I am a sucker for documentaries because I love dealing in reality and facts. In that vein, I haven’t seen one Harry Potter movie although family members are applying bigtime pressure. Give me reality, any day.
During the last weekend of September, my hometown of Newburyport, Mass. has a very good documentary festival (2009 films have yet to be announced). But great documentaries are not limited to theaters and festivals. PBS produces many great ones for TV. HBO, too.
If you want to beat the summer heat in a frigid movie theater or in the comfort of your own living room on TV or a laptop, here’s five recommendations.
–Under our Skin is a MUST SEE for anyone living around or tramping through the woods. It’s about Lyme’s disease and how the medical establishment has failed to recognize it as a serious killer much less treat it effectively. The CDC has acknowledged there could more than 200,000 new cases a year, making it a bigger than AIDs or the H1N1 Flu. That’s sounds right: at least a half dozen people on my small street alone have had bouts of the disease. The movie also shows how the investigation into Lyme Disease was subverted by self-interest on the part of the unfluential Infectious Diseases Society of America. Most striking is the suffering of victims and their struggle to get effective treatment. SEE THIS MOVIE.
–Killer Poet focuses on the debate between law enforcement and prison reformers about whether two- time murderer Norman Porter should be released from jail. Porter spent 25 years in prison before escaping and slipping into a 20 year law-abiding life as a poet in Chicago. In 2005, he was recaptured and sent back to prison. What made the version I saw more intriguing is that advocates for Porter’s release and law enforcement officials who want the key thrown away debated on stage after the movie. Those considering the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi from a Scottish jail on humanitarian grounds should see this movie.
–Superfish is an epsiode of PBS’ Nature about one man’s search for billfish such as the monster immortalized in Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. What he finds is horrifying depletion of the world’s swordfish, sailfish and giant marlins. Disturbing. Masterful photography.
–SS United Sates:Lady in Waiting looks at the pride of the nation in the 1950s and 60s – the fast, sleek and solidly-built SS United States passenger liner. One observer claims it could go faster in reverse than today’s ships go forward. The magnificent vessel was retired in 1969 and now its rotting at a pier in S. Philadelphia. Narrator Walter Cronkite labels that “a crime.” The film argues her restoration lest she face the blowtorch on a beach in India. Update: in late July, $300,000 was pledged for its restoration as Norweigan Cruise Lines looks for a buyer who’ll pay the estimated $20 million asking price.
–The Queen and I is an unlikely story about how a once Iranian radical television journalist Nahid Persson Sarvestani wooed and gain the trust of Farrah Pahlavi, the former Queen of Iran and wife of the late Shah. Sarvestini wanted answers about the Shah’s cruel and opulent regine. In the process, the two learn to trust each other and even become friends. As well, Farrah Pahlavi comes off as a highly intelligent and tragic figure in exile awaiting the overthtrow of the current Iranian government.
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