From Ellen Druda
Author: Rod Freedman
Title: Wrong side of the bus [videorecording DVD]
Sidney Bloch, an accomplished Australian professor of psychiatry, tries to resolve his guilt about his compliance with apartheid growing up in South Africa while on a trip back home to Cape Town. Bloch’s son Aaron tags along, serving as the film’s narrator and chief questioner over his father’s true feelings and motivations. As Sidney visits old haunts, friends, and neighbors, he talks about growing up Jewish in a racist society, his anger over what seemed clearly morally wrong, and his painful realization that he did nothing of substance to protest. Bloch asks for forgiveness from those who suffered: his aged mother’s black nurse, a white man who led protests and lost an arm and an eye as a result, university schoolmates who were discriminated against, and, finally, a former prisoner who was jailed in the same place as Nelson Mandela. It is this prisoner, now the jail’s tour guide, who gives Bloch the key to release his guilt in the film’s moving resolution. Wrong Side of the Bus asks big questions within the framework of one man’s journey.
From Ginny Pisciotta
Author: Darren Wilson
Title: Holy ghost [videorecording DVD]
Filmmaker Darren Wilson (Finger of God, Father of Lights, Furious Love) challenged himself to film a documentary totally led by the Holy Spirit. Without a plan or script, he went wherever he felt the Holy Spirit lead him. He travels to Salt Lake City, Monte Carlo, a Korn concert and Varanasi, India where a Hindu high priest allows Christian musician Jake Hamilton to sing and play his guitar inside a temple.
Wilson films the love of God reaching out to diverse people in diverse places in diverse ways. Holy Ghost was an excellent and inspiring film. I am looking forward to his next film.
From: Ellen Druda
Author: Seán Ó Cualáin
Title: Men at lunch [videorecording DVD] : the untold story of a city’s legend
You’ve seen the photograph: men sitting atop a steel construction beam, casually enjoying a lunch and cigarette break, boots dangling in the air with New York City hundreds of feet below. I can’t even look at it without lurching into vertigo. This documentary tells the story of the photograph – how it might have been taken, who the mystery photographer was, and attempts to identify the men in the picture too. The photo archives of the holder of the original negative reveals clues about the identity of the men involved, and from there filmmaker Seán Ó Cualáin pursues the friends and relatives of the names in order to finally establish the facts. It’s fun to follow along, and while back-tracking the story of this particular picture, Ó Cualáin also tells the story of immigration, particularly the Irish, and its importance in shaping New York City. Men at Lunch is for fans of the Big Apple and the role the Irish played in its history.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Teju Prasad
Title: Not a feather, but a dot [videorecording DVD]
Like many immigrant groups, Indian-Americans have had to deal with prejudice, stereotypes, and just plain ignorance. Teju Prasad is a young, imaginative filmmaker with family and cultural roots in India. His documentary film explains the origins of some of the stereotypes and common misconceptions of Indians, and then he pokes fun at some of the sillier ones using skits, animations, and unexpected interruptions. While the story of ignorance between different immigrant groups is the same for many, Prasad presents the Indian-American view in a way both informative and friendly. This will appeal to teens and young adults because of its light-hearted tone. This is a great discussion starter on the subjects of prejudice and cultural differences.
From Ellen Druda
Title: W.A.R. : Women art revolution [videorecording DVD]
In the 1960’s and 1970’s the feminist movement and the art world collided and merged, spinning off new ideas and techniques. We meet some of the pioneers – Judy Chicago, Marina Abramovic, Hannah Wilke, Cindy Sherman, Marcia Tucker, B. Ruby Rich, The Guerrilla Girls, and more – and hear their stories of discrimination, frustration, and ridicule in the white man’s elitist art world. The strange new experience of performance art, unashamed sexuality, romanticism, sadness, humor, and rage were their weapons of expression as they fought to be included in museum and gallery showings. Filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson uses archival footage along with contemporary interviews and a fantastic amount of the art itself to make this an inspirational documentary.
