Monday, September 27, 2010

September's Docs on Disc


Laura Poitras’ often devastating documentary The Oath (Zeitgeist) pulls back the curtains on the United States’ “War on Terror” that has kept this country frozen in fear for nearly a decade. Poitras introduces two minor players in this war--brothers-in-law who are bin Laden’s bodyguard and driver, respectively--whose paths crisscross on their way to Guantanamo prison and the Supreme Court as they are thought of as major terrorist suspects following the events of September 11. Structured like a thriller, The Oath combines chilling interviews with both men with the progress of the bodyguard’s trial and the driver’s discussions with his son. It also, not coincidentally, treats its protagonists as individuals with a vastly different ideology from ours, which is the first step in understanding--and possibly someday subduing--the people who make up al Queda. Extras include an additional 30 minutes of footage and interviews.

Directors: Life Behind the Camera (First Run) is an exhaustive four-hour, interactive immersion in clips of 33 famous directors discussing making movies, from Robert Altman to David Zucker; a provocative biography of the historical scholar who died earlier this year, Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train (First Run) is necessary viewing for anyone interested in American history from the viewpoint of those not in power (best extra: bonus speeches and interviews); named after a hit song by 80s teenybopper Tiffany, I Think We’re Alone Now (MVD) evenhandedly tells the stories of Jeff and Kelly, two Tiffany fans who are considered “stalkers” by most (best extra: Jeff and Kelly commentaries); the “Classic Artists” doc Jimi Hendrix: The Guitar Hero (Image), narrated by Slash, concentrates on Hendrix the musician, with enlightening comments by Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Paul Rodgers and Stephen Stills, among others (best extra: unreleased archive footage); Laughology (Disinformation) studies the phenomenon of laughter, its psychological meaning and its therapeutic value, in an entertaining and, yes, amusing way (best extra: additional scenes); an amazing true story about an amazing man, Leon Blum: For All Mankind (First Run) recounts the life and difficult times of the French-Jewish leader who became prime minister of France both before and after World War II (lone extra: original French version); the $60 billion “anti-aging” industry in this country is dissected in Make Me Young (Cinema Libre), a funny and scary documentary by Mitch McCabe, daughter of a plastic surgeon (best extra: illuminating director’s commentary); not many docs can be called “ear-opening,” but Soundtracker (Indiepix), a chronicle of award-winning sound recordist Gordon Hempton’s quest for vanishing “quiet places” in the world, is one of them (best extra: additional scenes); the remarkable portrait 2501 Migrants: A Journey (Cinema Libre) tells the story of an artist who returns to the Mexican village he grew up in only to find it deserted by people seeking better lives elsewhere: he creates a group of 2501 life-size sculptures in their memory (best extra: deleted scenes); Wade in the Water, Children (Indiepix), a shocking glimpse of how children were affected by Hurricane Katrina, is incredibly difficult to forget after viewing it (best extra: short update, The Kids in 2010).

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