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In the Stacks: New nonfiction DVDs

Posted: June 29, 2011 - 6:19pm

New non-fiction DVDs include a biography of architect Fay Jones and a 3-disc set of Julia Childs’ cooking show, The French Chef, as well as the titles listed below.

“A Poet’s Guide to Britain.”

First aired on the BBC in 2009, this is a beautifully-filmed and gracious tribute to the British landscape and the poets who immortalized it. Owen Sheers, himself a poet, presents six great poems and the areas that inspired their creation. Thoughtful literary critiques, observations by guest poets, and lesser-known poems support the thesis of each episode and give the reader a broader view and deeper insight into the literature and the landscape. Look for poems by William Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold, Sylvia Plath, Louis MacNeice, Lynette Roberts, and George Mackay Brown, who write about areas as diverse as London, Dover Beach, the Scottish Isles, and a tiny Welsh village.

“The Singing Revolution.”

The small Baltic country of Estonia lost nearly 20 percent of its population between Stalinist purges and Hitler’s occupation, and went on to have its identity actively suppressed and diluted by Soviet policies. And yet, somehow, Estonians maintained their cultural identity and will to fight back against the Soviets, and in 1987, as the USSR began to fray around the edges, Estonians saw their chance to rise up. They did it quietly, through song and through the Soviets’ own laws, and amazingly, over the four-year protest, no one died (which kept the Revolution out of international news). This stirring documentary highlights the patience and ingenuity of a people determined to become a nation again.

“Stephen Fry in America.”

Follow actor and comedian Stephen Fry as he travels to all 50 states (plus DC) in a black British taxicab, and get his uniquely offbeat perspective on American life. He makes ice cream with Ben and Jerry in Vermont, visits a seniors’ community in Florida (where the ratio of women to men is 10:1, and the demand for “senior male escorts” is booming), and has a buffalo dinner with the nation’s largest private land owner (Ted Turner) on one of his ranches in Montana. You’ll learn things you didn’t know and end up seeing America a little differently after watching this six-part, two-disc series.

“Circus.”

Go way behind the scenes in this six-part documentary that follows the Big Apple circus from the time it begins putting its yearly show together to the end of its 350-show season. Meet clowns and acrobats, jugglers and tight-rope walkers, some of whom were born into the circus life and others who are new and learning to fit in. There are firings and hirings, romances, health scares, high school graduations, acts that aren’t exciting enough, and others that are a little too exciting. There’s much more to circuses than you knew — find out all about it here!

“Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.”

Interviews with Zinn and his supporters (including Noam Chomsky) and news footage form the basis of this portrait of controversial historian and political activist Zinn. Whether you agree or disagree with his politics, you’ll be fascinated by his life story: he started his life as a shipyard labor organizer, became a bombardier in World War II and returned from the front a thoughtful and energetic advocate of the rights of the common people. Even today, if an issue involves human rights: racism, segregation, anti-war legislation, labor unions, or outsourcing of jobs, Zinn can be found helping to lead the protests.

“Speaking in Code: Get Lost in Music.”

This documentary does for electronic music what “Don’t Look Back” did for folk music and “The Decline of Western Civilization” did for the LA punk rock scene. Director Amy Grill grew interested in techno dance music through her husband, who was working to popularize electronica in Boston. Here, she features interviews with diverse personalities in electronic music, including Monolake, who invented the software used nearly exclusively by musicians, and the Wighnomy Brothers musicians who find themselves abruptly rocketed from their home in East Germany towards a fame they may not be able to handle. Along the way, Grill ends up examining her relationship with her husband, who is becoming more enmeshed in the dance music world while she is skating the surface, looking for a way out.

•••

The circus is coming to the Douglas Library this Saturday, July 2. At 2 p.m. the Roustabout circus with Morgan Moonshine and Happenstance will perform fantastic feats of magic, juggling, and music. At 3:30 p.m. folks ages 7-17 are invited to join a workshop with the performers. To sign up, email carolr@juneau.org.

For information about the library’s upcoming programs, or to place a hold, visit us www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.

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