New non-fiction DVDs include Patriot Guard Riders (the motorcycle honor guard that was formed to protect soldiers’ funerals from the attentions of the Westboro Baptist Church), The Palace of Versailles (a remarkable visual tour through one of France’s most beautiful estates), and Sons of Perdition (about the plight of the extraneous young men who are exiled from the polygamist community run by Warren Jeffs), in addition to the titles reviewed below.
There’s a new breed of Superhero out there, one with costumes ranging from awful to awesome, who carry names like Mr. Xtreme and Vigilante-Spider, and whose nemeses are drug dealers, hunger, homelessness, and apathy. Director Michael Barnett follows self-proclaimed and self-costumed do-gooders (some of whose alter egos include teacher, stay-at-home dad, and security guard) as they patrol their home cities, encountering evil-doers and saving the downtrodden. Do these Superheroes possess superpowers? Are they simply confident, firm believers in the power of good? Barnett doesn’t shy away from the somewhat disturbing questions that arise as he takes viewers through both heartwarming and harrowing situations.
The Fabric of the Cosmos
If you like your space science illustrated with great special effects, this is your DVD! Our host is Brian Greene, the physicist who hosted Elegant Universe and turned String Theory into a household concept. Now he’s back, bringing us the truth (or at least the latest theories) about empty space, how time works, the possibility of teleportation (at the microlevel), and the science-fictiony concept of multiverses. All heavy-duty information, but presented in mostly digestible chunks with wit and plenty of the aforementioned visual props - stretch your mind and explore new concepts.
Director Joseph Lovett begins this film as he’s beginning to lose his sight from glaucoma, and chronicles his journey over five years as he struggles to find new treatments that might halt or slow his loss. And over the five years, he meets others who have gone blind for a variety of reasons and learns how they have met the social, emotional, psychological, and physical challenges. He also explores the wide variety of astonishing medical advances that have changed the way doctors treat vision problems, as well as technologies that help those with visual impairments live normal and productive lives. Great for those who wonder about life without sight, inspiring without being maudlin.
The Last Mountain
Powerful and moving, this is the story of mountain-top removal mining in the Appalachian region. It’s an area where politics, big money, and a captive work-force mean the destruction of the ecosystem. Entire mountains are blasted and coal is removed, the tailings are dumped in valleys and man-made lakes, and then what is left is “reconstructed.” The result is contaminated water, flooding and erosion, and increased rates of health problems such as autism, asthma, and cancers. This documentary follows the efforts of a grass-roots group protesting Big Coal who are joined by activist Robert F. Kennedy. The last third of the film begins to offer possible alternatives to coal: wind power, solar energy, and more.
Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond uses interviews and film clips to take viewers through decades of popular views of Native Americans as seen on the Big Screen. He himself was raised on a diet of Westerns that left the Native kids on his reservation playing lopsided games of cowboys and Indians (everyone wanted to be a cowboy), and now he examines the ways Hollywood’s politics, attitudes and practices have changed. As more Natives have found their places writing, directing, and acting in major films (for instance, The Business of Fancy Dancing, Smoke Signals and The Fast Runner), popular images have shifted from bloodthirsty savages to people like any other, which Diamond makes clear in this informative and entertaining documentary.
If you’re at the Sunday Market at the JACC this Sunday, stop by the library’s booth. Library staff will have gardening and cookbooks to check out and library card registration available.
Come march with library staff in the Fourth of July parade. Kids, adults, dogs on leashes welcome! Show your support for your public libraries; sign up at any library branch. Costumes are optional. Those who wish to make one should come to the Valley Library for Family Night Storytime Dress-up from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3. Or bring your own to the parade on Wednesday.
For information about upcoming programs, or to place a hold, visit www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.