"There's nobody that's not going to get old — unless they die," says Enola Maxwell at the beginning of this engaging and refreshing film. Through the eyes of six women, aged 65-75, we are treated to a variety of new perspectives on aging, along with such complex and emotional subjects as changing body image, sexuality, family life and dealing with death. Generous portions of insight and good humor provide clues to grappling with these issues that effect us all.
Rich in humor and regional color, this sometimes hilarious film uses the prism of language to reveal our attitudes about the way other people speak. From Boston Brahmins to Black Louisiana teenagers, from Texas cowboys to New York professionals, "American Tongues" elicits funny, perceptive, sometimes shocking, and always telling comments on American English in all its diversity.
Based on the autobiography of Nicaraguan author Omar Cabezas, "Fire From the Mountain" is the lyrical, earthy, sometimes humorous account of the author's political journey from student activist to guerrilla to government official. Shaffer's last film, "Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements", won an Oscar in 1985.
Half comedy, half horror story, this disturbing film focuses on several spokesmen for America's survivalist movement as they reveal the way they think, the way they play, and the way they prepare for the next world war. Marked by a deadpan quickness in editing and an interviewing technique that allows its subjects exactly enough rope, "Armageddon's Door" is by turns funny, chilling and haunting. Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times
If "Armageddon's Door" is about the explosion of community, "Living with AIDS" is just the opposite. It's a graceful, moving film about a community that provides both compassion and care to someone with a debilitating disease, in this case a courageous 22-year-old man with AIDS. Concern over AIDS has produced a crop of films, not to speak of television programmes, but none of them so far matches the power of "Living with AIDS". David Robinson, The Times (London)
During the late 1970s, tens of thousands of men, women and even children were abducted by the right-wing military government in Argentina. While most of the population was terrorized by these actions, a small group of mothers of the disappeared began staging weekly demonstrations to demand that their children be released and the kidnappers be brought to justice. This is the dramatic story of their courageous struggle, which ultimately served as a catalyst for the toppling of the dictatorship. "Las Madres" has won multiple awards at film festivals around the world and was nominated for an Oscar. The spiritual triumph of maternal passion over political repression. Michael Sragow, San Francisco Examiner
Five years before the United States entered World War II, 3,200 Americans went off to Europe to fight the spread of fascism. 18, 19 and 20 years old, they volunteered to risk their lives defending a democratically elected government in the Spanish Civil War. Fifty years later, in their own words, the survivors recount a vivid story of those years - and what's happened to them since.
A lively portrait of 76-year-old Harold "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, musician, artist, raconteur and rogue. Armstrong is the leader of the last black string band still making music in America. And in his outrageously colorful way he recounts his life and plays the kind of music with roots that helped shape blues, jazz, country, gospel, ragtime, western swing, and even rock 'n roll. Frank Hunter, St. Louis Globe-Democrat He's such a marvelous creation that it's hard to believe he's a mere mortal. Patrick Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
On the surface, this is a somewhat unusual film about pet cemeteries and their owners. But then it grows much more complicated and bizarre, until in the end it is about such large issues as love, immorality, failure, and the dogged elusiveness of the American Dream. Featured at major film festivals like New York, Cannes, and Berlin, "Gates of Heaven" was included in Roger Ebert's all time 10 best list. Brings us vital news from the heart of the heart of the country. David Ansen, Newsweek
Hailed by many critics as a classic, "Best Boy" is the moving story of Philly, a 53-year-old retarded man who adapts to an independent life as he prepares to move away form his elderly parents.
"Rate It X" is a bitingly funny and disarming journey through the landscape of American sexism. Men only are interviewed by the two filmmakers in a witty montage of free-wheeling encounters. Pornographers, corporate executives, a funeral parlor director and Santa Claus are among those who reveal more than they intended. A surprisingly candid view of men's feelings towards women 15 years after the birth of the women's movement.
"Metropolitan Avenue" is an inspiring contemporary story about women who strive to combine new roles and old values in our rapidly changing society. We are introduced to a lively Brooklyn neighborhood which, like many urban areas, faces problems caused by racial tensions and cuts in municipal services. But in this case, a group of 'traditional' homemakers from varied ethnic backgrounds rise to the challenge and become leaders in the effort to save their community.
"Girltalk" is Kate Davis' heartbreaking yet hopeful portrait of three runaway girls with histories of abuse and neglect. The juvenile courts are after Pinky, a Puerto Rican girl who refuses to go to school. Mars, on the streets since age 13, now works as a stripper. Martha, who has lived in a dozen foster homes, now confronts teenage motherhood. Music, humor, and intimate conversations play against the disturbing reality of these girls' lives.
"Coming Out" reveals that the debutante tradition is alive and well. Follow Miss Mary Stuart Montague Price, founder and chairman (sic) of the annual Debutante Cotillion in Washington, DC, through the meticulously planned ritual where networking and meeting people who can help you later are as important to todays debs as the style of the gown or the height of the escort.
Watching "The Family Album" is like coming across a long-lost box of family photos: it's enchanting, humorous and sometimes even eerie. Director Alan Berliner spent years blending home movies and tape recordings collected from 60 different American families to assemble a composite lifetime which moves from childhood to adulthood, form innocence to experience.
The Bomb is killing ordinary Americans, even in the absence of a nuclear war. That's the thesis of this chilling - but ultimately hopeful - film which explores in evocative, personal and immediate terms how all of us have been affected by the nuclear age. Denounced by officials and shunned by broadcasters when it was first released, many of the issues it raised have become today's front page headlines.
On a hot summer night in Detroit, Ronald Ebens, an autoworker, killed a young Chinese-American engineer with a baseball bat. Although he confessed, he never spent a day in jail. This gripping Academy Award-nominated film relentlessly probes the implications of the murder in the streets of Detroit, for the families of those involved, and for the American justice system.
In "Wise Guys!", a stamp dealer from Los Angeles, a former school teacher form Miami, a born again Christian from Las Vegas and a whiz kid law student square off in the Jeopardy! $100,000 Tournament of Champions. David Hartwell's fast-paced, sometimes poignant film is a peek behind the scenes and into the fact-filled minds of contestants in one of America's favorite game shows.
The Bomb is killing ordinary Americans, even in the absence of a nuclear war. That's the thesis of this chilling - but ultimately hopeful - film which explores in evocative, personal and immediate terms how all of us have been affected by the nuclear age. Denounced by officials and shunned by broadcasters when it was first released, many of the issues it raised have become today's front page headlines.
David Sutherland's bold and unconventional film portrait reveals one of America's leading Social Realist painters doing what he does best: skewering corrupt politicians, raging over social injustices, and satirizing the petty foibles of humankind.
On the streets and subways of New York, 101 itinerant performers whirl firesticks, mimic passers-by, imitate Stevie Wonder, tap dance and perform classical music. Karen Goodman's "No Applause, Just Throw Money" is a delightful mixture of music and magic moments, celebrating some joyful encounters in New York City streets.
This riveting film recounts the untold story of a handful of Jewish youth who organized an underground resistance against the Nazis in the Lithuanian ghetto of Vilna.
Moved by the growing desperation of thousands of laid-off steel workers, a group of ministers in Pittsburgh begins to confront the city's government and powerful corporations. Their passionate, controversial and unorthodox actions lead to profound soul-searching, Church rejection and imprisonment.
In "Binge", videomaker Lynn Hershman places herself center-screen for an intimate, humorous and piercing narrative about her efforts to control her weight.
For more than a hundred years cowboys have written with feeling about the life and land they love. Kim Shelton's "Cowboy Poets" is a fascinating portrait of several contemporary poet lariats who keep that tradition alive - even on the Johnny Carson show.
In "Doug And Mike, Mike And Doug", Cindy Kleine probes the inner and outer lives of identical twins Doug and Mike Starn, whose collaborative painting and photographic work is rapidly gaining acclaim in the art world.
A uniquely powerful and intimate look at the lives and struggles of a group of homeless people who've been moved into an "urban campground" in Los Angeles. Made by Tom Seidman with the help of a crew that included camp "residents," "Lost Angeles" graphically and unsentimentally portrays the complicated realities of life on the streets.
In 1986, three women convicted of politically-motivated nonviolent offenses were transferred to a secret, subterranean prison where they were kept in constantly-lit near isolation, watched 24 hours a day and strip searched routinely for nearly two years. The women were not imprisoned in Turkey or Iran or Chile, but in Lexington Ky. This startling film is simultaneously a frank account of three uncompromising women who would not renounce their political affiliations and a chilling expose of the secret unit in which they were confined.
Gary, a 39 year-old successful animation artist and devout Christian, is pursuing a lifelong dream - to become a woman. "Metamorphosis" is a candid, non-sensational and sometimes humorous journey of nearly three years as Gary prepares physically and emotionally for sex reassignment surgery. Along the way, the film raises provocative questions about what really makes us men and women.
With a subway platform as his stage and a plastic can as his instrument, 14-year-old Larry Wright is a self-taught drummer with astonishing talent. "Larry Wright" is a rousing tribute to the Harlem youth and the rich culture of the urban streets.
Cryonics - the freezing of human beings after death for future revival - is the focus of this off-beat film by two science buffs-turned-film-majors. With commentary from Timothy Leary, a theologian and skeptical scientists, "On Ice" is alternately deadpan and dead serious.
In its national broadcast premiere, this bittersweet classic from pioneering filmmakers follows four door-to-door Bible salesmen as they walk the line between hype and despair. The critics used all the superlatives on this one, and it's as fresh today as when it was originally released.
How can we curb crime? Three big city police chiefs reveal sharply differing philosophies of law enforcement in this close-up profile by Alan and Susan Raymond, the makers of The Police Tapes. From Daryl Gates, who introduced SWAT to Los Angeles, to Anthony Bouza, who ruffled feathers in Minneapolis, to Lee Brown, who recently left Houston for New York, these top cop's ideas about the causes and cures of crime are as varied as their personalities.
The textures and complexities of everyday life in India unfold in Michael Camerini's richly observed story of two poor women and their efforts to improve their lives. Kamala and Raji's resourcefulness, aspirations and capacity for joy shatter the stereotypes of Indian women as voiceless figures leading desolate lives of abject poverty. They have joined a growing organization of street vendors and laborers; the husbands and wholesalers of Ahmedabad may never be the same.
Artist Estell Peck Ishigo went with her Japanese American husband into an internment camp during World War II, one of the few Caucasians to do so. Vividly recreated form Ishigo's own memoirs, photos and paintings, "Days Of Waiting" reveals the shattering relocation experience from an "outsider's" perspective.
The role of art in America has been debated recently everywhere from the Halls of Congress to the local shopping mall. "Golub" is more than a portrait of the socially committed painter Leon Golub, whose massive canvases are intended to provoke viewers. It is about media and contemporary society, social responsibility and creativity, art and information.
If a tree can grow in Brooklyn, can an eggplant flourish in the Bronx? Maria De Luca's "Green Streets" charts the spontaneous emergence of community gardens in New York City and how they've helped to nourish neighborhood pride, racial tolerance and a budding sense of hope for hundreds of enthusiastic gardeners in the urban jungle.
In "Going Up", the creation of a skyscraper is transformed by director Gary Pollard into a breathtaking visual experience as time-lapse photography, hard hat banter and construction worker choreography are set to a score by 15 new music composers in an urban ballet forty stories above New York harbor.
Behind the faded signs of three motels in the American Southwest lay entire worlds of passion, loyalty, adventure and fate. Veteran filmmaker Christian Blackwood winds his was into the soul of remarkable people in uniquely American subculture.
Ossian Maclise is not an average American teenager. Born in Massachusetts, he has been living in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery since the age of four. At seven, his monastic order recognized Ossian as a tulku - a reincarnation of a high Tibetan lama. "Ossian" offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of a young man who embodies a surprising meeting of Eastern and Western culture.
Founded by a Jesuit priest form St. Louis, a grassroots theatre company takes its shows on the unpaved roads of Honduras to enlighten and inspire villagers in the impoverished countryside.
After years of witnessing first hand the horrors of guerrilla wars, Israeli-born producer Ilan Ziv traveled to Chile, the Philippines and the West Bank to explore the development of "People Power" and to reexamine his own long-held belief in the necessary evil of violence to overthrow repressive governments. Set against the background of a predominantly nonviolent transformation of Eastern Europe, this is the first film to examine and evaluate nonviolence as an effective strategy for political change.
Are college students today apathetic and self-centered? Twenty years after National Guardsmen opened fire on student antiwar demonstrators, Jim Klein, a 60's radical-turned-filmmaker (Union Maids, Seeing Red) visits the campus of Kent State to probe behind the stereotypes. Together with young patrons of the local tanning salon, activists-turned-professors, and an ROTC captain, Klein ponders the social forces that are changing campuses and the country in the 90's.
The narrator/filmmaker is Peter Adair (Word is Out) and the disease is the HIV virus. Adair has asked 11 people - women and men, gay and straight, from all walks of life - to share their stories. Alternately irreverent, candid and soulful, this stirring film is not about being sick; it is about being true to the emotional complexity of being mortal.
