Rwanda’s Ingoma Nshya, Secrets & Scandal in Higher Ed, Photographers Lange, Weber, plus Fast Scans | Video Reviews, January 2015

redstarSweet Dreams. color. 84/54 min. Rob & Lisa Fruchtman, Liro Films, 2014. DVD $125; community colls. $195; acad. libs. $349. Public performance; streaming $150; 3-year streaming $350. Closed-captioned. int affairs/BUS

sweetdreams123114The 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide was marked in 2014. Filmmakers the Fruchtmans’ compelling chronicle blends history, tragedy, hope, and joy as it portrays a rebuilding of Rwanda and tells the story of Ingoma Nshya, Rwanda’s first and only all-women’s drumming troupe. Composed of musicians with Tutsi and/or Hutu backgrounds—unthinkable a generation ago—the group represents a glorious example of empowerment and unification. Things get even more interesting as they become entrepreneurs, partnering with the owners of a Brooklyn Ice Cream shop to bring that product—for the first time—to Rwanda. The women’s stories are engrossing and heartbreaking, the music is joyful, and the passion is contagious. ­Verdict A powerful portrait of a committed group of people changing their world.—Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR

redstarHappy Valley. color. 98 min. Amir Bar-Lev, Asylum Entertainment & Passion Pictures, dist. by Good Docs, 2014. DVD $179; acad. libs. $349; streaming $549. Public performance. SOC SCI/SPORTS

happyvalley123114One could hardly overstate football coach Joe Paterno’s reputation at Penn State. He’d won two national championships, led five unbeaten teams, and taken the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games. His players graduated, and he contributed generously to the library system. When a graduate assistant told Paterno in 2001 that he had seen assistant coach Jerry Sandusky molesting a young boy in the shower, Paterno (1926–2012) reported the incident to his boss but not to the police, and the crime was covered up. Sandusky was eventually convicted on 45 counts. Paterno and university president Graham Spanier were fired. Rioting ensued; Paterno died of cancer three months later. VERDICT This documentary examines the effects of these episodes on the individuals, the families, the campus, and the wider community. It explores deep waters via access to network archives, the families, and one of the victims, Sandusky’s adopted son. As a play-by-play recounting of this full-blown tragedy, Happy Valley succeeds spectacularly.—John Hiett, formerly with Iowa City P.L.


redstarDorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. color & b/w. 105 min. Dyanna Taylor, Raven Rouge, Inc., Katahdi Prods., Thirteen for American Masters, dist. by PBS, 2014. DVD ISBN 9781627890786. $24.99. Closed-captioned. PHOTOG

dorthealange123114Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) and other Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographers put a human face on the suffering and despair of America’s Depression and dust bowl years. Directed by Taylor, Lange’s granddaughter, this PBS American Masters episode describes a determined woman who knew she had to be a photographer even before she ever picked up a camera. Born in New Jersey, plagued by childhood polio, and the product of a broken home, Lange moved west to San Francisco, opening a successful portrait studio at a young age. There she met and married landscape artist Maynard Dixon, 20 years her senior, always struggling to balance work and family demands. Depression-era breadlines and strikes drew her to the street and to an acquaintance with labor economist Paul Taylor, whom she would later marry. The two traveled together, documenting small farmers who had been “tractored out” by the mechanization of farm work. The documentary describes her ability to “grab a hunk of lightning,” most notably with her famous “migrant mother” portraits taken in a labor camp. VERDICT In addition to Lange’s well-known work during the Depression, the documentary covers her environmental concerns and her ultimately hopeful, inclusive, and larger view of American society. This informative, even-handed documentary is highly recommended for general audiences.—Stephen Rees, formerly with Levittown Lib., PA

More Than the Rainbow. b/w. 83+ min. Dan Wechsler, Lespedi Prods., dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; 2014. DVD UPC 720229916097. $24.95. Closed-captioned. PHOTOG

Matt Weber, a New York City taxi driver–turned–professional photographer, has a special kind of nostalgic vision realized though images of the contemporary. Weber’s medium is black-and-white film, and he shoots hundreds of photos a day trying to capture the perfect shot. He’s looking for that moment—unstaged, realistic, poetic, moving—that only happens once, in the right place under the right circumstances, and his camera is always at the ready so he won’t miss it. The documentary also introduces other photographers who talk about their work and ideas and their take on Weber’s art. VERDICT This is a gritty, jazzy look at NYC through Weber’s lens, with side notes about measurements of success and the life of an artist. Perfect for students and lovers of photography everywhere; extra points for those who dig the darker side of the Big Apple.—Ellen Druda, Half Hollow Hills Community Lib., Dix Hills, NY

Fast Scans: Top foreign & Indie picks

By Jeff T. Dick, Davenport, IA

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. color tinted. 77+ min. Kino Lorber. 1920. DVD UPC 738329151423. $24.99; Blu-ray UPC 738329151522. $29.99.

caligari123114Before F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu) and Fritz Lang (Metropolis), German Expressionism originated with Robert Wiene’s horrific story of a traveling carnival hypnotist (Werner Krauss) suspected of directing a somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) to carry out a series of murders. Eccentrically abstract sets, distorted camera perspectives, and other stylizations help make this one of the most prominent movies of the silent era. A remarkable restoration job has resulted in all but the first reel looking near perfect. For silent-film fans.

L’avventura. 2 discs. b/w. 143+ min. In Italian w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1960. DVD ISBN 9781604658941. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658934. $39.95.

