Aired on Masterpiece, PBS is releasing Les Misérables (DVD: 2 discs, $39.99; Blu-ray: 2 discs, $49.99), the 2018-19 BBC-produced miniseries adaptation of Victor Hugo’s iconic 1862 French historical novel. Directed by screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice), this six-episode production stars Dominic West as Jean Valjean, the most famous fugitive in literature; David Oyelowo as his relentless pursuer, Javert; and Lily Collins as the tragic seamstress, Fantine. The cast also includes Oscar-winner Olivia Colman, Adeel Akhtar, David Bradley, and Derek Jacobi.
Criterion’s summer slate kicks off July 9 with Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s career-crowning BRD Trilogy (Blu-ray: 3 discs, $99.95), which includes his female-centered commercial successes The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), Veronika Voss (1982), and Lola (1981). Also coming July 9 is a 2K restoration of Agnieszka Holland’s 1990 German, Russian, and Polish drama Europa Europa (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), a breathless adventure story set amid the chaos of World War II that folllows a teen (Marco Hofschneider) who reluctantly assumes various ideological identities in order to hide the deadly secret of his Jewishness. Arriving July 16 is Alan J. Pakula’s 1971 thriller character study Klute (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), featuring Jane Fonda in an electrifying Oscar-winning performance as a sex worker in peril who becomes the focal point of a missing-person investigation when a detective (Donald Sutherland) turns up at her door. Also slated for July 16 is a new 4K restoration of Marcel Pagnol’s enchanting 1938 comedy The Baker’s Wife (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), featuring the legendary actor Raimu as a sweetly deluded baker in a close-knit village who becomes embroiled in a town scandal. Coming on July 23 is Michael Radford’s 1984 adaptation of George Orwell’s iconic and prophetic dystopian novel 1984 (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), starring John Hurt and Richard Burton as captives of a a rubble-strewn surveillance state where an endless overseas war props up the repressive regime of the all-seeing “Big Brother.” Also scheduled for July 23 is the 30th anniversary celebration and 4K restoration of Spike Lee’s 1989 masterpiece Do the Right Thing (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: 2 discs, $39.95), which follows a day-in-the-life of unforgettable characters in Brooklyn’s politically and emotionally charged Bed-Stuy neighborhood.
Coming at a moment of profound political and social crisis, What is Democracy? (DVD: $29.95) is slated for release on May 14 from Zeitgeist Films. Director Astra Taylor’s idiosyncratic philosophical journey takes viewers from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor. Celebrated theorists Silvia Federici, Cornel West, Wendy Brown, and Angela Davis are joined by trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, former prime ministers, and others in this urgent film that connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political. Bonus features include deleted scenes, a Q&A at New York’s Jacob Burns Film Center, and an interview with Taylor.
FilmRise has announced the upcoming release of Alex Jablonski and Kahlil Hudson’s immersive and cinematic feature-length documentary Wildland (DVD: $19.95, Blu-ray: $24.95), slated for April 30. Telling the story of a single wildland firefighting crew as they struggle with fear, loyalty, love, and defeat all over the course of a single fire season, what emerges is a story of a small group of working-class men, their exterior world, their interior lives, and the fire that lies between. Late in the film, the crew is dispatched to the largest fire in the country. It’s here that they’ll make a stand and engage in a hectic final battle that they will carry with them forever. An abbreviated version was aired on PBS’s Independent Lens series.
On April 2, Cinema Libre will release the documentary Jihadists (DVD: $19.95), filmed in French, English, Arabic, and Bambara. Banned in France (released as “Salafistes”), co-directors Lemine Ould Salem and François Margolin’s Jihadists goes deep into the heart of the Salafi movement to reveal the inner workings of extremist Islam with unparalleled access to fundamentalist clerics of Sunni Islam who proselytize for a “purer” form of Islam–including jihad of the sword–in Mali, Tunisia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Theoretical interpretations are here juxtaposed against images and footage from recruitment videos to show the hardline application of sharia law. Inspiring the Oscar-nominated feature Timbuktu, this documentary paints a stark portrait of everyday life under jihadi rule.