Reel Life Stories: Documentary Film and Video Collections
in the UC Berkeley Library's Media Resources Center

American Library Association
Video Round Table Notable Videos for Adults

See also: VRT web site



30 Frames a Second: The WTO in Seattle.
A film by Rustin Thompson. Distributor: Bullfrog Films.

Former news cameraman Rustin Thompson pursues the story of the protests that surrounded the World Trade Organization meeting in 1999, offering his evolving view of the week-long chaos. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7631

Book Wars.
Written, directed, edited and narrated by Jason Rosette.

A highly original portrait of the quirky and competitive world of New York City street booksellers, as documented by Jason Rosette, one of their own. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 8757

Chinatown Files
Director, Amy Chen. Distributor: Filmakers Library.

Amy Chen's documentary is the first to explore Chinese-American experience during the "climate of fear" that McCarthyism produced, reminding viewers of the tenuous nature of civil rights. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 8426

Dark Days.
Directed by Marc Singer.

Marc Singer's film explores the lives of dwellers in a shantytown community within an Amtrak tunnel under New York city. MRC call number: DVD 854

Genghis Blues.
Directed by Roko Belic.

Roko Belic's documentary chronicles the remarkable journey of Paul "Earthquake" Pena, a blind San Francisco blues singer who traveled to Tuva (Upper Mongolia) in 1995 to participate in a throat-singing competition. MRC call number: DVD 414

George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire.
Produced and directed by Daniel McCage and Paul Stekler.Distributor: PBS Video.

Daniel McCabe and Paul Stekler's film paints a complex portrait of the late four-time governor of Alabama, whose virulent segregationist stance ironically helped force civil rights to the forefront of American politics. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7056

Into the Arms of Strangers.
Written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris. Distributor: Warner Home.

Mark Jonathan Harris's film interviews Holocaust survivors rescued by the Kindertransport, a pre-World War II operation in which 10,000 Jewish children from German-held lands were sent to foster homes and hostels in Great Britain. MRC call number: DVD 1042

Merchants of Cool
Director, Neil Docherty. Distributor: PBS Video.

This Frontline documentary exposes the tactics used by corporate media giants to package "cool" and sell it to America's lucrative teenage market. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 8130

Writer, Director, David Grubin. Distributor: PBS Video.

David Grubin's absorbing biography of France's 18th century soldier-cum-emperor provides an entertaining and instructive reminder of the ephemeral nature of power and empires. MRC call number: DVD 1127

The Old Man and the Sea.
Distributor: Direct Cinema.

Alexander Petrov's elegant adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's classic is a masterwork of hand-painted animation. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 999:3257

One Day in September.
Director, Kevin MacDonald. Distributor: Columbia TriStar Home Video.

Presents the shocking true story of the brutal massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by a team of extreme Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. MRC call number: DVD 1040

Return of Navajo Boy
Director, Jeff Spitz. Distributor: University of California Extension Center. 200. 52 min.

When filmmaker Jeff Spitz returns a 1950's silent film to a Navajo family, he triggers their search for identity. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 8913

School: The Story of American Public Education.
Director, Sarah Mondale. Distributor: Films for the Humanities and Sciences.
Sarah Mondale's history of American education intertwines personal rememberances, archival footage, and expert interviews to explore school's impact on individuals and society. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 8328- 8331

Sound and Fury
Director, Josh Aronson. Distributor: Filmakers Library.

Josh Aronson's documentary about deaf culture follows the divisive story of two brother's families, one for and the other against a new cochlear implant treatment that would restore partial hearing to their children. B>MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7541

Strange Invaders
Distributor: National Film Board of Canada.

Parenthood meets science fiction in Cordell Barker's whimsical animated short about a couple whose dream turns into a nightmare when a "child" invades their home.



42 Up
Producer/director Michael Apted. Available with public performance rights from First Run/Icarus Films.

Filmmaker Michael Apted revisits 11 of the 14 Britons he's interviewed every seven years since 1964 when they were children in this remarkable sociological project. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7378

American Movie: The Making of Northwestern
Producers Sarah Price and Chris Smith. Director Chris Smith. Columbia TriStar Home Video.

Chris Smith's portrait of filmmaker Mark Borchardt's attempts to make a movie offers a humorous, insightful and oddly moving behind-the-scenes look at fringe independent filmmaking. MRC call number: DVD 288

Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life
Producer, writer, director Michael Paxton.

