“Tea with the Dames” Screen Stars Reminisce in Documentary Slated for January 15 from IFC

IFC Films has announced the release of Tea with the Dames (DVD: $24.95), slated for January 15. What happens when four legends of British stage and screen get together? Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins, and Dame Joan Plowright are among the most celebrated actresses of our time, with scores of iconic performances, decades of wisdom, and many Oscars, Tonys, Emmys and BAFTAs between them. Directed by Roger Michell, Tea with the Dames features the longtime friends as they invite viewers to join them for a weekend in the country as they catch up with one another, reminisce, and share their candid, delightfully irreverent thoughts on everything from art to aging to love to a life lived in the spotlight.

“Far from the Tree” Doc on Family Challenges Available January 8 from IFC Films

Viewers will witness the courage of compassion through the eyes of parents journeying toward acceptance of their one-of-a-kind kids with the release of Far from the Tree (DVD: $24.98) on January 8 from IFC. Based on The New York Times bestseller by Andrew Solomon, the film provides an intimate, profoundly human look at families raising children who society deems “abnormal,” including a mother and son determined to show the world that his Down syndrome does not define him; a couple learning to communicate with their bright but nonverbal autistic son; a young woman dealing with what it means to be the only little person in her family; and parents whose deep love for their son persists even after he has committed an unspeakable crime. Tracing their joys, challenges, tragedies, and triumphs, filmmaker Rachel Dretzin’s Far from the Tree invites viewers to rethink what it means to be a “normal family.”

“Eating Animals” Factory Farming Doc Slated for January 1 from IFC Films

IFC Films is releasing Eating Animals (DVD: $24.98) on January 1. Current methods of farming may ensure vast and reliable production, but they also raise thorny issues concerning the environment, health risks, and humane treatment of animals. Based on the bestselling book by Jonathan Safran Foer and narrated by co-producer Natalie Portman, director Christopher Quinn’s frank and uncompromising film is an urgent, eye-opening look at the environmental, economic, and public health consequences of factory farming. Tracing the history of food production in the United States, the film charts how farming has gone from local and sustainable to a corporate Frankenstein monster that offers cheap eggs, meat, and dairy at a steep cost: the exploitation of animals, the risky use of antibiotics and hormones, and the pollution of our air, soil, and water. Spotlighting farmers who have pushed backed against industrial agriculture with more humane practices, Eating Animals offers attainable, common-sense solutions to a growing crisis while making the case that ethical farming is not only an animal rights issue but one that affects every aspect of our lives.

Video Librarian Best Documentaries List 2018

The following list, which was selected and compiled by Video Librarian staff, honors the 25 best new documentaries that were reviewed in the magazine and online during calendar year 2018. Unless otherwise noted, the titles listed here are available from most distributors.

78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene

(Shout! Factory, 92 min., Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $29.99)

Director Alexandre O. Philippe’s insightful documentary focuses on the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. (VL-7/18)

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

(PBS, 90 min., DVD: $24.99 [$54.99 w/PPR from teacher.shop.pbs.org])

Filmmaker Steve James’s PBS-aired Frontline documentary centers on the family-owned Abacus Bank, founded to cater to NYC’s Chinese-American community by Thomas Sung, whose American Dream became a nightmare when the bank was the only financial institution to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown. (VL-1/18)


(Ro*co [www.rocoeducational.com], 90 min., DVD: $95: public libraries; $295 w/PPR: colleges & universities)

Director Greg Kohs’s documentary on the ancient Chinese board game Go follows a nail-biting competition between the titular Google-owned DeepMind company’s artificial intelligence program and Go master Lee Sedol. (VL-9/18)

The Art of the Shine

(PBS, 78 min., DVD: $24.99 [$54.99 w/PPR from teacher.shop.pbs.org])

Filmmaker Stacey Tenenbaum’s unusual PBS-aired documentary looks at the archaic world of the shoe shiner, from Mexican male shoe shiners so embarrassed by their “lowly” status that they cover their faces with ski masks to a suit-wearing Japanese artisan. (VL Online-8/18)

The Force

(Kino Lorber, 92 min., DVD: $29.95)

Director Peter Nicks’s documentary centers on the police department in Oakland, CA, which has a history of community relations problems, but also employs law enforcement officers who are trying to do their finest. (VL-3/18)