Legendary filmmaker Les Blank's newest, toe-tapping film treats us to a portrait of a musical Louisiana couple committed to celebrating and preserving Cajun culture.
"Plena" is in Puerto Rico what the blues are in the U.S.: a musical expression abounding with romance, daily news and personal sagas. As the Puerto Rican community grows on the mainland, the infectious rhythms of Puerto Rico's most original contribution to Caribbean urban music are celebrated with gusto.
Every year 2,500 sets of twins gather in Twinsburg, Ohio for Twins Days. Most are dressed alike, many live together, and all seem to have rhyming names. Standing out amidst the lighthearted contests and games are filmmaker Sue Marcoux and her sister Michele, separated by 3,000 miles and a lifetime of anti-twin behavior.
For 99 years, the residents of Salamanca, N.Y. have rented the land under their homes for an average of $1/year form the Seneca Indians, under the terms of a lease imposed by Congress. Now, as the lease is about to expire, a century of bad business must be renegotiated. Chana Gazit and David Steward's film captures the unfolding drama as the survival of an American town and justice for the Senecas appear to be in conflict.
A West Virginia community is deeply divided over potentially life and death questions. The local chemical plant produces the same deadly toxins that caused the disaster in Bhopal, India and a series of accidents has residents alarmed. The area's fragile economy is dependent on the jobs provided by the plant. The efforts to come to grips with this conflict form the dramatic core of Mimi Pickering and Anne Lewis Johnson's timely, probing film.
The Exxon Valdez disaster left far more than a soiled coastline in its wake. Grief, suspicion, anger and greed oozed through the small, formerly pristine town of Valdez. The human toll of an environmental nightmare is evoked in a haunting film which Exxon and the City of Valdez attempted, unsuccessfully, to suppress.
The camera moves through a Minnesota corn field and finds a photograph of a suburban tract clothes-pinned to a cornstalk. Layered with visual and emotional paradoxes, "Turn Here Sweet Corn" searches for meaning beyond cliches and nostalgia, as a family farm is lost to speculative suburban real estate developers. Helen De Michiel juxtaposes innovative video techniques with slices of a simpler, threatened life, in an emotional and personal reflection on the colonization of cornfields by shopping malls.
Marlon Rigg' "Tongues Untied" rises above the 'deeply personal' - far above it - in exploring what it means to be black and gay. Angry, funny, erotic and poetic by turns ( and sometimes all at once), it jumps from interview to confession, music video to documentary to poem. Craig Seligman, San Francisco Examiner A daring, visionary work that speaks with the eloquence of barbed wire. Steve Dollar, Atlanta Journal Constitution
From the Free Speech Movement to the anti-war protests to the last stand over People's Park, Berkeley California became synonymous with a generation's quest for social, political, and cultural transformation. Six years in the making, Mark Kitchell's extraordinary chronicle of those years was named Best Documentary of 1990 by the National Society of Film Critics and was nominated for an Oscar in 1991.
In "A Little Vicious", a pit bull, his elderly master and a dog trainer/philosopher form a curious love triangle. Elegantly crafted, wryly narrated by Kevin Bacon, and infused with a blend of humor and pathos, Immy Humes' dog-umentary is a quirky, off-beat gem of a film.
Whether the subject is sex, death, madness or God, "The Big Bang" never lets up in its weird and wonderful search for the meaning of it all.
"Maria's Story" introduces us to a remarkable and engaging woman, a dynamic 39 year-old Salvadoran peasant - a wife and mother of three who has become a charismatic guerrilla leader. Short and stocky, possessed of an inner radiance, a ready wit, a healing touch, a strong intellect and matter-of-fact common sense, Maria Serrano is a kind of ultimate earth mother, a natural poet who can compare the flowering of revolution with giving birth. Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
Ten million families were separated between North and South Korea when the Korean War ended in 1953. Beginning with the story of one man's journey to reunite with his sister in North Korea, award-winning filmmakers Christine Choy (Who Killed Vincent Chin?) and JT Takagi reveal the personal, social and political dimensions of the last divided nation on earth.
Romance novels comprise nearly half the paperback books sold in America. Chiffon-shrouded, jewel-laden, flower-bedecked Barbara Cartland has written hundreds of them. And filmmaker George Csicsery has given his heart to this fascinating subculture where all the women are beautiful, all the men are mysterious and all the endings are happy.
Some of the best examples of the recent crop of provocative short films.
From Amos 'n' Andy to Nat King Cole, from Roots to The Cosby Show, blacks have played many roles on primetime television. Brilliantly weaving clips from classic TV shows with commentary from TV producers, black actors and scholars, Marlon Riggs blends humor, insight, and thoughtful analysis to explore the evolution of black/white relations as reflected by America's favorite addiction.
Alan Berliner puts his late grandfather, Joseph Cassuto, at the center of a personal, single-family saga that shines a light into the silent, shadowy corners that are present in all families.
In 1961, Camille Billops made a painful decision: to put her four year old daughter, Christa, up for adoption. In "Finding Christa", Billops is both filmmaker and subject as she tells the story of their separation and ultimate reconciliation.
The searing story of four freelance photographers - American, Russian, British and Japanese - all determined to uncover the horrors of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. All willing to take ever-increasing risks to get the story told back home. And all killed - in the line of duty. Filmmakers Stephen Olsson and Scott Andrews probe the drives and motivations of four dedicated, perhaps obsessed, professionals.
On Easter morning, 1951, seven years after the fall of Bulgaria to Communist rule, thousands of men disappeared. Among them were both of Kalina Ivanov's grandfathers. "The Longest Shadow" is a lyrical and personal account of Ivanov's attempts to document the recent tentative steps toward democracy of the country she once fled, and to uncover the long-suppressed facts behind her grandfathers' arrests.
Walter Brock's fine and haunting portrait of a young bulimic woman named Regina Hatfield is about food and security and love... It's a relentless descent into familial turmoil and private torment, drawing us into Regina's suffocating often surreal world through conversation, testimony and confession. Linda Dubler, Independent Spirit (South Carolina)
A respected member of a middle-class community is accused by his children of sexual abuse. He denies the charges. Whom do we believe? Rhea Gavry uses a gut-wrenching case set in a comfortable suburb of Salt Lake City as a context for a timely reexamination of our attitudes toward the accused and the accuser when sex is part of the equation.
Just before Christmas, 1985, 19-year-old James Vance watched his best friend Ray Belknap shoot himself to death with a .12 gauge shotgun in a churchyard outside Reno, Nevada. Then Vance pulled the trigger on himself. He survived but was severely disfigured. Vance later claimed his actions had been influenced by the heavy metal music of Judas Priest, prompting his family to sue the band. The drama of the ensuing trial provides the framework for David Van Taylor's disturbing look at teenagers today.
Women in Kentucky, as across the nation, are increasingly applying for jobs frying chicken, making pizzas and flipping burgers for fast food chains. They are not teenagers or college students on summer break. Indeed, they are struggling to support families in communities ravaged by a failing economy. duPont-Columbia Award winner Anne Lewis Johnson documents the low-wage, no-benefit jobs of the 'working poor' in America's new 'service economy'.
We're dying in the streets - that should be against the law is the no-holds-barred attitude of the homeless men and women who are taking control of their lives and taking over empty houses in Pam Yates and Peter Kinoy's tough, effective film. Funded by Bruce Springsteen, "Takeover" was shot simultaneously in eight U.S. cities on May 1, 1990 as homeless people risked arrest occupying properties foreclosed by the Federal government.
Sylvia Morales and Jean Victor chronicle the long, difficult journey of three American nuns who find themselves challenging an institution they once wholeheartedly embraced. These women, inspired by the Civil Rights movement and encouraged by the internal reforms of Vatican II, accuse the Catholic Church of racism and sexism. A revealing portrait of a 2,000 year old organization struggling to reconcile authority and conscience, tradition and the need for change.
In Louisiana, Mardi gras and elections run neck and neck as the number one pastime. Here is a cast of characters only Louisiana could produce: Huey P. Long, his excellency, the dictator of Louisiana; Uncle Earl K. Long, committed to an asylum while he was still governor; and Jimmie Davis singing his farewell speech to the state legislature. A romp through the high jinx and low morals of Bayou State politics. Delightfully irreverent. John Hill, Monroe, LA News Star. Encore Presentation: June 4, 1996.
Filmmaker Michael Moore revisits his now famous hometown in a new film, "Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint"
In the 1980's when GM decided to reduce their operations in Flint and set up factories south of the border in Mexico, 30,000 of the 80,000 GM workers in Flint lost their jobs. The son of an auto factory worker, Michael Moore decided to embark upon a filmic odyssey to meet General Motors Chairman Roger Smith and convince him to visit Flint for a first-hand look at how the layoffs had devastated Moore's hometown. Moore also hoped that his film would induce the government to come to the aid of the working people of Flint and other cities like it. But it was not to be.
At the heart of this ground-breaking video diary is a powerful tale of love, commitment, mortality and AIDS.
When Japanese-American filmmaker Janice Tanaka reaches out to find her father - interned during WWII and separated form his family for decades - her discoveries both haunt and redefine her life.
Garth Stein's Hi 8 camera captures family drama and unexpected humor as his quirky, yet determined, older sister prepares to undergo brain surgery to cure her epilepsy.
The richly textured story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet - spiritual leader, Nobel Laureate - interweaves an inspiring portrayal with the urgent plight of his homeland under Chinese occupation.
They still find romance in the most unexpected places. They still argue about the smallest things. Five couples, still together after more than 50 years have a few choice words for a divorce-prone generation.
In tribute to the late Christian Blackwood, a special reprise of one of his most memorable films. Behind the faded signs of three motels in the American Southwest, Blackwood's film reveals entire worlds of passion, loyalty, adventure and fate.
J.S.G. Boggs makes money the artistic way. He draws it. Then, to complete the process, he spends it. Is it art or is it counterfeit? Inquiring minds - at the Secret Service - want to know.
An updated, point-of-view investigation by Mark Mori and Susan Robinson of the environmental legacy and social impact of South Carolina's Savannah River Plant, the nation's largest manufacturer of hydrogen bomb materials during the Cold War.
Award-winning filmmaker Estela Bravo visits families split between Miami and Havana who tell of the personal costs of the 30-year conflict between the United States and Cuba.
Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) catches up with his long-lost cousin, Robert Castle, a fiery Harlem-based white Episcopalian priest.
Personal perspectives on both sides of the camera are revealed when Michal Avaid, directing a three-woman Israeli/Palestinian film crew, travels throughout the West Bank to collect women's stories.
"Sa-I-Gu", Korean for April 29, opens a window on Korean American women in Los Angeles whose stores--and lives-- were devastated in the aftermath of the Rodney King Trial.
In Ross McElwee's 1986 cult hit, SHERMAN'S MARCH, an idealist searches for love, happiness - and a wife. Now he's turning 40, getting married, and heading out on yet another quest.
Can homosexuality be cured? From exorcisms to shock therapy, from Homosexuals Anonymous to beauty make-overs for lesbians, many have tried. While some of these methods may seem comical, filmmakers Teodoro Maniaci and Francine Rzeznik pose serious questions about who's asking gay men and lesbians to change and why.
Are machismo, infidelity and violence inseparable? When filmmaker Shedlon Schiffer tears off the veils of silence in his Nicaraguan immigrant family, he uncovers the scars left on his mother, aunt and grandmother by his enigmatic grandfather. In a tragically common family saga, Schiffer reflects on his legacy and reexamines what it means to be a man.
This startling expose unravels a history of abuse of suspects by the Chicago police. For more than a decade, the press and authorities turned a blind eye to allegations of torture - including the use of electric shocks - until persistent grass roots organizations exerted enough pressure to prompt an official investigation, and eventually the dismissal of a ranking police commander.
From Cosmopolitan to condom commercials, from pulpits to Planned Parenthood, young women are getting mixed messages about sex and sexually transmitted diseases. This gripping story of one HIV-positive African American woman - echoed by mothers, daughters, social workers and clerics - cuts through the contradictions and opens a window on understanding women's sexuality in the age of AIDS.
Filmmakers Peter Miller and John Valadez bring a bold new perspective to an important, though rarely visited, aspect of the civil rights movement: the Black Panther Party. Told from the point of view of Dhoruba Bin Wahad, an eloquent party leader who served 19 years in prison before his conviction was overturned, this film offers insight into the political debates surrounding contemporary race relations.
Francis Ford Coppola nearly lost his fortune - and his sanity - making APOCALYPSE NOW. Martin Sheen nearly lost his life. A celebrated behind-the-scenes look at Coppola's struggle to finish his epic film - from cajoling an irascible Marlin Brando to negotiating shots amid hurricanes and a Filipino rebel war.
Seven women, including the filmmaker, describe their experiences with manic depression, multiple personalities, schizophrenia, euphoria and recovery. Academy Award winner Allie Light creates dream-like reenactments to capture the revelations of women who have witnessed the dark side of the imagination.
