Best Kept Secret: Aging Out with Autism. color. 85 min. Samantha Buck, Filmakers Library, www.filmakers.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781463118150. $295; streaming $295. Public performance.
The United States of Autism: 22,000 Miles, 40 Days, 5 Languages, 1 Dream. 2 discs. color. 90 min. Richard Everts, Tommy Fdn., dist. by Janson Media, www.janson.com. 2014. DVD/Blu-ray ISBN 9781568394824. $295. Public performance; w/DSL $495; PPR/DSL $595; home version $19.95. PSYCH
The likelihood of a young child receiving an autism diagnosis has exploded over the last two decades. The Centers for Disease Control reports a prevalence of one in 88 nationally, while in Newark, NJ, it jumps to one in 49—the highest in the country. The American autistic population is rapidly “aging out” of the educational system; adult services are sadly lagging behind the overwhelming need. The award-winning Best Kept Secret (Sundance Documentary Fund Grant, 2012; Audience Award, Independent Film Festival of Boston, 2013; Best of Fest, AFI DOCS, Washington, DC, 2013) follows teacher Janet Mino from John F. Kennedy High School in Newark and her class of young men who have autism as they struggle to find appropriate adult placement in the 18 months prior to “graduation.” Obviously, laws and services vary from state to state. However, the underlying message of this film is valid everywhere: education has come a long way in serving this population and preparing them for adult life, but support and continued reinforcement of basic life skills is necessary.
The United States of Autism covers a 40-day, 11,000-mile journey across America and ranges over a wide variety of racial, economic, educational, and religious backgrounds of nearly 40 families and individuals affected by autism. It does an admirable job of exposing the diversity of people on the autistic spectrum. A truly ambitious project, interesting in scope and scale, it fulfills its promise of giving a sense of togetherness to the wildly varied—and often lonely—autism community. Many interventions, therapies, and strategies are mentioned; this reviewer would have loved to see a small glossary (perhaps as an insert to the DVD), with suggestions for sources of further information. Unfortunately, this reviewer did have minor technical difficulties while watching, as the letterbox format leaves the printed information/captioning truncated on either side, limiting comprehension. VERDICT A Pepsi Refresh Challenge winner, The United States of Autism is an impressive undertaking on the part of director/narrator Everts, the father of a son with autism; highly recommended for public libraries. Best Kept Secret will enhance all autism collections and appeal to professionals in the field.
The Pawnbroker. b/w. 116 min. Sidney Lumet , dist. by Olive Films, www.olivefilms.com. 2014. DVD UPC 887090076302. $19.95; Blu-ray UPC 887090076041. $29.95. F
Haunted by memories of the family he lost in a Nazi death camp 25 years earlier, Sol Nazerman (Rod Steiger) runs a Harlem pawnshop serving as a front for a racketeer (Brock Peters). Beaten down, cynical, and embittered, Nazerman rejects friendly overtures from everyone around him, including his eager shop assistant (Jaime Sanchez) and a neighborhood social worker (Geraldine Fitzgerald), until tragedy rekindles his humanity. While Steiger won an Academy Award two years later for In the Heat of the Night, the actor never bettered this searing portrait of emotional repression. Director Lumet pushed censorship boundaries in 1964 with his frank depictions of Holocaust degradation, frequently shown in jarring flashbacks representing Nazerman’s splintered mental state. VERDICT Remastered in HD, Olive’s near-pristine release of this National Film Registry entry is a welcome step up from the decade-old Republic Pictures disc, with its cropped picture and hissy audio. For all collections; upgrade where already circulating.
Tintin: Inside Hergé’s Cartoon Archives. color & b/w. 25 min. Cordelia Beresford & Gerald Fox, Classical TV Ltd., dist. by Kultur, 800-573-3782; www.kultur.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9780769750460. $14.99. ART-GENERAL
This 1994 short film made for British TV examines the internationally popular Belgian comic book series The Adventures of Tintin and the artistic development of its creator, Georges Remi, aka Hergé (1907–83). In less than 30 minutes, experts including Hergé biographer Harry Thompson and longtime English translators Michael Turner and Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper detail the series’ origins, the emergence of its supporting cast, the life changes that led Hergé to take Tintin and company to Asia in seminal volumes like The Blue Lotus, and the research involved in sending the characters to the moon years before Neil Armstrong’s 1969 excursion. Some enthusiastic young British fans get their say, too. Add to all that some well-used graphics and animation, and viewers have a successful demonstration of the hows and whys of Tintin’s mass appeal. VERDICT No love or knowledge of comics is required to enjoy this informative and entertaining look at a worldwide pop icon and his maker. Recommended for all viewers, essential for fans of Hergé and comic book art in general.
