20 Feet from Stardom. color. 91+ min. Morgan Neville, Tremolo Prods., dist. by Anchor Bay Entertainment, www.anchorbayentertainment.com; www.twentyfeetfromstardom.com. 2014. DVD UPC 013132609041. $19.98; Blu-ray UPC 013132609065. $24.99. SDH subtitles. Rated: PG-13. MUSIC
20 Feet from Stardom celebrates the talents and contributions of backup singers in recent pop music history. Like character actors whose faces are known but whose names are not, these performers, not surprisingly mostly women of color, have voices that are distinct and unique. Many came from urban gospel choirs, spent their times on stages and studios with as much talent as the Arethas and Whitneys and Dionnes, but ended up as the lesser-known Cissy Houstons, Dee Dee Warwicks, and Darlene Loves. The women tell the stories from the back of the stage and the studios. How glorious to see their faces light up while listening to their classic tracks sung on hit records. Singers like Love and Merry Clayton are still at it, mostly from the joy of their work but also from the lack of deserved residuals. When 20 Feet from Stardom won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Love walked up to accept and sang out the classic gospel line “I sing because I’m happy” to a roaring ovation, bringing these performers full circle. They remain remarkably full of faith and void of equally expected bitterness. Verdict A must-have, must-see addition for any library.
Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District. color. 90 min. Blue Field Prods., www.gopublicproject.org. 2013. DVD $29.95; Blu-ray $39.95; public performance $350; screening kit & site license $350 + $6 s/h. Closed-captioned. ED
This film is the exciting result of the Go Public Project, which sent 50 filmmakers into 28 schools in the Pasadena, CA, United School District on the same day to capture the life of an American school system. The cameras address 50 members of the school community, from administrators to volunteers, resulting in 50 short films. The individual elements were then well edited into Go Public, which records every aspect of the district’s life. The project succeeds in its objective to clear up misconceptions about what happens in American schools. Pasadena was chosen because it includes a richly diverse student body, dedicated personnel, programs for the learning disabled as well as for gifted students, extracurricular activities, and a large number of services for students, parents, and community members. The district also has its share of problems. Viewers see a Board of Education meeting and a vote to eliminate more than a score of positions, among them librarians, teachers, guidance counselors, and school psychologists. VERDICT An eye-opening and engaging look at contemporary education that realistically reveals its successes and its troubles. Purchase for school and public library collections serving those members of the community with a stake in education.
Out in the Dark. color. 96+ min. In Hebrew & Arabic w/English subtitles. Michael Mayer, Breaking Glass Pictures, www.breakingglasspictures.com. 2014. DVD UPC 857965003719. $24.99. F
This movie humanizes the Arab-Israeli conflict by focusing on its effects on the lives of two men and their families. Nimr (Nicholas Jacob) is a border-crossing Palestinian from the West Bank who is studying psychology in Tel Aviv. Sparks fly when he meets Roy (Michael Aloni), a handsome young Israeli lawyer from a privileged background. The problem is Nimr isn’t out to his loving but reflexively homophobic family. When his older brother comes to the attention of Israeli officials for possible terrorist activities, Nimr’s relationship with Roy and his dreams for the future are thrown into jeopardy. VERDICT Taut, moving, and intimate, this film deals with big themes: sexuality, identity, family, alienation, and class. While some elements of the plot are a stretch and the subtitles are somewhat difficult to read (at least on the review copy), the acting is strong, and there is real chemistry between the two protagonists. Highly recommended for all collections.
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The Bletchley Circle: Season 2. 2 discs. color. 180+ min. Jamie Payne & Sarah Harding, World Prods., dist. by PBS, shoppbs.org. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781608830640. $29.99; Blu-ray ISBN 9781608830657. $34.99. SDH subtitles. F/TV
Hetty Wainthropp Investigates: The Complete Collection. 12 discs. color. 22½+ hrs. BBC-TV, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781621721376. $119.99. Closed-captioned. F
The Returned: The Complete First Season. 3 discs. color. 440+ min. w/booklet. In French w/English subtitles. Fabrice Gobert & Frédéric Mermoud, Haut et Court TV, dist. by Music Box Films, www.musicboxfilms.com. 2014. DVD UPC 741360538382. $29.95; 2-disc Blu-ray UPC 741360538405. $34.95. F/TV
ARTS & HUMANITIES
Drew: The Man Behind the Poster. color. 97+ min. Erik P. Sharkey, Hefty Inc., Sharkey Prods., & Torino Pictures, dist. by Kino Lorber, www.kinolorberedu.com. 2013. DVD UPC 738329116026. $189. Public performance; DSL $499; PPR/DSL $599; home version $26.95. ART/FILM
Omnibus: Gene Kelly; Dancing, a Man’s Game. b/w. 55+ min. Robert Saudek Assocs. in assoc. with NBC Television , dist. by Entertainment One, www.genekelly.com. 2013. DVD UPC 741952699392. $29.98. SDH subtitles. DANCE
Fight. color. 44 min. Ervin Chartrand. DVD UPC 698193271453.
Fists of Pride. 64 min. Hélène Choquette. DVD UPC 698193293769.
ea. vol: color. Natl. Film Bd. of Canada, nfb.ca/USeducation. 2014. DVD $195. Public performance; streaming available. SPORTS
Off the Rez. color. 86 min. Jonathan Hock , dist. by Cinema Guild, www.cinemaguild.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9780781506229. $99.95; acad. libs. $395. Public performance. SPORTS
The Grey Area: Feminism Behind Bars. color. 65 min. Noga Ashkenazi, Musical Chairs Prods. , dist. by Women Make Movies, www.wmm.com. 2013. DVD $89; acad. libs. $295 (Rental: $90). Public performance; home version $19.95. CRIMINOLOGY
Jealous of the Birds. color & b/w. 78+ min. In English & German w/English subtitles. Jordan Bahat.
Lost Town. color. 85+ min. In English & Hebrew w/English subtitles. Jeremy Goldscheider & Richard Goldgewicht.
ea. vol: dist. by Seventh Art Releasing, www.7thart.com. 2013. DVD $79; acad. libs. $295. Public performance. HIST
Forward 13: Waking Up the American Dream. 97 min. Patrick S. Lovell. DVD UPC 881394118423.
This American Journey. 90+ min. Paul Blackthorne. DVD UPC 881394118225.
ea. vol: color. dist. by Cinema Libre Studio, www.cinemalibrestudio.com. 2013. DVD $19.95. SOC SCI
Life in Stills. color & b/w. 60 min. In Hebrew & German w/English subtitles. Tamar Tal , Nancy Fishman Film Releasing, www.nancyfishmanfilmreleasing.com. 2013. DVD $99; acad. libs. $275 + $10 s/h. Public performance. soc sci
Listening Is an Act of Love: A StoryCorps Special. Mike & Tim Rauch, POV PBS shoppbs.org DVD ISBN 9781608830169. 24.99 SOC SCI
science & TECHNOLOGY
Trashed. color. 97+ min. Candida Brady, Blenheim Films, First Pond Entertainment, dist. by AV Café, 877-228-2233; www.theavcafe.com. 2013. DVD UPC 609224857706. $29.95; public performance $129. ENVIRONMENT
The Lulu Sessions. color. 86 min. S. Casper Wong, Women Make Movies, www.wmm.com. 2014. DVD $89; acad. libs. $295 (Rental: $90). Public performance; home version $25 + $5 s/h. HEALTH