Not everyone in Admiral John Poindexter's home town in rural Indiana was pleased when a street was named in his honor. One man was so outraged, he kidnapped the street sign. A quirky look at the Iran-contra affair through the exploits of an eloquent and off-beat minister who ends up in jail when big-time politics come to a small town in Indiana.
Chinese journalist Iris F. Kung (a pseudonym) returns to her homeland to retrace the underground railroad that helped the last of China's most wanted Tiananmen Square leaders escape to freedom. Filmed secretly, the original footage had to be smuggled out of the country.
Millions have seen the photograph, and no one who has seen it will ever forget it. A naked woman, dead from a botched illegal abortion, lying on a motel room floor. The picture appeared in Ms. magazine in April 1973, and quickly became a symbol for the abortion rights movement. "Leona's Sister Gerri" tells the dramatic story of Gerri Santoro, a mother of two and the "real person" in the now famous photo. Should the media have used this image? What circumstances led to Gerri's tragic death? Powerfully addressing issues of reproductive rights and domestic violence, this video is a moving portrait of Gerri Santoro's life and society's response to her death.
This Academy Award-nominated film takes a moving personal story, illuminates it with insight and humor, and makes it universal. In recounting her attempts to come to terms with her mother's advancing Alzheimer's disease, Deborah Hoffmann explores the relationship between mother and daughter, parent and child, and the tenacity of love.
Only 10 years old, Barbara Wilson has lived in cheap motels and homeless shelters all her life. Deftly blending film and home video, bittersweet interviews and moments of daily life, Kathryn Hunt tells a moving story through the eyes of a child longing for permanence and security.
An eye-opening story of a 30-something cowgirl from California who breaks hearts and horses - as well as stereotypes. David Sutherland's uncompromising soap-umentary follows the unpredictable trials of blind horsewoman Diane Starin who wonders if America is ready for "a blind girl who isn't a goody two-shoes."
Drawing on the personal testimonies of courageous Buddhist nuns who have led the nonviolent resistance to the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Ellen Bruno has crafted not so much a story of suffering as a beautiful and evocative tribute to the human spirit.
A Chippewa prophecy foretells a time called the 7th Fire when lost traditions will be recovered. Native American filmmaker Sandra Sunrising Osawa examines how the Chippewa Indians of Northern Wisconsin have struggled to restore the centuries-old tradition of spearfishing - and the heated opposition they have encountered.
Laurel Chiten shakes it up in more ways than one in an irreverent and humorous portrayal of people with the often misunderstood neurological disorder, Tourette Syndrome. With photojournalist Lowell Handler as a guide, we discover a mix of people who have turned adversity into a source of strength, coping not only with involuntary spasms, but with people's reactions to them.
When Jenny Cool interviewed women in a suburban housing development outside Los Angeles, she discovered a fragile lifestyle dominated by societal pressures and the daily commuter grind. This is a crash course on one version of the American Dream and, ironically, its costs to the family structure.
Gaylen Ross takes us inside the virtually impenetrable world of diamond and precious stone trading. From the street exchanges to the great auction houses, this film captures the drama, ritual, and culture of the amazing world of New York's gem trade.
A bowl of soup and the freedom to sing is all Carmen Miranda wanted in life. Raised dirt-poor in Brazil, the woman in the tutti-frutti hat went on to become one of the highest paid entertainers of her time. Helena Solberg's song-filled movie reveals how Hollywood transformed a talented entertainer into a Latin Lollapalooza.
It's baptism by fire when a political underdog takes on the closest thing to American royalty. Joshua Seftel gives us a gritty behind-the-scenes look at neophyte Kevin Vigilante's campaign against Patrick Kennedy for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The New England physician learns the hard way how modern politics are fought in this Rhode Island race.
They were leaders of the Young Lords Party, the militant Puerto Rican civil rights organization based in New York. Today, many are notable mainstream journalists, including Juan Gonzalez, Felipe Luciano and Pablo Guzman. Iris Morales makes history come alive as veterans of the movement recall their fight for equality, jobs, health care, and education.
Bela Bognar is no ordinary American dad. Now a suburbanite, he once fought against Soviet domination during the Hungarian revolution. Ever since, his life has been a longing for the glories of the past. Steven Bognar crafts a moving portrait of his father's 40-year quest for identity and home.
Poet, lover, mother, warrior - Audre Lorde writes passionately of love and anger, civil rights and sexuality, family politics and the glories of nature. Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson reveal the potent legacy of this celebrated African American poet, whose life was cut short after a long battle with breast cancer.
A raw and revealing video diary by a Cambodian-born teenager who turns the camera on himself. Under the guidance of veteran filmmaker Spencer Nakasako, Sokly Don Bonus Ny offers a stark look at coming of age in San Francisco's inner city where he confronts the reality of the American Dream.
Shattering stereotypes of hopelessness and despair, Lisanne Skyler profiles a community in South Central Los Angeles where hard work, entrepreneurship and family values prevail. The ABC Loan Co., a successful black-owned, pawnshop is our entree to these inspiring stories of economic and emotional survival.
Ricardo was once Sara, a homeless HIV positive transvestite, living in the underbelly of Manhattan. Today he is a churchgoing, married man, saved by a Dallas ministry. He has renounced his homosexuality, but is his conversion complete? Susana Aiken and Carlos Aparicio offer an intimate look at Ricardo's transformation.
J.T. Orinne Takagi and Hye Jung Park take us on a provocative and emotional journey into the lives of women who work in the brothels, bars and nightclubs around U.S. military bases in South Korea. Personal testaments to endurance, strength and resilience, these stories raise questions about military policy, economic survival and the role of women in global geopolitics.
A broken back and two dislocated shoulders won't stop her from getting into the arena. For national rodeo champion Jan Youren, the drive to master a bucking bronco is greater than life. Amanda Micheli, who experiences the rush of the ride herself, introduces us to the rough and tumble of women's rodeo in the 1990's.
Yvonne Welbon presents a witty and original coming-to-terms with race, culture and self. A six year stay in Taiwan transforms her understanding of what it means to be an African American and illuminates her connection to her Honduran-born grandmother.
As a member of a privileged family, M. Trinh Nguyen was able to leave Vietnam for the U.S. during the worst years of the war. But her father's secret activities and her family's lifestyle still haunt her. In this meditative return to her ancestral homeland, Nguyen wonders where she really belongs.
Before freeways, traffic congestion and air pollution, public transportation was a vital part of the American landscape. Jim Klein and Martha Olson weave investigative journalism, urban history and social commentary to uncover General Motors' role in dismantling street car transportation in the 1930's, and in catapulting the automobile to the center of our national culture.
The Vietnam War Memorial was one of the most controversial monuments of its time. Thrust in to the eye of the storm was architect-sculptor Maya Lin, whose design for the memorial was chosen when she was a 21-year-old college student. Withstanding bitter attacks, she held her ground with clarity and grace. In this Academy Award winner, Freida Lee Mock follows a decade in the life of this visionary artist.
Generations collide as filmmaker Alan Berliner drags his reluctant father kicking and screaming down memory lane to probe the swirl of conflicts and affections that bind every family. What emerges is a stunningly rich portrait that finds both humor and pathos in Berliner's obsession with the boundaries of personal and collective memory.
While chronicling his mother's recent struggle to become a Southern Baptist pastor, filmmaker Steven Lipscomb uncovered a whirlwind of change and a rising tide of opposition to women as senior church leaders. Part of a broader, highly-charged ideological debate, leading voices on both sides of the divide to speak out about practical interpretation of Biblical scripture and the contemporary role of women in the ministry.
Filmmaker Judith Helfand turns the camera on herself to document her battle with cancer caused by DES, a drug prescribed to her mother during pregnancy. Refusing to confine the tears, rage, laughter and hope to dinner table conversations, Helfand invites us to witness her personal journey from radical hysterectomy patient to vocal opponent of toxic exposure. From her suburban home to the halls of Congress, the intensely private becomes widely public, and an American family is transformed and strengthened.
America is a dangerous place for young black men. With excruciating tenderness, filmmaker Michael Smith breathes life into the headlines and homicide statistics to capture stirring echoes of memory and loss. This hauntingly rhythmic piece presents an incisive view of the frayed lives left behind after the death of Jesse Hall, a young hip-hop artist from Oakland whose voice could not be silenced by the snap of a clip and a pull on the trigger.
If Proposition 187 makes it through the courts, will hall duty become border patrol in California public schools? Fourth-grade-teacher-turned-filmmaker Laura Simon puts human faces on the issue as she takes us inside her classroom and into the faculty lounge at Hoover Elementary in Los Angeles. Law and learning converge as students, teachers and parents grapple candidly with the impact of policies that would deny public services to undocumented immigrants and their children.
You may have heard of Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen, but who is Henry Jaglom? Hailed by some as the last true maverick of American cinema, this writer-director has been dubbed everything from cinematic genius to the world's worst director. Obsessively confusing and abusing the lines between life and art, Jaglom challenges the boundaries of filmmaking and viewer endurance. Alex Rubin and Jeremy Workman pay an off-beat tribute to the man and his vision with a snappy spectrum of opinions from friends, family and Hollywood notables.
Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves - Indian mascots and nicknames have historically been first draft picks in American sports. But for Charlene Teters, a Spokane Indian, transplanting cultural rituals onto the field is a symbol of disrespect. Jay Rosenstein follows Teters' evolution from mother and student into a leading voice against the merchandising of Native American symbols - and shows the lengths fans will go to preserve their mascots.
During the four years of shooting this teen chronicle in South Philadelphia, Raelene tackles parenting, Anna struggles with sexuality, De'Yona grapples with loss and Lisa wrestles with relationships. Filmmakers Jane C. Wagner and Tina DiFeliciantonio render a longitudinal portrait that celebrates the fragility, power and drama of adolescence with uncommon patience and respect. A rare and disarming peek into the very real lives of teenage girls, the film provides access to the seldom heard voices of young women working to shape their identities in the '90s.
Why is the mere mention of Blacks and Jews in the same breath so riddled with complexity? Heading an African-American and Jewish production team, filmmakers Deborah Kaufman, Bari Scott and Alan Snitow go behind the explosive headlines of conflict to reveal four riveting stories. From death on the streets of Crown Heights to director Steven Spielberg's controversial visit to a predominantly black high school in East Oakland, the film resists simple analysis and treads provocatively on the fault lines of racial coalition and conflict.
Disproving the adage that there are no second acts in American life, Iran/Contra legend Oliver North re-emerged to challenge incumbent Charles Robb in a hotly contested 1994 Virginia senatorial race. R.J. Cutler and David Van Taylor weave a modern-day parable about leadership in America and campaign culture in a cynical age. The result is a clear-eyed examination of the electoral process, where issues take a back seat to the machinations of spin doctors, and voter interests are lost in a media hall of mirrors.
When forty-something filmmaker Anne Makepeace "can't get pregnant the fun way," she turns the camera on herself, her husband and their idiosyncratic siblings and embarks on a tender and tumultuous journey through the complex maze of contemporary fertility science.
Can a good person grow tobacco? As the cigarette war rages, small American tobacco farmers have been the often overlooked casualties. Dynamic filmmaking duo Eren McGinnis and Christine Fugate travel across Kentucky to meet the families who have been growing this crop for generations, as they face the consequences of this fuming controversy in their own backyards.
When filmmaker David Zeiger decides to film his son Danny's high school band for a year, he gets a crash course in love, life and marching in formation. This poignant portrait celebrates the hormones, havoc and hope of the teen years and ultimately allows Zeiger to deepen his connection with one son while paying tribute to the loss of another.
What drives a man to kill? Winner of two awards at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker Arthur Dong goes inside prison to probe the minds and souls of men whose attitudes towards homosexuality have led them to murder. Hailed as superb by Rolling Stone and called a chilling look at the real face of evil by the Los Angeles Times, Dong's hour long, broadcast length version of the film offers a provocative and disturbingly candid exploration of the motivations behind a plague of violence that is sweeping the nation.
She's a straight-A student; he's trying to leave gang life behind. A camcorder becomes both witness and confidante for these markedly singular, yet utterly typical teens as they self-document the trials of growing up too fast and too soon in America. Emmy award winning filmmaker Spencer Nakasako deftly guides this video diary of a young Southeast Asian couple wrestling with the demands of parenting, love, dreams and disillusionment in the nebulous cultural zone between first and second generation immigrant life.
Arthur Campbell, Jr. doesn't want your sympathy; he just wants what most people do: a living wage, a meaningful social life, a few good laughs and the means to get around. Filmmaker Walter Brock offers an unflinching portrait of one man with a disability who, with many others, is pushing for independence and an equal slice of the American pie. From the remote hills of Kentucky to the hallowed halls of Congress, join Arthur on his own unforgettable ride through life and the disability rights movement.
"Everybody has a Barbie story, but the stories are really about us," says reporter-turned-filmmaker Susan Stern, as she rips the roof off Barbie's "Dream House" and explores the history and fantasy behind this unlikely cultural icon. Fans, foes, fetishists and even the the creator of this eleven-and-a-half inch wonder offer glimpses of who we are and how the creative spirit can thrive in an increasingly mass-produced world.