In this Oscar-nominated feature-length biopic, Michael Paxton presents an altogether fascinating portrait of the controversial philosopher/novelist. MRC call number: DVD 630

The Brandon Teena Story.
Producers, directors, editors Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir. Zeitgeist Films; distributed by New Video.

The life and tragic murder of Brandon Teena, born Teena Brandon, illustrates one community's response to issues of gender and identity. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 6125

Cinema Verite: Defining the Moment.
Director Peter Wintonick. Producer Adam Symansky. Distributor: National Film Board of Canada.

Filmmaker Peter Wintonick explores the influential cinema verite film movement of the 50's and 60's through interviews with masters of the genre and clips from key films. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7004

Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians.
Writer, producer, director Anne Makepeace. Distributor: Bullfrog Films.

Anne Makepeace's moving biography of Edward S. Curtis, the pioneer photographer of American Indians, also visits descendants of Curtis's subjects who today use his images to revive the past. MRC call VIDEO/C 7339

Jeni LeGon: Living in a Great Big Way.
Producer Selwyn Jacob. Director Grant Greschuk. Distributor: The Cinema Guild.

Grant Greschuk's luminous biography travels from Chicago to Hollywood, London, and Vancouver, as African-American dancer Jeni LeGon, students, friends, and historians review her extraordinary life and career in a segregated society. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7464

The Legacy: Murder and Media Politics and Prison.
Writer, producer, director Michael J. Moore. Distributor: Films for the Humanities &

Michael J. Moore's thought-provoking film traces the genesis of California's "three strikes" law, and examines the haunting "legacy" of an expensive system heavily populated by non-violent offenders. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 6370

On Our Own Terms (Moyers on Dying)
Producer/director Gail Pellett. Distributor: Films for the Humanities & Sciences. 4 parts

Bill Moyers explores the agonizing decisions made by terminally ill patients and their families in this informative and touching four-part series. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 8422-8423

One Day Longer: Story of the Frontier Strike.
Producer/director Amie S. Williams. Distributor: CineVegas

For seven years Las Vegas hospitality workers fought their for jobs, wages, and benefits at the Frontier Hotel, in the longest strike in labor history. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7867

Rabbit in the Moon.
Producers Emiko Omori and Chizuko Omori. Directed, written, and narrated by Emiko Omori.

Filmmaker Emiko Omori's memoir examines the effects of World War II internment on Japanese-Americans, focusing upon the lasting divisions within their minority community. Distributor: Transit Media. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 6310

Sing Faster: The Stagehand's Ring Cycle.
Producer/director/writer, Jon Else. Distributor: Direct Cinema, Ltd

The feats and follies of the San Francisco Opera Company's technical crew are profiled in this funny, irreverent, behind-the-scenes view of Wagner's 17-hour Ring Cycle. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 5925

Stranger with a Camera.
Producer/director Elizabeth Barret. Distributor: California Newsreel

Elizabeth Barret revisits the murder of Canadian filmmaker Hugh O'Connor in poverty-stricken Jeremiah, Kentucky, circa 1967, while also questioning the media's ethics in publicly shaming a poor community. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7192

Walking with Dinosaurs.
Producer Jasper James. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Discovery Channel.

Jurassic Park meets National Geographic in this realistic, animated view of 155 million years of dinosaur history. The DVD version shows how animators and paleontologists worked together to answer scientific questions.

Well-Founded Fear.
A film by Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini. Distributor: Epidavros Project

Told from the perspective of political asylum applicants and asylum officers, this real-life drama examines the utterly human mix of humanity, bureaucracy and serendipity in deciding the course of people's lives. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7297


An American Love Story. 5 parts (10 programs)
Produced by Zohe Film Productions. Producer and Director, Jennifer Fox. Distributed by PBS Video.

In a film as complex and unpredictable as the family it chronicles, Jennifer Fox brings viewers into the lives of a multi-racial couple and their daughters. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 6503

Dear Jesse
Produced by Bang! Inc. A film by Tim Kirkman.

Tim Kirkman's video letter to North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms uses their parallel lives to explore homophobia, racial discrimination, and self-affirmation. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7185

The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison
Produced by Gabriel Films. Producers and Directors, Jonathan Stack and Liz Garbus. Distributed by A&E Home Video.

This Oscar-nominated documentary offers a disturbing portrait of five inmates condemned to life sentences inside Louisiana's maximum security prison. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 6147

The Farmer's Wife.
A co-production of David Sutherland Productions and Frontline. Producer and Director, David Sutherland. Co-producer, Nancy Sutherland. Distributed by PBS Video.