The Freedom to Marry

(Ro*co [www.rocoeducational.com], 86 min., DVD: $95: public libraries; $350 w/PPR: colleges & universities)

Offering tribute to same-sex marriage activist Evan Wolfson, the title of Eddie Rosenstein’s documentary refers to the political advocacy nonprofit group founded by Wolfson and to its ultimately successful mission to ensure that gay and lesbian couples were able to receive marriage equality under U.S. law. (VL-7/18)

From This Day Forward

(Bullfrog [www.bullfrogfilms.com], 76 min., DVD: $350)

Filmmaker Sharon Shattuck’s documentary explores the familial ramifications when a loved one is transgender, focusing close to home on the story of how her father Michael’s—now Trisha—revelation that she is transgender has affected their family over decades. (VL-1/18)

Germans & Jews

(First Run Features, 76 min., in English & German w/English subtitles, DVD: $24.95)

Filmmaker Janina Quint’s thoughtful documentary examines Germany’s obligation to reflect upon and remember its responsibility for the Holocaust. (VL-1/18)

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

(Kino Lorber, 94 min., DVD: $29.99, Blu-ray: $34.99)

Hollywood art director and storyboard artist Harold Michelson and his wife Lillian—who ran a Hollywood research library that was an essential resource for hundreds of productions—are the subject of this affectionate documentary from filmmaker Daniel Raim. (VL-1/18)

The King

(Oscilloscope, 109 min., DVD: $34.99, Blu-ray: $39.99)

Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki’s cinematic essay argues that the life and death of Elvis Presley can serve as a fitting metaphor for the original promise and sad decline of America, as Jarecki traverses America in a vintage Rolls Royce once owned by Presley. (VL-9/18)

Love & Bananas

(Cargo, 75 min., in English & Thai w/English subtitles, DVD: $24.95 [$495 w/PPR from www.loveandbananas.com/host-a-screening/)

Actress Ashley Bell directs and appears in this emotionally-charged documentary about the sad state of the Asian elephant, helping renowned conservationist Sangdeaun Lek Chailert transport a 70-year-old partially blind elephant to the latter’s sanctuary in Thailand. (VL-11/18)

Monkey Business

(Passion River, 82 min., DVD: $24.95 [$299 w/PPR from edu.passionriver.com])

Filmmaker Ema Ryan Yamazaki’s documentary about the authors of the famed picture book series featuring mischief-making monkey Curious George tells the story of the German-Jewish married writing team of Hans and Margret Rey. (VL-1/18)


(FilmRise/MVD, 94 min., DVD: $19.95, Blu-ray: $24.95)

Filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz’s cinema vérité documentary immerses viewers in the controlled chaos of Manila’s Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital—the busiest maternity clinic in the world—which treats hundreds of young Filipino women struggling with poverty, a cultural bias toward large families, and lack of birth control. (VL-1/18)

The New Radical

(Passion River, 109 min., DVD: $59.95 [$350 w/PPR from edu.passionriver.com])

Filmmaker Adam Bhala Lough’s documentary turns the spotlight on a new breed of radical who gravitates to the extreme right, including Cody Wilson, who invented a plastic gun that can be made on a 3D printer. (VL-5/18)


(Passion River, 83 min., DVD: $24.95 [w/PPR: $95: high schools and public libraries; $350: colleges and universities from Ro*co Films Educational, www.rocoeducational.com])

Filmmaker Kim A. Snyder’s poignant documentary examines the painful aftermath of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. (VL-5/18)


(First Run Features, 105 min., DVD: $24.95)

Shot over a period of eight years from 2008-16, filmmaker Jonathan Olshefski’s documentary follows the musical background, trials, and triumphs of North Philadelphia’s tight-knit Rainey family, a hardworking African American household living in an impoverished community. (VL-5/18)


(Magnolia, 98 min., DVD: $26.99, Blu-ray: $29.99 [w/PPR: $95: high schools and public libraries; $350: colleges and universities from Ro*co Films Educational, www.rocoeducational.com])

This laudatory documentary from directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen chronicles the life and career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an unlikely trendsetter and icon. (VL-9/18)

The Reluctant Radical

(Collective Eye [www.collectiveeye.org], 77 min., DVD: $50 [$125 w/PPR]: public libraries; $295 w/PPR: colleges & universities)