When does life become a fate worse than death? In this age of "miracles," increasing numbers of doctors, patients and their families are forced to face this question. Physician/filmmaker Maren Monsen offers an intensely personal look at this modern dilemma and its timeless implications, as she takes us on a lyrical and heartfelt quest to dicover an "art of dying" in a world that taught her well to prolong life, but offered few prescriptions for treating death.
Filmmaker Ellen Bruno paints a stunnning and startling picture of an ugly reality of the thriving sex industry in Thailand. Burmese girls, lured into prostitution with promises of a better life for themselves and their families, give voice to their experiences in this poetic tribute to their struggles for survival.
A selection of hypnotically engaging films by and about women that delve into the elation, the passion and the pain of contemporary female experience. Elizabeth Schub's "Cuba 15" is a vivacious celebration of coming of age.
A selection of hypnotically engaging short films by and about women that delve into the elation, the passion and the pain of contemporary female experience. The darkly drawn cycles of domestic trauma in "Repetition Compulsion" by Ellie Lee play out in over 3,000 drawings by the animator/filmmaker.
"She Shorts" is a selection of hypnotically engaging short films by and about women that delve into the elation, the passion and the pain of contemporary female experience. "Two or Three Things But Nothing For Sure" is an evocative portrait of acclaimed author Dorothy Allison. This collection of cinematic gems offers vivid and lyrical pictures of joy, endurance and inspiration.
Arthur Campbell, Jr. doesn't want your sympathy; he just wants what most people do: a living wage, a meaningful social life, a few good laughs and the means to get around. Filmmaker Walter Brock offers an unflinching portrait of one man with a disability who, with many others, is pushing for independence and an equal slice of the American pie. From the remote hills of Kentucky to the hallowed halls of Congress, join Arthur on his own unforgettable ride through life and the disability rights movement.
Shocking murders, massive manhunts and win-at-all-cost political campaigns propel this extraordinary story behind the enactment of California's Three Strikes and You're Out initiative, which in 1994 became the nation's toughest mandatory sentencing law. Filmmaker Michael J. Moore follows the turbulent relationship of two grief-stricken fathers whose daughters' senseless murders sparked a political firestorm and media frenzy that would change the face of criminal justice in America. A chilling commentary on life in an age of sound-bite democracy, the film reveals the controversy behind laws of this kind and examines how the two men most responsible for Three Strikes went from being fervent allies to bitter rivals.
Imagine that your life has fallen apart — maybe you've been tortured or raped, or maybe you've gotten out just in time. You'll have one chance to start a new life in the U.S., and an hour to tell your story to a neutral bureaucrat. Now imagine yourself on the other side of the desk, listening to people seeking refuge from any one of a hundred countries. The law says you can offer asylum if you find that someone has a well-founded fear of persecution. Three times a day, your job is to decide their fates. Political asylum — who deserves it? Who gets it? With unprecedented access, filmmakers Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson enter the closed corridors of the INS to reveal the dramatic real-life stage where human rights and American ideals collide with the nearly impossible task of trying to know the truth.
If ever someone has embodied the maxim, age is a state of mind, it's 90-year-old Christine Burton. After decades of personal struggle, she reinvented her own life at age 80 by founding Golden Threads, an international network for older gay women. Join filmmakers Lucy Winer and Karen Eaton as they probe mid-life crisis and our collective fear of aging by enlisting Christine as their fearless, funny and irascible spiritual guide. She's a tireless leader who, even when ambushed by daunting physical challenges, transforms herself and others with her own unquenchable zest for life.
Filmmaker Ricki Stern delivers a knock-out punch in this portrait of two teenagers seeking refuge and respect in a neighborhood gym in the South Bronx. Fueled by the dream of becoming big-time boxing champs, Joey and José unexpectedly get lessons in life from two surrogate fathers when trainers Angel and Camacho step into their corner. A powerful reminder of how local heroes, wherever they may be found, can shape the lives of young people as they begin sparring with adulthood.
Art Arfons is an American original. Without a high school diploma, engineers, or even blueprints, this small town Midwestern prodigy of practical mechanics designed, built, drove and broke land speed records in a series of supercharged automobiles he dubbed The Green Monster. In this coming-of-age story for the senior set, director David Finn offers an unvarnished portrait of a flinty, single-minded, slyly charming, obsessive man literally driven to continue his race against time long after he has established himself as a living legend.
Like many Japanese Americans released from WWII internment camps, the young Omori sisters did their best to erase the memories and scars of life under confinement. Fifty years later acclaimed filmmaker Emiko Omori asks her older sister and other detainees to reflect on the personal and political consequences of internment. From the exuberant recollections of a typical teenager, to the simmering rage of citizens forced to sign loyalty oaths, Omori renders a poetic and illuminating picture of a deeply troubling chapter in American history.
Tejana singer Selena was on the brink of blockbuster crossover fame when her murder at age 23 catapulted her into mainstream celebrity. Filmmaker Lourdes Portillo gazes beyond the tabloids and points a sensitive lens on the cultural sensation that emerged around Selena's life and death. A compassionate collage that features starry-eyed teenaged fans, poignant interviews with Selena's family, and lively exchanges with Latina intellectuals who debate her value as a role model, the film offers a fresh look at how this unique Mexican American voice still echoes in the hearts of her fans.
The battle cry on both sides is religious freedom when a Mississippi mother takes a stand on prayer in her children's public school. While most of Pontotoc County rally together to preserve a cornerstone of their faith, Lisa Herdahl is a lone voice calling for separation of church and state. Raising complex issues about tolerance, filmmakers Slawomir Grünberg and Ben Crane chronicle an impassioned clash of principles in which the Constitutional right of an individual collides with the deep-rooted tradition of a community.
What happens to the parents, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters of those willing to sacrifice everything for their beliefs? Breaking ground stylistically, this film uniquely blends forms to tell the singular story of a son of Puerto Rican revolutionaries - his mother in prison, his father in exile - sent as a baby to Mexico to be raised in safety and anonymity. As a teenager Ernesto/Guillermo learns of his past and collaborates with filmmakers Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg to magically chronicle his turbulent journey of self-rediscovery, offering a striking account of the costs of fiercely held convictions and the binding force of a son's love.
In this Academy Award nominee, filmmaker Barbara Sonneborn is compelled to make a brave pilgrimage to the remote Vietnamese countryside where her husband died. She explores the meaning of war and loss on a human level and weaves interviews with Vietnamese and American widows into a vivid testament to the chilling legacy of war. As we near the 25th anniversary of the war's end, these stories are stirring reminders that the battle scars are life-long, but that shared sorrow can inspire healing and reconciliation.
Chronicling the two-year “tree-sit” by environmental activist Julia Hill, examining the controversy over clear-cutting in old-growth Northern California forests. Hill, who took the name Butterfly, is interviewed on a platform more than 100 feet off the ground in the redwood (she calls it “Luna”) she lived in from December 1997 to December 1999 as part of a protest organized by the environmental group Earth First! “By staying in the tree,” she says, “I am completely enwrapped and encased in nature's world.”
“La Boda” (The Wedding) follows a Mexican-American migrant farmworker during the six days prior to her nuptials. Bride-to-be Elizabeth Luis, an American citizen, lives with her parents and seven siblings (six of them sisters) in Texas's Rio Grande Valley, but the family travels frequently to California fields and to their home town, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, where her wedding to Artemio Guerrero is to take place. “Destiny will take us,” he tells director Hannah Weyer, “and that's where we will go.” But he and Elizabeth both suspect that destiny will take them north again.
“Stranger with a Camera” recalls the 1967 killing of a documentarian who was shot while filming a report on Appalachian poverty by the man whose land he was filming on. In this poignant chronicle of that long-ago crime, Kentucky filmmaker Elizabeth Barret also recalls the poverty in eastern Kentucky during the '60s, and the reporting on it by the national and international media.
Ex-white supremacist Ron Withrow, who founded the White Students Union at a California college, discusses why he became a racist and why he turned away from it in the late 1980s. Withrow is also seen in clips from “The Phil Donahue Show” (both before and after his conversion) and he's seen with his Hispanic wife. Also interviewed are Tom Metzger of the White Aryan Resistance and authors Matt Wray (“White Trash: Race and Class in America”) and Jessie Daniels (“White Lies”). Directed by Elizabeth Thompson.
Following Cuban expatriate Silvia Moroni Heath, the daughter of a sugar planter, as she returns to her homeland after an absence of 37 years. First stop: the house in which she grew up. It's now a bank, and the guard outside won't let her in. The hour, which intersperses family stills and footage of prerevolutionary Cuba, also follows Moroni to the the Cuban countryside and to the Havana Yacht Club, where her debutante ball was held.
Gambling hits home in filmmaker Lisanne Skyler's perceptive profile of Las Vegas residents living with constant temptation. “The hardest part of living in Las Vegas is the gambling machines,” says one woman. “They're everywhere.” Adds Lou Gerard, a Los Angeles tailor who retired to Las Vegas (and is the film's primary focus), about his gambling: “Sometimes I feel sorry for myself but I get over it. There's always a next time.” (But Gerard did stop gambling in 1999).
Exploring the secretive and largely unassimilated Romani culture as it follows one Spokane, Wash., Gypsy family. That family, the Markses, had a score to settle with the city of Spokane, which had their house raided in 1986 in search of stolen goods. The family later sued for improper police search, and writer-director Jasmine Dellal's film follows the case---and family head Jimmy Marks' obsession with it---closely.
A heartfelt history of KFPA, the nation's oldest alternative radio station, the Pacifica Foundation's eclectic flagship, based in Berkeley, Cal. Since KPFA signed on in 1949, it has broadcast everything from Soviet-press reviews to bird calls. Even conservatives have gotten airtime. Of course, KPFA has always been controversial, and recently, the controversy has been internecine. This hour doesn't shrink from that, but mostly it celebrates KPFA. Author Alice Walker narrates.
Following abortion politics as they played out during the 1990s in one U.S. town, Bedford, N.H. It focuses on OB/GYN Wayne Goldner, who performs abortions. Not surprisingly, Goldner is a lightning rod for pro-life protesters, and he's also involved in two controversies: a hospital merger that imperiled abortion rights and a sex-education course he taught at Bedford's middle school.
The series presents “Scout's Honor,” an affecting chronicle of a straight Boy Scout's battle to change the youth organization's stand against admitting gays. He's Steven Cozza of Petaluma, Cal., who was just 12 when he founded a grassroots organization called Scouting for All. The hour offers background on the issue, but mostly it follows Steven, at home and around the country. His overriding theme: “Gay people are normal. The only thing that's not normal is the policy that discriminates against them.”
The sweetest sound in the world is one's own name, says filmmaker Alan Berliner, who ruminates on names in general and his own in particular in this engagingly offbeat hour. Berliner explores his name with help from his parents and sister, and asks people on New York City streets their opinions of the name “Alan.” He also interviews an INS official, an Ellis Island librarian and members of the Jim Smith Society (it has just one entrance requirement). And he invites every Alan Berliner he can find to dinner (12 show up).
An immigrant family straddles two cultures in “My American Girls: A Dominican Story,” a probing but warm cinéma-vérité portrait of the Ortizes of Brooklyn. Sandra and Bautista Ortiz work two menial jobs apiece and try to maintain some control over their happily chaotic household (relatives and friends are a constant presence) while building their retirement house in the Dominican Republic. It's their driving dream but it's tinged with sadness because they know that their daughters (the eldest a recent Columbia grad) are Americans, and for them the “D.R.” will only be a place to visit.
Chronicling the case of a Japanese-American who defied the WWII internment order and saw his conviction upheld by the Supreme Court in 1944. “Every branch of Government that is responsible for protecting the Constitution failed,” says law professor Peter Irons. In 1983 Korematsu sought to reopen his case. “It represents the trial Japanese-Americans never had,” says his lawyer, Donald Tamaki. This time the result was different.
Chronicling the 1999 season of the fledgling Women's Professional Football League from the perspectives of two players, linebacker Jane Bolin and receiver Kertia “Moochie” Lofton, a single mother who also has ambitions to play pro basketball. As for Bolin, who worked as a political consultant and has a marketing background, she loves to play and will put up with the Twin Cities-based WPFL's shaky finances and sexually provocative promotional strategy to do so. “There will always be politics,” she says, “but there might not always be the WPFL.”
Welfare reform comes across as a work very much in progress in “Take It from Me,” which interweaves penetrating case studies of low-income New Yorkers. One woman, with a troubled teenage son, can't find work as a waitress despite her well-spoken manner. A recovering substance abuser with three children has a job but earns just $5.50 an hour. And a young mother of three can't regain custody of the two she lost without an apartment. “We have the thirst to make it to the top,” says another. “But in the world as it is today, no one is on our side.”
