderly members of an Israeli Defense Force brigade and an event that some of them claim never happened in 1948. During the Arab-Israel war, the Palestinian village of Tantura was razed, and many of its inhabitants were killed, but Israel’s official position has long been that it was not a massacre. Instead, casualties were all framed as casualties of war. Alon Schwarz, with exacting care and often shocking interviews, excavates what really happened in Tantura through the eyes of people who were there and who live nearby now. The film digs into what often stands between societies and the pursuit of truth.

How to watch it: Tantura is awaiting distribution.

The Territory

A Brazilian woman is swimming, and has slicked back her hair and has her eyes closed. Sundance Institute
A still from The Territory.

The Indigenous Uru-eu-wau-wau people live in the Amazon rainforest, and over decades have watched their territory become an island surrounded by farms and settlers that only decimate the landscape. After President Bolsonaro’s election and thanks to his rhetoric, some people felt emboldened enough to invade and survey Uru-eu-wau-wau land, planning to cut down its trees and settle. Alex Pritz’s documentary, co-produced by the Uru-eu-wau-wau, follows the people through several years of struggling to get the Brazilian government to take action, and to convince the world that they’re being invaded. It’s a beautiful film, and certainly an enraging one.

How to watch it: The Territory was acquired by National Geographic Documentary Films and is awaiting a release date.

We Met in Virtual Reality

An image of two anime-style figures watching lanterns float into the sky in a virtual reality environment. Joe Hunting/Sundance Institute
A still from We Met in Virtual Reality.

We Met in Virtual Reality was my surprise favorite documentary of the festival. Joe Hunting’s extraordinary film was entirely filmed on the social VR platform VRChat, where he spent time with and interviewed several subjects, from a dance teacher to a sign language instructor to a couple who fell in love on the platform. I confess that I expected the movie to be gimmicky, but I was totally wrong. Instead, it’s a meditation on connection and finding a community where you belong, featuring subjects who’d found genuine friendships and relationships in VRChat that extended into the physical world. Hunting shot it in-world with a camera developed on the platform, and it looks marvelous. You may also find yourself wiping away a tear or two.

How to watch it: We Met in Virtual Reality is awaiting acquisition.

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1 public comment
145 days ago
Lots of good stuff to add to my watchlist!
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth
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