PBS Distribution has announced the upcoming release of Frontline: Documenting Hate (DVD: $24.99), slated for February 12. An in-depth, two-part investigation into today’s white supremacy groups in the U.S. and the violent attacks that have taken place as a result, the program includes “Charlottesville,” in which correspondent A.C. Thompson methodically tracks down some of those at the center of the infamous and deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, VA, revealing how ill-prepared law enforcement was to handle an influx of white supremacists from across the country, some of whom had been part of a series of earlier violent confrontations in California and descended on Charlottesville specifically to fight. And “New American Nazis” presents an investigation into white supremacist groups in America, specifically Atomwaffen Division, a cell that has actively recruited inside the U.S. military.
Kino Lorber has announced the March 5 DVD release of the critically-acclaimed documentary Of Fathers and Sons (DVD: $29.99), which was recently nominated for Best Documentary Feature for the 2019 Academy Awards. With a Blu-ray release to follow on April 16, director and producer Talal Derki’s film finds him returning to his Syrian homeland where he gained the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing their daily life for over two years. His camera focuses primarily on the children, providing an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up with a father whose only dream is to establish an Islamic caliphate. Osama (13) and his brother Ayman (12) both love and admire their father and obey his words, but while Osama seems content to follow the path of jihad, Ayman wants to go back to school. A work of unparalleled intimacy that captures the chilling moment when childhood dies and jihadism is born, the film also won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Documentary section at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The Criterion Collection’s April slate kicks off April 9 with two beloved Jim Jarmusch films: the minimalist 1984 masterpiece Stranger Than Paradise (Blu-ray: $39.95) and the 1991 taxicab odyssey Night on Earth (Blu-ray: $39.95), the latter starring Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Available April 16 is a 4K restoration of Jan Němec’s haunting and hallucinatory 1964 feature debut Diamonds of the Night (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), one of the most visionary films of the Czechoslovak New Wave, adapted from the novel by Arnost Lustig, which closely tracks two boys who escape from a concentration-camp transport and flee into the surrounding woods. Coming April 23 is the Blu-ray debut of Elia Kazan’s eerily prescient 1957 satire A Face in the Crowd (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), which chronicles the rise and fall of Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith), a boisterous entertainer—discovered in an Arkansas drunk tank by a local radio producer (Patricia Neal)—who reaches heights of TV stardom and political demagoguery. On April 30, Jackie Chan smashes into the Criterion Collection with a double-bill edition of his 1985 and 1988 action-comedy classics Police Story and Police Story 2 (DVD: 3 discs, $39.95; Blu-ray: 2 discs, $49.95), newly restored in 4K as the director/star/one-man stunt machine plays Ka-Kui, a Hong Kong police inspector with unorthodox methods. Also coming on April 30 is Australian auteur Gillian Armstrong’s 1979 coming-of-age classic My Brilliant Career (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), adapted from teenage author Miles Franklin’s novel about headstrong young Sybylla Melvyn (Judy Davis), who bemoans her stifling life in the backcountry.
Slated for release on March 12 is Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (DVD: $24.99), available from Magnolia Home Entertainment. Directed by Alexis Bloom, the documentary fuses the personal, the political, and the just plain surreal as it charts the rise and fall of Fox News Chairman, Roger Ailes (1940-2017), a key media consultant to Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, who powerfully shaped American political history over the last five decades. After creating a ratings powerhouse at Fox, with more viewers than all of its direct competitors combined, in 2016 Ailes was forced out amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment. Divide and Conquer tells the origin story of one of the most powerful and divisive figures in American media.
GKIDS and Shout! Factory have announced the release of the documentary feature Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki, available in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo on April 30. Offering a new look at the rarely-interviewed filmmaker as he faces the challenges of working with unfamiliar CGI technology to create a new short film, Never-Ending Man focuses on Academy Award-winning film director and animator Hayao Miyazaki’s sudden 2013 announcement of his retirement at the age of 72. But he can’t shake his burning desire to create, and after an encounter with young CGI animators, Miyazaki embarks on a new project to utilize CGI for the first time ever. Yet the artist, who has been adamant about hand-drawn animation, confronts many challenges that threaten to cancel the film. Can an old master who thinks he’s past his prime shine once again? Filmed over two years as Miyazaki overcomes struggles to create his short film Boro the Caterpillar, this release includes both the full-length 70-minute documentary in Japanese with English subtitles as well as a 48-minute broadcast version with English narration and alternate footage.
Criterion’s March slate opens March 12 with another entry in the year-long series of Ingmar Bergman releases: the standalone edition of 1975’s The Magic Flute (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), the director’s effervescent take on Mozart’s beloved opera, featuring soloists Josef Köstlinger, Ulrik Cold, Håkan Hagegård, and Birgit Nordin. Also coming March 12 is the Blu-ray debut of silent screen icon Harold Lloyd’s delightful 1927 comedy The Kid Brother (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), featuring Lloyd as the gentle everyman son of a prominent lawman who lives in the shadow of his rough-and-tumble brothers. Arriving March 19 is Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1945 film noir thriller Detour (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), a pitch-dark Poverty Row film following a nightclub pianist hitchhiker (Tom Neal) on his way from New York to Los Angeles who encounters a dead body and a vicious femme fatale (Ann Savage). Also slated for March 19 is writer-director-actor Barbara Loden’s 1970 lone feature Wanda (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), a wrenching character study set amid a soot-choked Pennsylvania landscape about an outcast woman who finds herself falling prey to a series of callous men—including a bank robber who ropes her into his next criminal scheme. On March 26, Robert Zemeckis revisits the frenzy of Beatlemania with a 4K digital restoration of his raucous 1978 first feature I Wanna Hold Your Hand (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), which spotlights the Beatles 1964 live appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show through the eyes of six teenagers (including stars Nancy Allen, Wendie Jo Sperber, and Marc McClure) who want to see the Fab Four. Also coming on March 26 is Carlos Reygadas’s 2002 Spanish language debut Japón (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), an existential journey through the Mexican countryside following a man (Alejandro Ferretis) who travels to an isolated village to commit suicide but meets a pious elderly woman (Magdalena Flores) whose quiet humanity incites a reawakening of his desires.
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.
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.”
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.
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)
(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)
(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)
(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)
(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)
(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)