Chronicling clashes over Western lands that Native Americans consider sacred. “It's two different belief systems in conflict,” says a National Park Service ranger at Devils Tower, Wyo., a towering rock monolith (made famous in the film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) that's holy ground to Lakota---and a favorite spot for rock climbers. In northern Arizona, mines encroach on the Hopis' “ring of shrines.” And at Mount Shasta in California, plans for a ski resort---and followers of New Age religions---are upsetting the local Wintu tribe. Peter Coyote narrates.
Examining the effect of economic globalization on Jamaica. It's anything but positive, according to filmmaker Stephanie Black, who juxtaposes scenes of American and British tourists at play with Jamaican farmers, workers, businessmen and politicians describing their difficulties (Black also juxtaposes often-contrasting comments by former Jamaican prime minister Michael Manley with those of International Monetary Fund deputy director Stanley Fischer). Two local industries are thriving, however: guard-dog suppliers and coffin-makers.
“High School,” cinéma-vérité master Frederick Wiseman's piercing 1968 look at the rhythms of life at Philadelphia's mostly white, mostly middle-class Northeast High School, captures both similarities and differences (not just hair styles) between then and now. The outside world intrudes, too, as a gym teacher catches up with a visiting former student, a Vietnam vet who's in uniform. “Didn't get hit, huh?” the teacher surmises. Then they swap stories of other former students who weren't so lucky.
“5 Girls” from Chicago confront adolescence in this cinéma-vérité documentary, filmed over three years by director-producer Maria Finitzo. Aisha and Corrie have dad problems (both are loving, but Aisha's is overprotective and Corrie's disapproves of her bisexual lifestyle). Amber succeeds in school despite her family's dysfunction. Habinh, a Vietnamese native, is adapting to the U.S., and Toby is pushed to excel by her parents, both of whom are doctors.
Profiling seven youngsters---three Arabs, four Jews---who live in and around Jerusalem. (The documentary was filmed between 1997 and 2000.) One boy wants to be Israel's “religious army commander” when he grows up. A girl's father, a journalist with ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is in an Israeli jail. And two have lost friends to Intifada violence. But one of the filmmakers, a U.S.-born, Israeli-raised Jew named B.Z. Goldberg (with experience in conflict resolution), tries to get the youngsters together. He succeeds, to a degree. In war, one Israeli notes, “both sides lose.”
An affecting portrait of a Mormon family confronting AIDS opens the series' 15th season. Director Tasha Oldham follows Kim and Steve Smith, and their teenage sons through Steve's illness, which he contracted through homosexual contact. (Supplementing Oldham's footage are family home videos.) Kim admits to feelings of anger and betrayal. She's also frustrated by insurance snafus, and her own health isn't the best (she contracted the HIV from Steve). And Steve, guilt-ridden, worries about his standing with the church.
Profiling Bayard Rustin, the long-time pacifist and civil-rights activist (1912-87), who organized the 1963 March on Washington. It was one of Rustin's least controversial moments. Rustin is recalled here in stills, clips, comments by friends and colleagues, and readings from his FBI file. He was a pacifist who resisted the draft in WWII. He was also gay and didn't go out of his way to hide it. “He was his own man,” says writer Midge Decter.
Following Native American operators of legal fireworks stands during the monthlong runup to Fourth of July 1999 on Bainbridge Island, Wash. The hour also explores how these entrepreneurs keep their feet---and their identities---in both the Indian and non-Indian worlds (“We walk on both sides at all times,” says Nic Armstrong, whose father, Bennie, is the tribal chairman of the Suquamish nation). As for the fireworks selling, it's an important component of the local economy, and it's a small business, with all the risk that entails.
Filmmaker Monteith McCollum's lyrical portrait of his grandfather, Iowa corn farmer Milford Beehgly, who believed passionately in the value of corn hybridization (and built a successful seed business on it). The flinty Beeghly, who died in 2001 at age 102, was certain that hybrid corn could solve world hunger and lead to world peace. “Corn has personality, too,” says Beeghly in the film. Supplementing Beeghly's remarks are comments from family members.
In “Refrigerator Mothers,” seven mothers of autistic children born in the 1950s and '60s describe the burdens caused by their being blamed for their offsprings' autism at a time when it was believed that the neurological disorder was caused by maternal coldness (hence the term “refrigerator mother”). “What have we done that was so awful?” asks one. The hour also explores how the blame-the-mother theory took hold (its major proponent was legendary developmental psychologist Bruno Bettelheim), and how it was gradually disproved.
“Fenceline: A Company Town Divided” examines the racial divide over a chemical plant in the Mississippi River town of Norco, La. Norco is in the heart of an industrial area that some call “cancer alley.” But not many employees and retirees of Norco's Shell chemical plant, most of them white, would agree: They love Shell and say that they're healthy. The blacks who live next to the plant have a different view, and many say they're unhealthy. The program explores this faultline in parallel interviews with residents of both communities.
From July 2002: A profile of 93-year-old fiddle and mandolin legend Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong (he also paints and writes poetry) from the point of view of his wife, Barbara Ward, who's in her early 60s and is an artist and writer herself. Ward narrates the film, which chronicles their courtship (they met in 1983), samples Armstrong's music and follows them to his Tennessee home town, where painful memories of segregation are eased by accolades (including a day in his honor). And when he visits the cemetery where his parents are buried, he's upbeat. “Nobody's carrying me,” he says.
“Mai's America” follows a Vietnamese exchange student through her senior year in high school and on to college. “America is all the movies I grew up with,” Mai says before leaving her home in Hanoi. Then she arrives in the town where she's to go to school. It's in Mississippi, and it's not exactly what she had imagined. But she's outgoing and makes friends ranging from two “popular” girls to a cross-dressing gay man. Mai's history teacher also befriends her, and gives her a different perspective on “the American War.” Then it's on to college. Filmmaker: Marlo Poras.
“Senorita Extraviada,” filmmaker Lourdes Portillo's mournful musings on the unsolved murders of some 270 young women in and around Juarez, Mexico, since 1993. Portillo's mission: “to track down the ghosts,” she says, “and to listen to the mystery that surrounds them.” Portillo also charts the police investigations of the crimes (and explores allegations of police wrongdoing). But mostly she seeks out the relatives of victims. “Who knows what she went through?” says one father. “I don't want to think about it.”
Following 14-year-old Liliana Luis, the daughter of migrant farm workers, as she travels between Texas and California (and back)---changing schools as she does, in mid-term. Not surprisingly, Liliana doesn't like this---she must leave a California boyfriend behind when she returns to Texas, and each “new episode” in another school makes her uneasy. Also not surprisingly, Liliana is hardly the only migrant child in this situation, and too many drop out. One is her older sister Elizabeth, for whom life remains precarious.
“Afghanistan Year 1380” follows surgeon Gino Strada and medical coordinator Kate Rowlands as they treat victims of the fighting in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. Their Kabul hospital had been shut down by the Taliban, and as the film opens, they're operating in the town of Anabah, controlled by the Northern Alliance, where they treat both fighters and children (“and when the planes bombed my father died,” says one boy). But when the Taliban falls they head back to Kabul---as bombs fall around them---to reopen their hospital. Among their patients: injured Taliban fighters.
“Love and Diane,” an eye-openingly intimate chronicle of five years in the lives of an emotionally fragile young Brooklyn mother and her own mother, who, between the two, embody many of the pathologies of poverty, drugs and HIV among them. For much of producer-director Jennifer Dworkin's cinéma-vérité film, Love tries to regain custody of her son, while Diane, who had lost custody of Love and her siblings years earlier, tries to get off welfare. They make progress, but for Love especially, it's halting, and ultimate success is far from certain.
A look at how gentrification has pitted blacks against gays in one Columbus, Ohio, neighborhood. The title takes its name from the rainbow flags that many gays fly from their newly purchased Victorian homes in Columbus's Olde Towne---and from the red, green and black ones flown by some of Olde Towne's entrenched blacks. The trouble for them, though, is that they're becoming less entrenched, and director Linda Goode Bryant captures this in numerous ways, some subtle, some not subtle at all.
A profile of Georgina Beyer, a member of New Zealand's parliament who is, by all accounts, the first transsexual ever elected to a national legislature. The hour juxtaposes clips of Beyer as she speaks in Parliament and meets with constituents in her largely white rural district (Beyer is also a Maori) with a biography in which Beyer recalls her past life. Before her election to Parliament, Beyer was a town mayor. But before that she was a stripper (seen in another clip) and a prostitute. Then she turned to acting and singing. One song she's seen singing here: “I'm Changing.”
“Larry v. Lockney” follows the progress of West Texas farmer Larry Tannahill's lawsuit against the school board of his home town, Lockney, Texas., for instituting mandatory drug testing in its junior and senior high schools. Texas filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck interview a number of Lockney residents---students included---all of whom support the policy. But Tannahill nonetheless refused to allow his 12-year-old son, Brady, to be tested, then approached the ACLU when school authorities treated Brady as though he had failed the test. “I want to see a drug policy,” the unassuming Tannahill says simply. “But I want to see people's rights protected.”
A profile of a Guatemalan orphan who was adopted by an Iowa couple and taken back to her homeland, where she recalls the 1982 military massacre that killed her parents and sister and some 170 others in her village, Rio Negro. “The army concluded that Rio Negro was a breeding ground for guerrillas,” says the town's priest, Rev. Roberto Avalos, “and all this became a death sentence for the people of Rio Negro.” At first haunted (events surrounding the attacks are seen in atmospheric flashbacks), Becker soon becomes consumed with rage and her quest for justice. And that involves the exhumation of her father's body.
Arn Chorn-Pond, who survived Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide as a child, returns to his native land from his home in Massachusetts. His mission: “I'm trying to keep our music alive,” he says, “because so much of our culture has been destroyed.” Indeed, most Cambodian musicians were killed by the Khmer Rouge, so Arn (ironically, he survived because his captors needed someone to play propaganda songs) seeks out fellow survivors for his Cambodian Master Performers Program. They're seen recording and teaching, and recalling old horrors. Says Chek Mach, a successful opera singer who was literally forced to sing for her supper during the Khmer Rouge era: “When Pol Pot took over, everything stopped.”
In “90 Miles,” Cuban-born filmmaker Juan Carlos Zaldivar explores the emotional fallout from his family's decision to immigrate to Miami during the 1980 Mariel boat lift. Zaldivar, who was 13 and an ardent Communist, was an unenthusiastic émigré, but he has thrived in the U.S., as have his mother and sisters. Not so his father, who felt “betrayed” by Castro, but soon became “defeated by the American dream” (he's a department-store clerk in Miami). This hour consists of vintage news footage and video of the Zaldivars in the U.S., and it follows Juan Carlos as he returns to Holguin, his home town in eastern Cuba, in 1998.
“American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawaii” follows three “kunu hula” (master hula teachers) as they keep the “heartbeat of Hawaiian culture” alive among Hawaiians in California. The three are seen teaching and directing performances. And expounding. “I can go anywhere and be Hawaiian,” says Mark Ho'omalu od Oakland, who describes his sometimes unorthadox hulas as “brash, aggressive, smart-alecky and sassy.” But Sissy Kaio of Carson is more concerned with maintaining traditions than she is with innovation. “I've been wanting to go home for some time,” she says. “But I can't because I have a responsibility here.”
“West 47th Street,” a cinéma-vérité documentary, follows four people recovering from mental illness at the Manhattan rehabilitation center Fountain House. Tex Gordon, who was institutionalized as a teen, has recovered to the point that a judge deems him “competent.” “I'm my own boss,” he exults. Zeinab Wali is an excellent cook, and Frances Olivero takes an interest in politics and is seen lobbying in Albany. But Fitzroy Frederick still wrestles with demons and fights with other Fountain House people, Wali among them. Griping after one confrontation, Frederick calls Fountain House “one step out of the psychiatric ward.”
In “Family Fundamentals,” filmmaker Arthur Dong explores the relationships two gay men and a lesbian have with their religiously conservative families. Kathleen Jester's mother, a Pentacostalist, founded a ministry in San Diego for the parents of children who have “become” gay, while Brett Matthews, a former Air Force officer, is the son of a Mormon bishop in Utah. Brian Bennett, a gay Catholic and a Republican Party activist in California, doesn't discuss problems with his own family, but with his “surrogate father” (and long-time boss), former congressman Robert Dornan, an outspoken opponent of gay rights.
Two short films focusing on Latinos. The first concerns a “tribe” from a California farm town who served in Vietnam; the second is about migrant workers in upstate New York combating poverty in their native Mexico. Charley Trujillo, the author of the 1991 National Book Award winner “Soldados: Chicanos in Vietnam,” coproduced the first film, in which he and his friends from Corcoran, Cal., recall their lives before, during and after Vietnam. Then, filmmaker Alex Rivera follows Mexican workers in Newburgh, N.Y., whose “Grupo Union” funds public-works projects for their Puebla home town of Boqueron out of their meager salaries.
South African president Thabo Mbeki is in a “State of Denial” about his country's AIDS crisis---with tragic results. That's the contention of this angry, haunting report, filmed between 2000 and 2002 by director-producer Elaine Epstein, a South African native. Epstein intercuts profiles of AIDS patients (two of them children) and activists with segments chronicling the Mbeki government's efforts to deal with AIDS while refusing to acknowledge its link to HIV---and refusing to sanction widespread use of anti-HIV drugs.