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Doc Martin: Series 6. 2 discs. color. 384+ min. Nigel Cole & Paul Seed, Buffalo Pictures in assoc. with Birimba Prods. & Homerun Film, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781621721451. $39.99. SDH subtitles. F/TV
The Politician’s Wife. color. 195+ min. Graham Theakston, Producers Film Prod. for Channel Four, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781598289664. $29.99. SDH subtitles. F
ARTS & HUMANITIES
In Bed with Ulysses. color. 80 min. Alan Adelson & Kate Taverna, Films for Humanity, www.inbedwithulysses.com. 2013. DVD $250 (with theatrical poster); acad. libs. $350; lifetime streaming $495. Public performance. LIT
Don Carlos. color. 210 min. In French w/English subtitles. Luc Bondy, RD Studio, dist. by Kultur, 800-573-3782; www.kultur.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9780769775678. $29.99; Blu-ray ISBN 9780769750699. $29.99. Opera
The Booker. b/w. 96 min. Michael Perkins, dist. by IndiePix Films, www.indiepixfilms.com. 2014. DVD UPC 845637001613. $19.95; digital download $11.99. SPORTS
Diana. color. 113+ min. Oliver Hirschbiegel, Ecosse Films & Scope Pictures, dist. by Entertainment One c/o www.amazon.com. 2014. DVD UPC 741952758198. $24.98; Blu-ray UPC 741952764199. $29.98. SDH subtitles. Rated PG-13. BIOPIC
The Battle for the Arab Viewer. color. 48 min. Nordin Lasfar, VPRO, dist. by Icarus Films, www.icarusfilms.com. 2013. DVD $375. Public performance. COMM
Far from Vietnam (Loin du Vietnam). color. 116 min. w/subtitles in English or French. Jean-Luc Godard & others, dist. by Icarus Films, www.icarusfilms.com. 2013. DVD UPC 854565001633. $398. Public performance; home version $29.98. HIST
Cousin Jules. color. 91 min. Dominique Benicheti, dist. by Cinema Guild, www.cinemaguild.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9780781514620. $99.95; acad. libs. $395. Public performance; home version $29.95; Blu-ray $34.95. INT AFFAIRS
Gut Renovation. color. 81+ min. Su Friedrich, dist. by Outcast Films, www.outcast-films.com. 2014. DVD UPC 797734487022. $295; w/DSL $495. Public performance; closed-captioned; home version $29.99. SOC SCI
Triumph of the Wall. color. 102+ min. Bill Stone, dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; www.firstrunfeatures.com. 2013. DVD UPC 720229915618. $24.95. SOC SCI
science & TECHNOLOGY
A Brief History of Time. 2 discs. color. 84+ min. Errol Morris, Gordon Freedman Prod./Anglia Television, dist. by Criterion Collection, www.criterion.com. 2014. DVD/Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658118. $39.95. SDH subtitles. SCI/BIOG
A Death in St. Augustine. color. 60 min. Glenn Silber, FRONTLINE w/New York Times & Left/Right Docs in assoc. with Catalyst Media Prods., dist. by PBS, shoppbs.org. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781608830237. $24.99. SDH subtitles. CRIME
In 2010, Michelle O’Connell, a single mother living in Florida, died of a gunshot wound through her mouth issued from the service pistol belonging to Deputy Sheriff Jeremy Banks, her boyfriend. Banks made the 911 call and told the dispatcher that O’Connell had shot herself. From the moment Banks’s sheriff’s office colleagues arrived, O’Connell’s death was presumed a suicide, despite the appearance of contradictory evidence at the scene and on the body. The couple’s relationship was known to be stormy; she had told people she was going to break up with Banks that night. Her family insisted she would not take her own life. Nonetheless, the fatal wound was quickly classified as self-inflicted. This documentary recounts the work of New York Times investigative reporter Walt Bogdanich, who took an interest in the case and conducted an independent examination. Bogdanich explains the results of his review of the evidence, his consultations with forensic experts, his interviews with those connected to the case, and his conversations with medical examiners and law enforcement personnel. Many of those he consulted appear and present facts and perspective. The reporter raises chilling questions about the cursory nature of the initial investigation and what really happened the night of O’Connell’s death. VERDICT Bogdanich’s procedures, methodology, and persistence add up to a credible reevaluation of the circumstances and make for fascinating viewing. His conclusions about O’Connell’s situation and the warning signs it raises about other occurrences in which a police officer may be a suspect make this program recommended viewing for law enforcement officials and domestic violence experts.
Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers. color. 89+ min. Havana Marking, Roast Beef Prod., dist. by Music Box Films & Doppelganger Releasing, www.doppelgangerreleasing.com. 2013. DVD UPC 741360538375. $19.95. SDH subtitles. CRIME
If viewers have ever been curious as to how to make a living as a jewel thief but are worried about prison time, director Marking’s documentary lets them into that secretive world. Smash & Grab focuses on the notorious “Pink Panther” gang that was largely based in the former Yugoslavia. The organization had more than 200 members at its peak, robbing hundreds of targets throughout Europe. Marking interviews detectives, a dogged reporter, and members of the ring, using pastel animation resembling Andy Warhol silkscreens to disguise thieves and provide vivid re-creations of burglaries. The use of grainy surveillance footage of actual heists provides some of the more gripping moments here. A theft in Dubai in 2007, with cars crashing through an upscale mall, is spellbinding. Smash & Grab only lags when it delves into the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, which Marking maintains were the beginning of the enterprise. VERDICT Recommended for anyone interested in crime or law enforcement, this is a riveting look into the exclusive world of modern jewel thieves.
Where I Am. color. 69 min. Pamela Drynan, Subtopica Limited w/Irish Film Board, dist. by MPI Home Video, www.mpihomevideo.com. 2014. DVD ISBN 9780788617461. $24.98. CRIME/GENDER STUDIES
In 1999, Robert Drake, a gay expat American writer, was attacked by two young men in Sligo, Ireland, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to walk. This film documents his diminished life back in Philadelphia and his return to Ireland ten years later to revisit the scene of the crime. Footage of Drake and his caretaker are interspersed with interviews with his ex-boyfriend and friends from the Irish literary scene, including author Colm Tóibín. The details of the crime and the motivation of the attackers remain unclear (Drake doesn’t remember anything that happened). VERDICT The filmmaker doesn’t have much to hang her story on, and the film lacks momentum. The inherent injustice and tragedy of the situation aside, nothing much happens to compel the viewer, with the exception of two poignant and hopeful moments toward the end of the film. We learn almost parenthetically that one of the attackers (who served eight years’ jail time) has written to Drake but neither agreed to meet with him nor appear in the documentary, which would have made it stronger.