New nonfiction DVDs to look for include Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," and National Geographic's "The Search for Adam."
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"Gaza Strip" - In 2001, director James Longley spent three months in Gaza filming a young newspaper vendor and learning how he and his family eke out a life in the midst of occupation and chaos. Longley also visited two refugee camps, including Khan Yunis, where Israeli soldiers used a new type of nerve gas on Palestinian civilians, and witnessed what he describes as the death of hope in the young generations. Unnarrated and unscripted (but with a special feature audio commentary by the director) this may appeal most to viewers who already have some background on the conflict in the Middle East. (In Arabic and French with English subtitles.)
"The Way Things Go" - Imagine Rube Goldberg set loose in a warehouse with a junkyard at his disposal and you'll have a rough idea of what awaits you in this all-too-short (30 minute) film for all ages. Everything from teakettles, old shoes, fireworks, and flammable liquids play a part in the controlled chaos that keeps things moving. Call it a visual explanation of the laws of thermodynamics or just call it fun, but check this out!
"10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America" - This History Channel miniseries highlights events that influenced American character even though in many cases, the events seemed benign at the time. Included here are assassinations, philosophical and physical battles, rights conferred and denied, and the birth of the 60s. Each of the segments has a different director, including Rory Kennedy, Michael Epstein, and Kate Davis. Fantastic fodder for discussion.
"Wordplay" - Less nerdy and more entertaining than "Spellbound," this also culminates in a competition. Alternating with five elite solvers preparing for the tournament are interviews with puzzle constructor Merl Reagle as he puts a crossword together for the New York Times. Along the way, you'll meet Will Shortz, the New York Times crossword page editor and hear from a variety of celebrity crossword enthusiasts. Special features include 5 Unforgettable Puzzles, commentary with the film's director, and "Wordplay goes to Sundance". (And, go deeper into crosswords with the book "Cruciverbalism," by Stanley Newman, which details the history of crosswords and elaborates the thought processes behind their creation.)
"Been Rich All My Life" - When six young women met as Harlem chorus girls in the 1930s, they had no idea that five of them would still be performing 70 years later. Dancers Marion, Elaine, Cleo, Fay and Bertye, and their manager Geri, are featured in this documentary which follows them from their early tap dance careers at the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater, through social and personal changes, into today, when they have reconvened as the "Silver Belles," dancing in front of sold-out crowds. Archival film and stills take viewers back to the Harlem Renaissance days, with bonus features including original music tracks and photo galleries, and a lesson in doing the Shim Sham Shimmy.
"Dear Mr. President" - Five Palestinian and Israeli teens who met at a peace camp reconvene, this time to do more than talk about peace amongst themselves. On a road trip from America's West Coast to the East, they stop in small towns and cities to advocate for peace and to share their experiences with people from all walks of life, including a Holocaust survivor, Arab and Israeli immigrants, and Native Americans on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Although their primary goal of meeting with President George Bush proves impossible due to "scheduling conflicts," the girls leave a lasting impression on those they meet.
"First Descent" - The snowboarding season is nearly over, but virtual adventure is near at hand with this amazing documentary. Six Olympic-class snowboarders hit the slopes of Valdez, looking for runs that have never been ridden down. The history of snowboarding is interspersed with footage of the six snowboarders heading down the mountain, including a final jaw-dropping run by Terje Haakonsen down a 60 degree slope.
Join us at the downtown library at 7 p.m. tomorrow to hear acclaimed storyteller Jack Dalton speak about Yup'ik stories and universal experiences. Then at 7 p.m. on Sunday, experience the power of his stories for yourself at Centennial Hall. Saturday's discussion is free; tickets for Sunday evening's performance are available at Hearthside and at the door for $10.
As always, placing a hold on our material is easy: Call the Juneau Public Library at 586-5249, or go online to www.juneau.org/library.