“Two Towns of Jasper” gauges the racial fallout from the 1998 murder-by-dragging of black resident James Byrd Jr. by three white men by following the Texas town's black and white residents separately during the defendants' 1999 trials. The murder, says, filmmaker Marco Williams, “was an incident that magnifies differences.” Williams, who's black, follows blacks in Jasper, while coproducer Whitney Dow, who's white, follows whites. There's little overt hostility, and much searching for common ground. But not as much finding of it. As a white cleric puts it: “They're feeling wounds we're not feeling.”
“What I Want My Words to Do to You” follows playwright Eve Ensler (“The Vagina Monologues”) as she conducts a writing workshop for inmates at a women's prison in Bedford Hills, N.Y. Later, a troupe of actresses (Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, Hazelle Goodman, Rosie Perez and Mary Alice) read the prisoners' works at a performance in the prison. Topics range from the circumstances surrounding their imprisonment to explanations of how they got scars on their bodies, and they also write letters to loved ones. They're exercises in self-discovery, as the women struggle to come to grips with what they have done, and seek redemption. “I want my words to make the past go away,” writes one, “so that the past is like the earth made over each spring, raked and hoed and made ready for new planting.”
“Farmingville” explores the tensions surrounding the influx of Mexican immigrants, many illegal, into this suburban community on Long Island, N.Y. The impact has been “severe and intense,” says Margaret Bianculli-Dyber, who organized the opposition after some 1500 Mexicans arrived in this town of 15,000 in the late 1990s, most to work in landscaping and restaurants. The opposition turned ugly, culminating in the attempted murder of two workers (one of whom is interviewed), and caught in the middle are local officials, who are powerless to force the newcomers out even if they wanted to. Says Suffolk County (N.Y.) legislator Paul Tonna: “This is not an issue that is going to go away.” “Farmingville” won a Special Jury Award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.
In “Bill's Run,” filmmaker Richard Kassebaum chronicles his brother Bill's 2002 run for the Kansas House of Representatives. Kassebaum, a rancher and assistant county attorney, is the son of former senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum (and the grandson of 1936 GOP presidential candidate Alf Landon). He decides to run because he believes that school-funding shortfalls are hurting his rural district, and the incumbent, House majority leader Shari Weber (who's also interviewed), is a staunch antitax conservative.
“War Feels like War” follows journalists who weren't “embedded” (they're called “unilaterals”) as they covered the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and reflected on it and their jobs. What they saw ranged from what ABC Radio's PJ O'Rourke calls the “garden-variety chaos” attending the distribution of food aid in southern Iraq to a constant stream of skirmishes---and the consequences of it lying in streets and in hospital beds---as they headed north to Baghdad and Tikrit. Other journalists include Chicago Tribune photographer Stephanie Sinclair, as well as reporters from Poland, Norway, Denmark and Spain.
“Thirst,” an emotional exploration of the downside of water privatization in Bolivia and India, also chronicles efforts to stem a privatization drive in Stockton, Cal., and visits a 2003 international water conference in Kyoto, Japan. In India, the hour asserts, water can cost more than milk, and while that's not the case in Stockton, activists still fear losing control. “Water,” says one, “is the next OPEC.” Produced and directed by Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow.
“Last Man Standing: Politics---Texas Style” chronicles an intense 2002 state legislative race in the solidly Republican district where Lyndon Johnson once lived. The combatants: GOP incumbent Rick Green, 31, and 24-year-old Democrat Patrick Rose. It should have been a walkover, given Green's charm and Texas-style conservatism, but Rose got lucky when ethics charges against Green surfaced. So did filmmaker Paul Stekler (“Vote for Me: Politics in America”), who captures the bad body language between the two exquisitely. And when the dust settled, they were 333 votes apart.
“A Family Undertaking” explores the home-funeral movement as it profiles advocates and families who are burying loved ones without the services of undertakers. The hour briefly visits a funeral-industry convention in Florida (where a speaker urges colleagues to provide a “meaningful death experience” for consumers), but mostly it focuses on families who provide what advocate Beth Knox calls their own “after-death care.” In South Dakota, the ranching Carr family builds patriarch Bernard's coffin, and Bernard is seen burning his brand into it. “You work together and play together,” says Bernard's son Keith. “Why would you want to ship a member of your family to the cold, old morgue?”
“Every Mother's Son” follows three mothers of young men---none of them criminals---killed by New York City police during the 1990s. The most notorious case is that of Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old from Guinea who was shot 41 times in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building, but all three deaths galvanized the grief-stricken mothers to activism as the officers who killed their sons were acquitted, convicted of lesser charges or not even indicted. Says one: “There's got to be some justice and accountability.”
“Speedo: A Demolition Derby Love Story” profiles demolition-derby driver Ed “Speedo” Jager, who's as passionate about his two sons as he is about driving. In fact, he has remained in an empty marriage for years for their sake. During the film, a third love enters Speedo's life: Liz Mallows, a New Jersey track official who's drawn to his in-your-face (in-your-fender, actually) energy and his take-no-prisoners driving style. “It's like a disease,” Speedo says. “It starts to possess you when you're really into it.”
The 1973 film “Wattstax,” which captures the energy and excitement of a 1972 concert at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, is spotlighted. The event brought together 100,000 spectators to see turns by Isaac Hayes (“Theme from Shaft”), Rufus Thomas (“Breakdown”) and the Staple Singers (“Respect Yourself”). Also on hand are Kim Weston; Jimmy Jones; the Emotions; the Stax Golden 13; the Bar-Kays; Albert King; Little Milton; Carla Thomas; and Luther Ingram. The Rev. Jesse Jackson opens the event; and introduces Hayes. Intercut throughout are observations by Richard Pryor; and man-on-the-street interviews that offer a snapshot of what life was like for black Americans in the early '70s.
“Freedom Machines” follows disabled people as they use such assistive technologies as voice-input software and wheelchairs that climb stairs. These devices can help level the field for the disabled, and they're getting better all the time, but they're too expensive for many who could use them. This quietly forceful hour points up this inequality as it follows disabled achievers with the resources to have “freedom machines.” For those who don't, says narrator Peter Dinklage, it's a civil-rights issue: “Today, equality depends more and more on access to technology.”
“A Panther in Africa” profiles Pete O'Neal, a one-time Black Panther who has lived in exile in Tanzania for three decades after fleeing from a gun-charge conviction in the U.S. Now in his 60s, the reflective O'Neal is both defiant and philosphical about his fugitive status, but he's still very much an activist: he and his wife Charlotte operate a widely respected multiservice community center that also sponsors international exchange programs, and O'Neal is seen here showing local sights to two youths from his native Kansas City. The two, in turn, offer pointers on rap and basketball to Tanzanian youngsters. O'Neal is also concerned that he's losing his identity as an African-American. “I'm losing that connection to African America,” he says. “I'm kind of lost in a no-man's land.”
Two “Lost Boys of Sudan” struggle through their first year of life in the U.S. in this compelling fly-on-the-wall documentary. The young refugees from Sudan's decades-old civil war trade privation at a Kenyan camp for culture shock, loneliness and alienation in Houston and Kansas. But things aren't entirely bleak: One graduates from high school, and the other, after some drifting, begins training to be an electrician.
“Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed” chronicles Brooklyn congresswoman Shirley Chisholm's longshot candidacy for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination. Her trek on “the Chisholm trail” marked the first time a black woman ever sought the White House (Chisholm, who died Jan. 1, 2005, was also the first black woman elected to Congress). Here, she recalls her '72 bid and the issues that underpinned it, as do some 20 other observers.
“The Education of Shelby Knox” follows an intense, engaging Lubbock, Texas, teen as she campaigns over three years for sex education in Lubbock's public schools. A Baptist who has pledged “sexual purity,” Shelby nonetheless is evolving into a political liberal. Her campaign won't be easy. Nor will another campaign, for a high-school gay-straight alliance, and she'll learn why there aren't many liberals in Lubbock. More important, she'll become her “own person.”
In “Big Enough,” filmmaker Jan Krawitz catches up with short-statured folks she first profiled when they were youngsters in the 1982 PBS documentary “Little People.” Between flashbacks to the earlier film, they describe their challenges (“people don't let me forget that I'm little,” says Karla Lizzo) and successes---they all married and are economically comfortable. More important, they're comfortable with who they are. “This is the way life is,” says Len Sawisch.
“Street Fight” follows upstart Rhodes scholar Cory Booker's 2002 bid to unseat Sharpe James, the entrenched mayor of Newark, N.J. This is old-fashioned, rough-and-tumble politics. In Newark, “elections are won and lost in the streets,” says filmmaker Marshall Curry, who interviews a car-wash owner who says the city shut it down because he backs Booker. And Curry is seen being intimidated at James rallies. Even James press aide Rich McGrath concedes that the race “definitely is a throwback.”
“The Fire Next Time” explores tensions between the two sides of the environmental divide in Montana's Flathead Valley, a tourist and second-home Mecca where loggers and millworkers are losing jobs. Filmmaker Patrice O'Neill filmed for several years in and around Kalispell, Mont., interviewing people on both sides, as well as government officials caught in the middle. She finds “fear and passion.” Adds County Commissioner Gary Hall: “The hate thing is unbelievable.”
“The Brooklyn Connection” follows Albanian-American businessman Florin Krasniqi as he purchases arms in the U.S., then smuggles them to the Kosovo Liberation Army. Krasniqi, who says he has raised $30 million to “provide logistics for an entire army,” is also seen schmoozing with such political figures as Wesley Clark and Richard Holbrooke. He concedes that “it's a thin line between a thug and a freedom fighter,” but his mission is clear: “I have to see Kosovo independent,” he says.
Bob Stern, an ailing 77-year-old businessman, calmly weighs the pros and cons of suicide in “The Self-Made Man,” his daughter Susan Stern's unusual family memoir. The film juxtaposes home movies and comments from family and friends with a July 4, 2001, videotape in which the elder Stern is seen laying out a “cost-benefit ratio,” as he puts it, on his life. The family opposed suicide but, sighs son Mike, “I guess he saw himself as a bad investment, and that it was time to sell.”
“In the Realms of the Unreal” peeks into the good-vs.-evil fantasy world of Henry Darger (1892-1973), a reclusive janitor whose writings and artwork were found in his one-room Chicago apartment after his death. And quite a trove it was: hundreds of paintings (some seen in animated form) and a 15,000-page chronicle of warfare between a Christian children's army led by seven “Vivian girls” and the godless Glandelinians.
In “Hardwood,” a 2005 documentary-short Oscar nominee, filmmaker Hubert Davis and his stepbrother Maluwi ruminate on the complexities of life with---and without---their father, former Harlem Globetrotter Mel Davis. Mel returned to Hubert and his mother because “he was trying to teach me to be a better man from his mistakes,” Hubert says.
In “Bright Leaves,” filmmaker Ross McElwee muses on North Carolinians' “complicated relationships with tobacco.” McElwee (“Sherman's March”) visits tobacco farmers and cancer patients, and explores his own family's tie to tobacco: his great-grandfather, an industry pioneer who lost a power struggle that ruined him. As it happens, the 1950 Gary Cooper-Patricia Neal movie “Bright Leaf” tells a very similar story, and to McElwee at least, it's “a surreal home movie.”
Filmmaker Menachem Daum sets out to pass on an “ethical legacy” to his adult sons in “Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust.” Daum, an Orthodox Jew, sees signs of intolerance in his sons Akiva and Tzvi Dovid, both of whom are Talmudic scholars. So he takes them to Poland in search of the Christian family that sheltered their maternal grandfather during the Holocaust. The goal, says Menachem, is for them to recognize “that holiness can be found in all people.”
“The Hobart Shakespeareans” follows tireless L.A. teacher Rafe Esquith as he challenges his inner-city fifth graders with the Bard. The results are gratifying, and Esquith's class (at Hobart Elementary in Central L.A.) has attracted national attention. Indeed, Michael York and Ian McKellen are seen visiting. But for Esquith, who's as charismatic as he is indefatigable, success comes simply by heeding the motto he expects his students to live by as well: “Be nice, work hard.”
“Omar & Pete” follows two longtime Baltimore convicts as they struggle to turn their lives around as they approach 50. “I want to be part of `the good society',” says Leon “Omar” Mason as he's paroled after serving 10 years. Soon he has started a car-wash business and has moved into a group home, where he meets old friend William “Pete” Duncan, who has been out of jail for 10 months and is showing every sign of success. But for Omar, drugs are a constant lure, and he can't always resist.
In Melba Williams' award-winning "A Thousand Words," the filmmaker’s father, a Vietnam veteran who has suffered a stroke, tries to recapture his war experience for his children. They discover that the true story can be found in the photography and moving images he left behind.
"A Song for Daniel" compares a routine day of two nine-year-old boys - one living in Baghdad and the other, born and raised in New York City - and offers a profound examination of culture and place through the eyes of two Iraqi youth living on opposite sides of the world.