From Ellen Druda
Title: Mother [videorecording DVD] : caring for 7 billion
Our mother, Mother Earth, is at a critical point. On October 31, 2011 the world population will reach 7 billion. Over-population, fueled by advances in science, food production and health care, and encouraged by religious beliefs and an unquenchable desire for economic growth, is overwhelming our natural resources. The dire facts are presented in the first part of the film in a fast-paced montage that features expert interviews and historical film footage, bringing us quickly up-to-date on the issue and the need for action. The film then changes tempo and we find ourselves along a personal journey with child-rights activist Beth, who travels to Ethiopia searching for a way to make a difference. She discovers that empowering women; the daughters, wives, and of course mothers with education, choices about birth control, and a voice in the way the world works, may be the answer to slowing our frantic race to a troublesome future. The film focuses on over-population, but also addresses the very complex problems that have led us to our crowded world.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Charlotte Glynn
Title: Rachel is [videorecording DVD]
Rachel is a young adult still living at home. Rachel is finishing her last year at school and trying to figure out what to do next. And like most people her age, Rachel is a frustrated, frightened, excited, half child half grown-up. What makes Rachel different is her developmental disability. This portrait of a young lady at a critical point in her life is expressed by her film maker sister, who takes us into the daily life of Rachel as she alternately rages at and depends upon her mother, Jane. While Rachel deals with school, work, friends, and boys in her world, Jane tries to figure out how to get Rachel her dream of living independently after graduation with varying degrees of success. What gives this film its heart is how very typical Rachel is, and yet how very different her disability makes her. Poignant, funny, and complex, the documentary is enlightening and sympathetic.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Nina Conti
Title: Nina Conti: Her Master’s Voice
This is a strange little film about an equally strange profession, ventriloquism. Nina Conti was a protégé and lover of British theater genius/eccentric Ken Campbell, who encouraged her interest and talent. We tag along on her trip to Kentucky and a ventriloquists convention, also the location of Vent Haven, the resting place for puppets of dead ventriloquists. Nina has a lot of soul searching conversations with her puppet Monkey, with who she shares her hotel bed, about the death of Campbell and the retirement of his favorite puppet and alter ego to Vent Haven. She also interviews some of her fellow performers at the convention about the art and technique of ventriloquism. Conti is a YouTube star and the reason is obvious after watching her amazing performances in this film. Beyond the predictable voice throwing gymnastics, she questions identity and ego and the blurry boundaries between them. VERDICT: This film confirms my long held belief regarding ventriloquists’ dummies — they are real!
From Ellen Druda
Somewhere Between (DVD)
Filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowlton has created an incredibly touching documentary about adoption. The film stars four teenage girls adopted from China who have either never known their birth families or only have very scattered memories of life before America. Haley, Jenna, Ann, and Fang seem like typical teens, but as we get to know them we see their inner struggles with identity are both personal and universal. Because of China’s “One Child Policy” these girls were given away to orphanages or simply left on the street, and although they have good lives now, they still carry hurt and confusion and a strong sense of something missing. Haley and Fang get to travel back to China and find a way to connect. Ann begins to question her complacency, and Jenna tries to come to grips with her feelings of abandonment. All the girls are articulate and intelligent, and as they open their hearts, it’s impossible not to feel moved as they question deeply who they are. This is a fantastic film about gender and race in America vs. China and how adoptees feel “somewhere between” their birth families and their new lives.
From Andrea Kalinowski
Author: David Gelb
Jiro dreams of sushi [videorecording DVD]
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a DVD which chronicles the story of a Japanese master sushi chef. He owns a small, 10 seat sushi restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. He is teaching his sons and apprentices the craft of sushi. He explains the relationship between fish and rice vendors and the excellence of his finished product. Due to overfishing and bottom trawling, he and his sons are worried about the future of both sushi and fishing. They have noticed a decline and/or extinction of certain fish. He is 85 and so enamored of his work that he has no plans to retire even though he has been working for 78 years. His pursuit of perfection and his dreams of new forms of sushi has earned him a loyal following and three stars in the Michelin guide.