The first of his “alienation trilogy”—succeeded by Le notte (LJ 3/15/14) and L’eclisse (LJ 8/14)—Michelangelo Antonioni’s landmark Cannes Film Festival winner upended established film grammar with its unconventional narrative. A woman goes missing on the island stopover of a yachting jaunt, leading to a futile search and eventual romance between her lover (Gabriele Ferzetti) and gal pal (Monica Vitti). Thwarting expectations, the focus shifts to their relationship, not the disappearance. For more serious “art film” fans. [See Trailers, LJ 10/1/14.]

Macbeth. 2 discs. color. 140+ min. Criterion Collection. 1971. DVD ISBN 9781604658989. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658972. $39.95.

Shakespeare purists howled when it debuted, but Roman Polanski’s earthy film adaptation of the Bard’s violent tale of treachery and murder is bloody good. For running time’s sake, understandable cuts have been made to the original text. Ominous location shooting and interior monologs in lieu of soliloquies make for a naturalistic movie instead of a filmed play. Jon Finch and Francesca Annis scare as the scheming power couple. Digital restoration (“Out, damned spots”) and ample extras make this new edition fit for a king. [See Trailers, LJ 8/14.]

Search for Paradise. 120+ min. 1957. ISBN 9781893967892.

Seven Wonders of the World. 121+ min. 1956. ISBN 9781893967885.

ea. vol: 3 discs. color & b/w. Flicker Alley. DVD/Blu-ray. $49.95.

Pre-IMAX “immersive” cinema began in 1952 with This Is Cinerama (LJ 12/12), followed by six globe-spanning travelogs—including Paradise, capturing the Himalayas among other breathtaking Central Asia locales, and Wonders, showcasing the Pyramids, the Parthenon, and five more bucket-list attractions. Painstakingly restored and displayed in simulated curved-screen format to capture their original exhibition, these interesting cultural artifacts benefit from a wealth of extras—not the least of which is a 30-minute Cinerama film recently shot in L.A. to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the wide-screen phenomenon. Armchair travelers will find themselves back “in” the picture.

What Is Cinema? color & b/w. 80+ min. Cohen Media Group. 2013. DVD UPC 741952781493. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 741952781592. $39.99.

Stealing the title of André Bazin’s benchmark film studies text, Oscar-winning documentarian Chuck Workman addresses the titular question through an extensive montage of film clips that are usually too brief and missing context. But interviews with Mike Leigh, David Lynch, Michael Moore, et al., as well as archival material of Alfred Hitchcock and other directors, offer some fascinating responses. Ten experimental short films included as extras round out this passable primer for inquisitive viewers.

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Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. 93+ min. In German w/English subtitles. Rainer Werner Fassbinder . Blu-ray ISBN 9781604659030. [See Trailers, LJ 8/14.]

All That Heaven Allows. 89+ min. Douglas Sirk. DVD/Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658446. [See Trailers, LJ 5/1/14.]

ea. vol: color. Criterion Collection, 2014. $39.95. F

Line of Duty: Series Two.
2 discs. color. 369+ min. Douglas MacKinnon & Daniel Nettheim, WorldProd. in assoc. with Northern Ireland Screen, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; 2014. DVD ISBN 9781621722175. $39.99. SDH subtitles. F/tv

The Saint: Set 1. 3 discs. color. 296 min. Ian Toynton & others, London Weekend Television & Saint Prods., dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; 2014. DVD ISBN 9781621721727. $49.99. SDH subtitles. F/tv

Tasting Menu. color. 88+ min. Roger Gual, Zentropa Spain & Subotica Ltd. , dist. by Magnolia Pictures, 2014. DVD UPC 876964007139. $26.98; Blu-ray UPC 876964007146. $29.98. Rated: PG-13. F

The Village: Series One, 1914–1920. 3 discs. color. 6 hrs. Antonia Bird & Gillies MacKinnon, Company Prods./ALL3MEDIA, BBC, dist. by BFS Entertainment, 2014. DVD UPC 066805311918. $39.98. F/TV


From Inside: Gary Numan Special Edition. color. 71 min. John Bergin, Lakeshore Records, dist. by MVDvisual, 800-888-0486; 2014. DVD UPC 760137572794. $14.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Makes. b/w. 26 min. In French w/English subtitles. Eric Baudelaire , dist. by Cinema Guild, 2014. DVD ISBN 9780781514903. $99.95; acad. libs. $250. Public performance. FILM

Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video. color & b/w. 78 min. Jamin Bricker, Lux Digital Pictures, dist. by Virgil Films, 2014. DVD UPC 829567206921. $19.99. Closed-captioned. MUSIC/bus


Reporting on the Times: The New York Times and the Holocaust. color & b/w. 18 min. Emily Harrold, dist. by Filmakers Library, 2014. DVD $295. Public performance. COMM/HIST

Four Horsemen. color. 97 min. Ross Ashcroft, Motherload Prod., dist. by Janson Media, DVD ISBN 9781568394886. $295. Public performance; w/DSL $495; w/DSL & PPR $595; home version $24.95. ECON

Spanish Lake. color & b/w. 78 min. Phillip Andrew Morton, dist. by Passion River Films, 2014. DVD UPC 635346284465. $24.95. SOC SCI


Mighty Humble Blueberry. color & b/w. 45 min. Nancy O’Mallon, About Harvest, dist. by Dreamscape Video, 2014. DVD UPC 957063005004. $24.99; public performance $199.99. AGRI/BUS

Algorithms. b/w. 100 min. In English, Hindi, Tamil, & Odyia w/English subtitles. Ian McDonald, dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; Mar. 2015. DVD UPC 720229916394. $27.95. HEALTH/GAMES

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