David Sutherland's beautifully filmed Frontline documentary presents a deeply involving look at the tribulations and triumphs of a struggling Nebraska farm family. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 6115

Fast, Cheap and Out of Control.
Produced by Fourth Floor Productions. Producer and Director, Errol Morris. Available on home video.

Errol Morris creates a thought-provoking exploration of four eccentric individuals and how they make sense of their world. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 6107

Forgotten Fire.
Producers, Michael Chandler and Vivian Kleiman. Director, Michael Chandler. Distributed by University of California Extension Center for Media and Independent Learning.

Michael Chandler's documentary probes church burnings in a small South Carolina town, revealing the complex historical and social dimensions of racial violence. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 7456

Future Remembrance: Photography and Image Arts in Ghana.
Produced by IWF (Institut fur den Wissenschaftlichen Film). A film by Tobias Wendl and Nancy du Plessis. Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources.

In this entertaining exploration of photography and image making, viewers gain insight into the role of art in everyday life.

I'll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Art.
6 parts. Produced by Blackside, Inc., in association with WNET. Producers, Sam Pollard, Betty Ciccarelli, Tracy Heather Strain, and Denise A. Greene. Directors, Sam Pollard and Tracy Heather Strain. Distributed by PBS Video.

This historical survey of artists, musicians, dancers and authors chronicles the evolution of African American culture and consciousness in American arts. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 6262- 6267

Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony.
2 parts. Produced by Florentine Films. A film by Ken Burns and Paul Barnes. Distributed by PBS Video.

Ken Burns and Paul Barnes eloquently tell the story of pioneer feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony against the backdrop of the early women's movement and the struggle for women's suffrage. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 6600-6601

Pop. Produced by Tatge/Lasseur Productions
Producer and Director, Joel Meyerowitz. Distributed by First Run/Icarus Films.

Celebrated photographer Joel Meyerowitz's "home video" takes viewers on a compassionate and often humorous road trip with his father, who suffers from Alzheimer's.

When the Day Breaks.
Direction, Animation, and Lyrics, Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis Producer, David Verrall. Distributed by National Film Board of Canada.

In 9 ˝ minutes, Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis offer an animated meditation on chance, death, and life.



The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords.
Produced by Half Nelson Productions. Director, Stanley Nelson. Distributed by California Newsreel.

This moving documentary masterfully traces the birth, evolution and impact of African American journalism since Reconstruction. Media Resources Center call number: VIDEO/C 5445

Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien.
Produced by Inscrutable Films/Pacific News Service. Director, Jessica Yu. Distributed by Fanlight Productions.

Poet/journalist Mark O’Brien offers profound reflections on life from inside an iron lung. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 4841

Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary.
Producer, Tracy Trench. Director, Laura Angelica Simon. Distributed by Transit Media/Fear and Learning Library.

Filmmaker/teacher Laura Angelica Simon explores the conflict surrounding the public education of illegal immigrants. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 5246

Henry: One Man’s Way
Producers, Peter Singer and John Swindells. Director, John Swindells. Distributed by Bullfrog Films.

This tribute to animal rights activist Henry Spira demonstrates the power of one person to effect social and political change.

Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery.
Director, Ken Burns. Distributed by PBS Video.

A beautifully realized account of the Lewis & Clark expedition that expands our knowledge of both American history and the American spirit. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 5996

A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde.
Produced and directed by Ada Gray Griffin and Michelle Parkerson. Distributed by Third World Newsreel.

This rich social and personal history explores the life of black feminist poet Audre Lorde. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 5667

Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer’s End.
Director, Monte Bramer. Distributed by First Run/Icarus Films.

This inspiring film chronicles gay activist and writer Paul Monette’s choice to live life to its fullest in the age of AIDS. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 6042

Producer, Halo Productions. Director, Orly Yadin. Distributed by Filmaker’s Library.

In a unique blend of animation and archival footage, a Holocaust survivor finally tells her story.

Stomp Out Loud.
Produced by HBO Home Video. Producer, David Marks. Directors, Luke Crasswell and Steve McNicholas. Available on home video.

A stunning musical odyssey that rolls through the Manhattan cityscape, transforming everyday life into percussive poetry.

You Don’t Know Dick.
Director, Candace Schermerhorn. Distributed by The University of California Extension Center for Media and Independent Learning.

These interviews with six female-to-male transsexuals reveal lives notable for their profound emotional complexity and bravery. MRC call number: VIDEO/C 5085

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Last updated 4/30/03.