Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Enrich your viewing experience with new documentaries

A Walk to Beautiful-A look at the lives of three Ethiopian women, rejected by their husbands and ostracized by their communities, who leave home in search of seeking treatment for obstetric fistula. The program follows them walking for hours on their journey to transportation to a special hospital in Addis Ababa where they find solace for the first time in years, and stays with them as their lives begin to change.
The Cats of Mirikitani - Eighty-year-old Jimmy Mirikitani survived the trauma of WWII internment camps, Hiroshima, and homelessness by creating art. But when 9/11 threatens his life on the New York City streets and a local filmmaker brings him to her home, the two embark on a journey to confront Jimmy's painful past. An intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing power of community and art.

King Corn : You Are What You Eat-
Fueled by curiosity and a dash of naivet├ę, college buddies Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis return to their ancestral home of Greene, Iowa, to find out how the modest corn kernel conquered America. With the help of real farmers, powerful fertilizer, government aid, and genetically modified seeds, the friends manage to grow one acre of corn. Along the way, they unlock the hidden truths about America's modern food system
Surfwise -A look at the life of legendary Malibu surfer Dorian 'Doc' Paskowitz, a successful doctor who dropped out of normal society in the '60s and raised nine kids in a motor home, where he home-schooled them about life, love, sex and surfing.
Up the Yangtze-
In China, it is simply known as "The River." But the Yangtze--and all of the life that surrounds it--is undergoing a truly astonishing transformation wrought by the largest hydroelectric project in history, the Three Gorges Dam. Canadian documentary filmmaker Yung Chang returns to the gorgeous, now-disappearing landscape of his grandfather's youth to trace the surreal life of a "farewell cruise" that traverses the gargantuan waterway.

Singularly moving and cinematically breathtaking, Up the Yangtze gives a human dimension to the wrenching changes facing not only an increasingly globalized China, but the world at large.

Nadia Boulanger - Mademoiselle-
Nadia Boulanger (1887-1997), universally called 'Mademoiselle' by her students, was easily the best-known teacher of composition in the last century. The list of her students from America includes, among many others, Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, Roy Harris and Leonard Bernstein. This documentary is the first film ever made by Bruno Monsaingeon, a former musician who has gone on to become a leading classical music documentarian. It was shot in the 1960s and early 1970s in grainy black & white and only average sound, when Boulanger was in her late 80s and still fearsomely in command of her abilities. This film remains one of the most important documents concerning this fabled teacher. She is seen at one of her fabled 'Wednesdays', a composition lesson held weekly in her apartment for almost six decades and attended by anyone who would come. In this particular session she talks illuminatingly with students about a small portion of Schumann's 'Davidsb├╝ndertanze.' The incredibly talented prodigy, the Bulgarian pianist-composer Emile Naumoff, demonstrates at the piano; he looks to be no older than perhaps ten or twelve. Boulanger's comments are terse, penetrating and forceful.

Interweaved with the 'Wednesday' material are interview clips with Monsaingeon -- expanded in his later book 'Mademoiselle: Conversations with Nadia Boulanger' -- and, added in the late 1970s, Monsaingeon interview footage with Leonard Bernstein (in French) and the noted conductor/composer Igor Markevitch. An extra is a complete performance by the ORTF Philharmonic, with Markevitch on the podium, of Mozart's Symphony No. 38, 'Prague'.

There is an extensive booklet note by Monsaingeon in which he details how the documentary came about and how he revised it some years later. (For reasons of rights, he had to drop its opening segment in which he showed a scene from the Ali McGraw/Ryan O'Neal film, 'Love Story', where McGraw's character says that she is 'going to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger' without offering an explanation as to who Boulanger was, evidence that Boulanger's name was well enough known that a mass audience didn't more than mention of her name.) There is also a reprint of a touching letter from Bernstein to Monsaingeon recounting his last visit with Mademoiselle just before her death.

The focus of this documentary is musical entirely. There is no attempt to convey biographical details about Boulanger, in keeping with Mademoiselle's wishes. This makes this relatively short documentary all the more densely packed with relevant examples of her style and philosophy of teaching.

Man on Wire -
A look at the high-wire walk made by Philippe Petit in 1974 between the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City, and how it is still considered one of history's most artistic crimes.


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