In Jay Rosenblatt's award-winning "I Used to Be a Filmmaker," he and his newborn daughter, Ella, are the main protagonists as the filmmaker documents the first 18 months of the child's life, showing the progression from newborn to infant to toddler (and budding filmmaker herself).
“No More Tears Sister,” a moving examination of the life of Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, a Sri Lankan human-rights activist who was allegedly assassinated in 1989 by a guerrilla group---the Tamil Tigers---she once championed. Included: insights from Rajani, via letters; her older sister, Nirmala Rajasingam, who was also an activist; and her husband, Dayapala Thiranagama, a former student revolutionary.
An examination of the Japanese high-school baseball tournament known as Koshien (which grabs national attention every August), focusing on two teams competing in the 2003 event. One squad is from Tennoji High School, a public school with limited resources; the other is from Chiben High School, a private school coached by the legendary Hitoshi Takashima, who has taken more than 20 teams to Koshien and won the national championship three times.
A profile of the reclusive Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (1907-83), aka Herge, best known for his “Tintin” cartoons. The documentary draws on 14 hours of interviews Remi gave journalist Numa Sadoul in 1971; and includes insights from scholars Harry Thompson, Fanny Rodwell and Gerard Valet. Also: Monteith McCollum's short “Lawn,” a film collage about mankind's relationship with nature.'
The tumultuous 10-year reign of Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori is documented via interviews with Fujimori, Peruvian journalists and others. He took office in 1990 and defeated two of the nation's major problems, hyperinflation and terrorism. But he suspended democracy to achieve those ends. In 2000, he fled to his ancestral home, Japan, and resigned the presidency by fax; he now faces charges of authorizing a paramilitary death squad and financial irregularities.
“The Tailenders” details the work of Global Recordings Network, a Christian missionary group that has provided Bible recordings to the world's remote regions since 1939; and has stories in more than 5500 languages and dialects. The documentary also looks at the technology used to spread the Bible's teachings to people in undeveloped areas; why the missionaries spread the gospel; and how the message is received by the native peoples.
This fascinating episode, “Al Otro Lado” (To the Other Side), puts a personal spin on illegal immigration through eyes of aspiring corrido singer Magdiel, who lives in Sinaloa. “Mexico is nice for the rich, but for the poor it isn't,” Magdiel explains; and poor he is---he can't afford to pay a border-crossing guide (“coyote”) to take him to the U.S. The documentary also details the history of corridos (folk songs that celebrate outlaws); and profiles influential corrido singer Chalino Sanchez.
The remarkable “Lomax the Songhunter” celebrates the life and work of musicologist Alan Lomax (1915-2002) by retracing his 1950s trek to record indigenous folk music in Scotland, Spain and Sicily; and meeting with people he recorded. The documentary also examines his earlier work in the American South; features archival footage and insights from friends and colleagues, including Pete Seeger (who helped Lomax catalog many of his field recordings).
Compelling, and sometimes heartbreaking, “Waging a Living” chronicles the frustrating lives of four low-wage earners over three years. Included: a nursing assistant who supports three children as well as the kids of her oldest daughter, who has thyroid cancer; a security guard with $10 in his savings account; a waitress going through a divorce; and a child-care supervisor whose increased job earnings result in a drop in her standard of living as her government assistance is decreased.
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's “The Boys of Baraka” offers a perceptive look at the lives of four young males from inner-city Baltimore who are given the opportunity to attend Kenya's Baraka School, which challenges them academically and attempts to instill self-discipline. The documentary follows up with the youths the following school year, when, due to a civil war in Kenya, they return to Baltimore's public-school system.
Thomas Allen Harris's impressive “Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela” tells the story of his stepfather, Benjamin Pule Leinaeng---and, through him, the story of the African National Congress. In 1960, Leinaeng and 11 other ANC members, all followers of Nelson Mandela, fled South Africa to set up resistance to the apartheid state. Commenting are others who fled, including Moses Medupe, Mochubela Seekoe, Percy Mokonopi and Isabella Winkie Direcko, a teacher of Leinaeng.
“No Bigger than a Minute” explores the world of dwarfism. Filmmaker Steven Delano, who is a dwarf, details the difficulties he faced while growing up, including a sense of isolation; and examines the place little people have in pop culture. Included: comments from short celebs Peter Dinklage (“The Station Agent”) and Meredith Eaton (“Family Law”); and rap star Bushwick Bill. Also: German director Werner Herzog and singer-songwriter Randy Newman are interviewed.
“Maquilapolis [City of Factories]” examines the deplorable conditions and pay of workers in multinational-owned plants south of the U.S.-Mexican border as seen through the eyes of the workers. Included: When her plant relocates to Indonesia, single mother-of-three Carmen Durán battles for the severance pay Mexican law grants her but that the company tried to renege on. Also: Lourdes Luján, who lives in Tijuana, fights for a cleanup of a battery-recycling factory.
Featured: Laura Poitras's engrossing “My Country, My Country,” which documents the months leading up to Iraq's January 2005 elections through the eyes of a Sunni doctor in Baghdad, who decides to run for Baghdad's provincial council. Included: He leads a visit to Abu Ghraib prison; meets with the Americans to voice his objections to the fighting in Fallujah; helps someone whose son is being held for ransom by militants. Also: the Iraqi Islamic Party's election boycott.
"Your lawn is a reflection of your character," a woman says in a phone conversation at the beginning of the film. "Lawn" explores our relationship with nature and our desire to control it. Filmed over a period of months through time-lapse, stop-motion, and long takes, it depicts an untamed yard (McCollum’s) living and dying.
The story of Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, a music group comprising survivors from Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war. Here, the six members tour refugee camps in Guinea and return to Sierra Leone to record an album in Freetown, the capital.
The story of Alex White Plume, an Oglala Sioux Tribe member who ran into controversy with the federal government for growing industrial hemp on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. While it's legal to sell hemp products in the U.S., it is illegal to grow hemp (which is related to marijuana but has only traces of it). In 2000, White Plume planted industrial hemp, only to see his land raided by the DEA and FBI. Included: issues of tribal sovereignty; the economic conditions at Pine Ridge.
The insightful “Revolution '67” exposes the flip side to the “Summer of Love”: race riots in several American cities, including Detroit and, as spotlighted here, Newark. The six-day riot began on July 12, sparked by a rumor that a black taxi driver died while in police custody, but was fueled by endemic poverty, racism and political corruption. Commenting: poet Amiri Baraka; Tom Hayden, who worked as a community organizer in the city at the time; and former Newark mayor Sharpe James.
A profile of writer-conservationist Richard Ogust, who shared his Manhattan loft with 1200 turtles, including several on the endangered list. When he was evicted from the loft, he tried to set up a sanctuary for them. But he ultimately had to move them to a warehouse.
“Prison Town, USA” examines life in rural Susanville, Cal., which once thrived on agriculture, logging and ranching, and now relies on an economy fueled by nearby prisons. The documentary profiles residents who seek better lives for themselves and their families by becoming correctional officers; a parolee who has difficulty supporting his family because of a shortage of non-prison jobs; and a dairy farmer whose contract with the prisons may not be renewed.
In the remarkable “Following Sean,” Ralph Arlyck picks up the story he began in 1969 with the short documentary “Sean,” about a 4-year-old boy living in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury District, by reconnecting with the adult Sean and his family; and, while doing so, offering observations about his own life. The result is an insightful meditation about baby boomers, their children and their parents; freedom; work; and growing old.
“Arctic Son” follows a young Native American from Washington state who leaves his party ways behind when he moves to Old Crow, a small “dry” village 80 miles north of the Arctic Circle, to live with his father, whom he barely knows. His father imparts the Gwitchin people's ways to his son, teaching him to fish, hunt and skin rabbits, but the culture shock at first leaves the younger man frustrated. Over time, however, he comes to see the value in the old ways and bonds with his father.
“Libby, Montana” examines the impact of 70 years of mining the mineral vermiculite on the town, where about a quarter of the population was found to have lung abnormalities from asbestos exposure. The documentary also details claims that W.R. Grace & Co., which owned the mine, concealed the dangers faced by workers, even as the company and a number of executives faced criminal charges; and questions why the government permitted the mine to operate until its 1990 closure.
“Made in L.A.” relates the powerful story of three Latina immigrants in L.A's garment industry who, along with other workers and the Garment Worker Center (an advocacy group), fought for better pay and working conditions. They filed a lawsuit against Forever 21, the clothing company and retail chain that hired the contractors for whom they work; and protested at its stores and at the home of its president.
“The Camden 28” recalls a 1971 incident in which four Catholic priests, a Lutheran minister and 23 others were arrested for breaking into the Camden, N.J., draft-board office, where they shredded draft records. A four-month trial resulted in not-guilty verdicts for the members, who admitted their actions but asked the jury to nullify the law because of their opposition to the Vietnam War; and because the informant who tipped off the FBI about the raid was integral to the break-in.
“Lumo” examines the use of rape as a weapon in war, detailing the experiences of an African woman who, in 1994 at the age of 20, was brutally assaulted by soldiers in eastern Congo. The attack caused a fistula, a condition that can be marked by incontinence and the inability to bear children. As a result, her fiancé left her; and many in her family and village shunned her. The documentary follows her to a Goma hospital, where she undergoes surgeries in hopes of correcting the problem.
An exceptional documentary about award-winning playwright Tony Kushner, best known for “Angels in America.” It chronicles his life from 2001 through 2004, and recalls his childhood in Louisiana; his coming out to his parents, including its impact on his father, William (who is interviewed); and his initial success with “Angels.” Also: his collaboration with children's author Maurice Sendak on “Brundibar”; his 2003 autobiographical Broadway musical, “Caroline, or Change”; his wedding ceremony.
Filmmaker Katrina Brown's exploration of slave trading ancestors, the Rhode Island DeWolfes. She and nine family members retrace the old slave trading route, with stops in Bristol, R.I., Ghana and Cuba.
A chronicle of stories which dealt with the 2004 election, including busy moms, ex-felons, factory workers, Native American activists and poll-watchers.
A story of a controversial statue of conquistador Juan de Oñate by sculptor John Houser. While considered a hero by many, some Indians see him in a different light. Oñate's soldiers killed many of their people following attacks on his soldiers.
A look at the world of politics in Japan as seen through the eyes of a political neophyte who was chosen to run for a seat on the Kawasaki City Council by the Liberal Democratic Party.
A 1969 documentary which takes a look at the Man in Black both on stage and off. Includes interviews with family and friends, including June Carter Cash and Bob Dylan.
A story of Carlos and Armando Pena, who try to piece together their family history as they return home to Texas with their mom's ashes. Along their journey they meet up with five of their brothers and try to find out what happened to their father, who was deported back to Mexico in 1954.
The story of Joanna Rudnick, a 27 year old filmmaker who tested positive for BRCA genetic mutation, which gives her a big chance at sometime in her life of having breast and ovarian cancer. She explores what other women have gone through while pondering whether to undergo radical preventative measures herself.
An exploration of the Three Gorges Dam project in China by following two a pair of teenagers who worked on a cruise ship on the Yangtze River. One is a daughter of a poor farmer, where the other teen is the son of a middle class family, but each are effected by their rapidly developing nation.
Two conscientious objectors explain the moral quandaries face in wartime, and two men who served in Iraq and then refused to return, plus three Iraqi war veterans who are still active. Included, the insights of Maj. Peter Kilner, the professor of ethics at West Point.
The Betrayal was shot over a 23 year period as it tells the story of a Laotian family forced to flee their homeland after the father helped the CIA during the secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War. Their transition of life to the US was far from easy, as they're settled in a Brooklyn apartment next door to a crack house, and the youngest of the children absorb into the American culture and Southeast Asian gangs start forming.
A cinema vérité documentary about the experiences of five children with severe behavior problems, as they attend the Mulberry Bush School in Oxford, England.
A collection of short documentaries includes Utopia, Part 3: The Worlds Largest Shopping Mall, which is about a mall in South China which was built in 2005 over a 7 million square foot area, and most of it remains virtually empty. Next is "Nutkins Last Stand," about the attempt of Britons to save their red-squirrels from the influx of the grey squirrel from North America. Then on "34x25x36," we take a look at the Patina V mannequin factory near L.A. And lastly, "City and Cranes," explore the world of crane operators.
A look at the Our Lady of Sorrows Nursing Home in East Jerusalem, which serves Palestinian Christians and sits adjacent to the Israeli built security wall. But it's on the Israel side, making it difficult for family members to visit.
A pair of female matador are profiled, veteran Mari Paz Vega and a rookie Eva Florencia. Includes a woman in bullfighting, and the 1908 Spanish law which banned women from the sport.
A look at the work done by British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh in Ukraine, where medical infrastructure often fails those patients with neurological problems. This documentary covers a three week period in 2007, as he provides care, along with the occasional bad news, like telling a young patient that his brain tumor is slowly killing him.