Shocked at the lack of action being taken against the fossil fuel industry, global warming activist Ken Ward participates in “monkey wrench” sabotage and public protests that ultimately put him on trial in this inspiring documentary from director Lindsey Grayzel. (VL-9/18)

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan

(Kino Lorber, 93 min., DVD: $29.95)

Filmmakers Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger’s documentary serves up a bittersweet portrait of prima ballerina Wendy Whelan, who danced with the New York City Ballet for three decades before retiring in 2014. (VL-1/18)

The Shelter

(Film Platform [www.filmplatform.net], 101 min., in English, French, Romanian, Spanish & Wolof w/English subtitles, DVD: $300)

The subjects of filmmaker Fernand Melgar’s cinema vérité documentary try each night to gain entrance to a shelter in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the demand for beds is so great that jostling for spots can lead to heated scuffles. (VL-1/18)


(Grasshopper, 91 min., DVD: $29.99, Blu-ray: $34.99 [$99.95: public libraries; $375: colleges & universities w/PPR from www.grasshopperfilm.com])

Filmmakers Chris Shellen and Jeff Malmberg’s documentary visits the Tuscan village of Monticchiello—population: 136—which each year stages a play in a tradition dating back to the 1940s. (VL-5/18)

Take My Nose…Please!

(Passion River, 100 min., DVD: $59.95 [$299 w/PPR from edu.passionriver.com])

Filmmaker Joan Kron’s lively documentary centers on female comedians, plastic surgery, and the demands on women in show business to fit a certain ideal of beauty. (VL-7/18)

Three Identical Strangers

(Universal, 97 min., DVD: $22.99, Blu-ray: $29.99)

Filmmaker Tim Wardle’s mind-boggling documentary tells the story of three stranger brothers who discovered that they were identical triplets separated at birth, became a media sensation, and then found out they were part of a sinister psychological experiment. (VL-11/18)

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

(Universal, 95 min., DVD: $29.98, Blu-ray: $27.99)

Morgan Neville’s uplifting documentary about the man behind-the-scenes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood centers on Fred Rogers (1928-2003), who worked to instill in young viewers a sense of self-worth that he believed was fundamental to growing up. (VL-9/18)

The Work

(Passion River, 89 min., DVD: $24.99 [$350 w/PPR from edu.passionriver.com])

Filmmakers Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous’s documentary trains the camera on male convicts at California’s Folsom State Prison who gather in long-running therapy groups to talk about their dads and more. (VL-5/18)

The 41st National Media Market to Convene in Austin, TX in October 2019

The 41st National Media Market and Conference (aka NMM, the Market) will open on Sunday, October 20, 2019 and run four days in Austin, TX at the Embassy Suites Austin Central. The nonprofit boutique event is the only one dedicated to bringing together librarians who collect and manage film with film distributors, streaming platforms, and other media companies for commerce and sharing knowledge. “This will be the Market’s first time in Austin,” stated NMM Chair and Marketing Coordinator Jeff Tamblyn “and everyone on our board of directors—comprised of librarians and exhibitors—is excited to make the trip. Austin’s position as a hub for independent film makes this a special opportunity for us.” The Market serves librarians, educators, and other attendees who license content and contract services and technology, providing what most regard as a uniquely collegial atmosphere. Known for its active social life, NMM also organizes evening activities that bring attendees together with vendors for fun and networking. Their newest side-project, the Academic Libraries Video Trust (ALVT), has also drawn attention by creating a cooperative, cloud-based repository of digital files from VHS-based content that qualifies for copying under Section 108 of U.S. Copyright Law. Originally funded by the late deg farrelly, a highly respected media librarian, ALVT will hold a users’ group session annually at the Market, beginning in Austin. “We’ll announce the details shortly,” said Tamblyn, “but librarians from ALVT member institutions are going to qualify for significant registration discounts to this year’s Market.” Whole-event passes to NMM will sell for $349, and for $249 during the Early-Bird registration period, and include a welcome reception, buffet lunches, all professional development sessions, every conference social event, and access to exhibitor suites. Further information and a complete schedule of events will be posted as it becomes available at nmm.net. Interested potential exhibitors and attendees are welcome to contact NMM Chair Jeff Tamblyn at chair@nmm.net or 913-219-6533.