These stories detail how a principal can influence a school's success, through Tresa D. Dunbar, in her second year at Henry H. Nash Elementary, and Kerry Purcell, whose in charge of Harvard Park Elementary, in Springfield, Ill. Although one is a veteran of six year and the other is a relative newcomer, they have much in common, including a contagious can-do attitude and they watch over mostly children of low-income families.
Short films are featured. Included: David Wilson's "Big Birding Day," about competitive birdwatching; "Flawed," Andreas Dorfman's animated take on her relationship with a plastic surgeon; Marcin Janos Krawczyk's "Six Weeks," about a new mother in Poland contemplating giving up her baby for adoption; Beverly Morris' animated "Tiffany," about a divorce battle over a lamp; "Miss Devine," about a Sunday-school teacher; "No More Questions," in which a grandmother shares stories from her life.
"Armadillo," in which filmmaker Janus Metz Pedersen chronicles the experiences of Danish soldiers serving in southern Afghanistan over a six-month period in 2009.
"Better This World" tells the story of Bradley Crowder and David McKay, two boyhood friends from Midland, Texas, who were arrested on domestic terrorism charges prior to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. The documentary chronicles their transformation from political neophytes to alleged terrorists, which was encouraged by an FBI informant; and examines how the War on Terror has impacted civil liberties and political dissent.
The story of how Daniel McGowan, the son of an NYC cop, became involved with the radical Earth Liberation Front group and took part in multimillion dollar arsons in 2001 Oregon against a timber company and a tree farm. The documentary includes an interview with McGowan filmed prior to the end of his 2007 case (he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison); and remarks from Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Engdall, and Eugene, Ore., police detective Greg Harvey.
"The Learning" chronicles the first-year experiences of four Filipina educators recruited to teach in Baltimore's public school system, where 10 percent of their fellow teachers are also from the Philippines. The documentary begins in their homeland as the women prepare to part from their families and current teaching positions, which pay far less than in America. Once in Baltimore, they face students whose oft-unruly behavior is at odds with what they're accustomed to, and slowly win them over.
Dos jóvenes con un amor profundo y eterno enfrentan un destino que pretende separarlos.
Season 24 concludes with "Where Soldiers Come From," about three friends from Michigan's Upper Peninsula who join the National Guard after graduating high school. Heather Courtney's documentary follows them on their yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, where they sweep for roadside bombs; and then back home, where they adjust to civilian life and deal with the physical and emotional traumas of war. Also: the impact on parents, loved ones and friends when soldiers go off to war.
Season 25 opens with "My Reincarnation," about exiled Tibetan spiritual master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and his first-born son Yeshi, whom he believes is the reincarnation of his uncle, a Dzogchen master. Yeshi, however, isn't so sure; and, even if he is what his father believes, becoming a Tibetan teacher isn't necessarily the life he wants.
"Granito: How to Nail a Dictator" tells how Pamela Yates' 1983 documentary "When the Mountains Tremble," about the 1982 genocide of indigenous Mayans by the Guatemalan military, was used to hold ex-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt responsible. "Granito" also features individuals who appeared in the 1983 film, including storyteller Rigoberta Menchú, who would go on to win the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize; and former guerrilla commander Gustavo Meoño.
In "The City Dark," filmmaker Ian Cheney—who grew up in a small Maine town—ponders light pollution, a phenomenon foreign to him until he moved to New York City. To learn what the consequences of diminished darkness might be, he talks with experts, including astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. What he discovers: possible health implications for humans; and serious issues for such wildlife as sea turtles. Yet, as criminologist Jon Shane points out, there is some good: less crime in well-lit areas.
"Guilty Pleasures" examines the popularity of romance novels through the stories of three fans, an author and a male model whose face graces the covers of many books. The fiction feeds Japanese housewife Hiroko's fantasies of being wooed by a David Beckham look-alike. Shumita, an Indian woman whose husband left her, recognizes the books' Utopian take on love but enjoys them, anyway. And British author Gill Sanderson, surprisingly, turns out to be a male pensioner who resides in a trailer park.
"The Light in Her Eyes" offers a vérité portrait of Houda al-Habash, a religiously observant Syrian woman who has defied tradition for the past 30 years by teaching the Koran to young girls at a school she runs at a Damascus mosque.
"Up Heartbreak Hill" chronicles the senior year of two Navajo high-school students in New Mexico. One, a rebellious cross-country runner named Thomas, hopes to win a scholarship and attend college, then return to and help improve the Navajo Nation. The other, fellow runner and valedictorian contender Tamara, has her heart set on a college out of state, though her parents would prefer she stick closer to home.
Five shorts, including "The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement," about an octogenarian Alabama barber and WWII veteran who carried the American flag across the bridge on the first Selma to Montgomery march of 1965; and "Sin País (Without Country)," about illegal immigrants from Guatemala who, 20 years after arriving in the U.S., are deported to their home country. Also: three StoryCorps animations, including "Eyes on the Stars," about astronaut Ronald McNair.
The Jonathan Demme-directed "I'm Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful" tells the story of a New Orleans native and civil-rights activist who works to rebuild her house, church and community after they're devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
"El Velador (The Night Watchman)," about a guard who oversees a cemetery in Culiacán, the capital of the Mexican state of Sinaloa. The region is the nexus of the country's illegal drug trade; the cemetery is the final resting place for many drug lords.
"Give Up Tomorrow" examines the Filipino justice system via the case of Paco Larrañaga, who was convicted of the 1997 rape-murder of two sisters despite evidence that placed him elsewhere at the time of the crime.
A Navajo couple investigates XP, a genetic disorder that makes exposure to sunlight potentially fatal, and learns that it is far more prevalent on their reservation than in the population at-large: one in 30,000 vs. one in a million. They lost a son to the disorder, and now care for his sister, who also has it. Their study leads to a possible reason for the increased likelihood that Navajos will develop XP: the Long Walk of 1864, when their people were forced to relocate to eastern New Mexico.
A look at a haven for astronomers and archaeologists: Chile's Atacama Desert. At 10,000 feet above sea level, it offers a clear view of the sky. It also holds clues about the distant and recent past: ancient mummies and the remains of the "disappeared" (Pinochet-era political prisoners).
The dangers faced by journalists in Mexico are examined from the perspective of veteran reporter Sergio Haro and his colleagues at the Tijuana-based newsweekly Zeta. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 48 journalists in Mexico were murdered or disappeared from December 2006 through December 2011 for daring to report on drug cartels and the corrupt politicians in league with them.
The Season 25 finale examines the modeling business through the eyes of a 13-year-old Siberian who signs with an agency in Japan, where the Russian preadolescent "look" is apparently all the rage, and the scout—a former model herself—who discovered her. Also: the StoryCorps shorts "Sundays at Rocco's" and "To R.P. Salazar, With Love."
Season 26 opens with "Homegoings," which profiles Harlem funeral director Isaiah Owens, the son of a South Carolina sharecropper whose fascination with burials began as a boy, while also examining the traditions of African-American funerals. Owens' fascination with burials dates to his childhood: He buried matchsticks at age 5, then progressed to actual dead things, including chickens, dogs and even a mule. He moved to NYC at age 17 to learn the craft and, in time, opened his own funeral home.
Special Flight is a dramatic account of the plight of undocumented foreigners at the Frambois detention center in Geneva, Switzerland, and of the wardens who struggle to reconcile humane values with the harsh realities of a strict deportation system. The 25 Frambois inmates featured are among the thousands of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants imprisoned without charge or trial and facing deportation to their native countries, where they fear repression or even death. The film, made in Switzerland, is a heart-wrenching exposé of the contradictions between the country's compassionate social policies and the intractability of its immigration laws.
The story of Louisiana prisoner Herman Wallace, who has been kept in solitary confinement since being accused and convicted of killing a guard in 1972, and art student Jackie Surnell, who in 2001 wrote and asked him what his dream house would look like. Her idea was to create an art installation that featured a full-size replica of his 6-foot-by-9-foot cell adjacent to the detailed plans of his idealized home. But she then sets out to actually build the home—a feat that may be beyond her means.
Only the Young follows three unconventional Christian teenagers coming of age in a small Southern California town. Skateboarders Garrison and Kevin, and Garrison's on-and-off girlfriend, Skye, wrestle with the eternal questions of youth: friendship, true love and the promise of the future. Yet their lives are also touched by the distress signals of contemporary America — foreclosed homes, abandoned businesses and adults in financial trouble. As graduation approaches, these issues become shocking realities. With sun-drenched visuals, lyrical storytelling and a soul-music soundtrack, Only the Young embodies the innocence and candor of its youthful subjects — and of adolescence itself.
High Tech, Low Life follows two of China’s first citizen-reporters as they document the underside of the country’s rapid economic development. A search for truth and fame inspires young vegetable seller “Zola” to report on censored news stories from the cities, while retired businessman “Tiger Temple” makes sense of the past by chronicling the struggles of rural villagers. Land grabs, pollution, rising poverty, local corruption and the growing willingness of ordinary people to speak out are grist for these two bloggers who navigate China’s evolving censorship regulations and challenge the boundaries of free speech.
Neurotypical is an unprecedented exploration of autism from the point of view of autistic people themselves. Four-year-old Violet, teenaged Nicholas and adult Paula occupy different positions on the autism spectrum, but they are all at pivotal moments in their lives. How they and the people around them work out their perceptual and behavioral differences becomes a remarkable reflection of the "neurotypical" world — the world of the non-autistic — revealing inventive adaptations on each side and an emerging critique of both what it means to be normal and what it means to be human.
In The Law in These Parts, acclaimed Israeli filmmaker Ra'anan Alexandrowicz has pulled off a tour-de-force examination of the system of military administration used by Israel since the Six Day War of 1967 — featuring the system's leading creators. In a series of thoughtful and candid interviews, Israeli judges, prosecutors and legal advisers, who helped devise the occupation's legal framework, paint a complex picture of the Middle East conflict and the balance among political interests, security and human rights that has come with it.
Nominated for an Oscar®, 5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal first-hand account of life and nonviolent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village where Israel is building a security fence. Palestinian Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, shot the film and Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi co-directed. The filmmakers follow one family’s evolution over five years, witnessing a child’s growth from a newborn baby into a young boy who observes the world unfolding around him. The film is a Palestinian-Israeli-French co-production.
Call this old age, extreme edition: Seven players with 620 years between them compete in the Over 80 World Table Tennis Championships in China's Inner Mongolia. British players Terry, 81, who has been given a week to live, and Les, 91, a weightlifter and poet, are going for the gold. Inge, 89, from Germany, has used table tennis to paddle her way out of dementia. And Texan Lisa, 85, is playing for the first time. Ping Pong is a wonderfully unusual story of hope, regret, friendship, ambition, love — and sheer human tenacity in the face of aging and mortality.
The World Before Her is a tale of two Indias. In one, Ruhi Singh is a small-town girl competing in Bombay to win the Miss India pageant—a ticket to stardom in a country wild about beauty contests. In the other India, Prachi Trivedi is the young, militant leader of a fundamentalist Hindu camp for girls, where she preaches violent resistance to Western culture, Christianity and Islam. Moving between these divergent realities, the film creates a lively, provocative portrait of the world's largest democracy at a critical transitional moment—and of two women who hope to shape its future.
At a public school in Newark, N.J., the staff answers the phone by saying, "You've reached John F. Kennedy High School, Newark's best-kept secret." JFK provides an exceptional environment for students with special-education needs. In Best Kept Secret, Janet Mino, who has taught a class of young men for four years, is on an urgent mission. She races against the clock as graduation approaches for her severely autistic minority students. Once they graduate and leave the security of this nurturing place, their options for living independently will be few. Mino must help them find the means to support themselves before they "age out" of the system.
This public-school powerhouse in junior high chess competitions has won more than 30 national championships, the most of any school in the country. Its 85-member squad boasts so many strong players that the late Albert Einstein, a dedicated chess maven, would rank fourth if he were on the team. Most astoundingly, I.S. 318 is a Brooklyn school that serves mostly minority students from families living below the poverty line. Brooklyn Castle is the exhilarating story of five of the school's aspiring young players and how chess became the school's unlikely inspiration for academic success.
In 1964, a group of British 7-year-olds were interviewed about their lives and dreams in a groundbreaking television documentary, Seven Up. Since then, in one of the greatest projects in television history, renowned director Michael Apted has returned to film the same subjects every seven years, tracking their ups and downs. POV, which presented the U.S. broadcast premiere of 49 Up in 2007, returns with 56 Up to find the group settling into middle age and surprisingly upbeat. Through marriage and childbirth, poverty and illness, the "kids" have come to terms with both hope and disappointment.
The first-ever animated special from StoryCorps celebrates the transformative power of listening. Listening Is an Act of Love features six stories from 10 years of the innovative oral history project. Each story reflects StoryCorps founder Dave Isay's fundamental belief: "We can learn so much about the people all around us — even about the people we already know — just by taking the time to have a conversation." Framing these intimate conversations from across the country is an interview between Isay and his 9-year-old nephew, Benji. As always, the selections provoke both tears and laughter — and highlight the simple joy found in sitting together and asking life's important questions.