[Videolib] Video Librarian Best Docs 2009 list

From: Randy Pitman <vidlib@videolibrarian.com>
Date: Fri Dec 18 2009 - 09:10:30 PST

Hi all,

We will be posting our Best Docs 2009 list on our website on Monday, but I
thought I'd share it early with the listserv (any distributors with titles
on the list are freed from the Dec. 22 embargo). Happy holidays to all:

VL Best Docs 2009

The following list, selected and compiled by Video Librarian staff, honors
the best new documentaries reviewed in the magazine and online during 2009.
Unless otherwise noted, titles are available from most distributors.

Another Day in Paradise (PBS, 90 min., Blu-ray: $29.99 [$54.95 w/PPR,
www.pbs.org]). Made with the full cooperation of the U.S. military,
filmmaker Deborah Dickson’s beautifully filmed documentary offers a
compelling portrait of three sailors on the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS
Nimitz during a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf. (VL-7/09)

Anvil: The Story of Anvil (VH1 Films, 80 min., DVD: $24.98). Director Sacha
Gervasi’s surprisingly amusing and moving documentary explores the rise,
fall, and resurgence of 1980s-era heavy metal rock band Anvil, featuring
appreciative commentary by Guns N’ Roses’ Slash and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich.
(VL-9/09)

Coal Country (Evening Star Productions, 84 min., DVD: $24.95). Filmmaker
Phylis Geller’s thought-provoking documentary focuses on mountain top
removal mining in Appalachia, while also examining various issues involving
the economy of the region, national energy policy, and the environmental
implications of coal on both the local and global levels. (VL-11/09)

Crips and Bloods: Made in America (Docurama, 99 min., DVD: $26.95 [DVD or
VHS: $295 w/PPR from Bullfrog Films, www.bullfrogfilms.com]). Director Stacy
Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Riding Giants) turns his attention to another
Southern California subculture, chronicling the origins of and feud between
the titular gangs in this powerful documentary narrated by Oscar-winner
Forest Whitaker. (VL Online-7/09)

Dear Zachary (Oscilloscope, 95 min., DVD: $29.99). Subtitled “A Letter to a
Son About His Father,” Kurt Kuenne’s extraordinarily poignant child custody
documentary tells a personal story full of surprising twists, beginning with
the murder of a young Pennsylvania doctor by his mentally unstable pregnant
ex-girlfriend, who then fled to her native Canada and bore their son.
(VL-3/09)

Fatherhood Dreams (Passion River, 55 min., DVD: $24.99 [DVD w/PPR: $75:
public libraries; $150 w/PPR: colleges & universities from Interfilm
Productions at www.fatherhooddreams.com]). Canadian filmmaker Julia Ivanova’s
documentary looks at the unique parenting experiences of four gay men,
deftly intertwining their uplifting stories while also exploring a myriad of
related social and legal issues. (VL Online-6/09)

Food, Inc. (Magnolia, 91 min., DVD: $26.98, Blu-ray: $34.98). Emmy
Award-winning director Robert Kenner’s disturbing documentary focuses on the
industrialization of North American food production/delivery, offering a
compelling and alarming portrait of how this growing agricultural monolith
affects our health, environment, and economy. (VL-11/09)

Frontrunners (Oscilloscope, 82 min., DVD: $29.99). Caroline Suh’s wonderful
documentary offers an endearing and at times howlingly funny study of the
nature of democratic elections, covering a campaign for student union
president at New York’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School. (VL-3/09)

The Garden (Oscilloscope, 80 min., DVD: $29.99). Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s
2008 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary follows the battle for control of
the largest community garden in the United States—14 acres in the middle of
South Central Los Angeles that were transformed by a largely Latino
population from a blighted lot into a flowering urban oasis of family-farmed
plots. After 12 years, the city decided to sell the property for business
development, issuing an eviction notice that set off an escalating chain of
events. (VL-9/09)

The Gates (Alive Mind, 98 min. DVD: $129: public libraries; $249: colleges &
universities). Legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens)
has chronicled the creation of many massive, eye-catching works of public
art erected by Christo and his late partner Jeanne-Claude. Here, Maysles
charts the controversial 25-year-history of the pair’s titular project, in
which 7,500 “gates” of flowing saffron-colored fabric were installed along
23 miles of paths in Central Park for a two-week period. (VL-9/09).

The Greening of Southie (Bullfrog, 72 min., DVD or VHS: $295). Offering an
exciting glimpse into the future of Earth-friendly major building
construction, filmmakers Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis’ (King Corn)
globetrotting documentary follows the design and construction of the
Macallen Building in South Boston, from the gathering of green materials to
the winning over of a skeptical blue-collar work crew. (VL-1/09)

In a Dream (IndiePix, 80 min., DVD: $26.95 [DVD: $295 w/PPR from The Cinema
Guild, www.cinemaguild.com]). Shot over the course of a decade, Jeremiah
Zagar’s compelling documentary turns the camera inward on his own
dysfunctional family: supportive mother Julia, troubled older brother Zeke,
and—most of all—his father Isaiah, an eccentric but amazingly productive
Philadelphia muralist struggling with mental illness. (VL-11/09)

A Lion in the House (Docurama, 282 min., DVD: 2 discs, $26.95). Premiering
at the Sundance Film Festival and later broadcast on PBS’ acclaimed
Independent Lens series, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s emotionally
devastating but also occasionally uplifting marathon documentary follows the
lives of five patients—ranging in age from seven to 19—from the pediatric
cancer ward at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital over several years.
(VL-1/09)

Not Quite Hollywood (Magnolia, 103 min., DVD: $26.98). Combining colorful
anecdotes, witty observations, and a treasure trove of film clips (with
copious nudity, violence, and outrageous bad taste), Mark Hartley’s
unabashedly affectionate tribute celebrates the disreputable genre films
that emerged Down Under in the ‘70s—a body of work that helped make the
Australian New Wave possible. (VL-11/09)

Nursery University (Docurama, 90 min., DVD: $26.95). Co-directors Matthew
Makar and Marc H. Simon profile four couples and one single mother in this
exploration of the fierce competition between upper-class Manhattan parents
who believe they must enroll their children in the most highly regarded
preschools to help ensure a chance for Ivy League acceptance further down
the line. (VL Online-9/09)

Passion & Power (First Run, 74 min., DVD: $24.95). Based on the 1999 book by
Dr. Rachel Maines (The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and
Women’s Sexual Satisfaction), directors Wendy Slick and Emiko Omori’s
documentary offers an informative and playful profile of the vibrator that
also includes insights into the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the
post-feminist present. (VL-3/09)

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (Genius, 93 min., DVD: $24.95). Director Jim
Brown combines archival stills and film (some shot by Seeger and his
family), interviews (with Seeger, Bob Dylan, and dozens more), and extensive
concert footage to create this inspiring portrait of folk music pioneer Pete
Seeger that originally aired on PBS’ American Masters series. (VL-1/09)

The Rape of Europa (Menemsha Films, 117 min., DVD: $29.95 [Collector’s
edition DVD: $59.95, from www.rapeofeuropa.com]). Exploring the interrelated
stories of the Nazi plunder of priceless objets d’art from conquered
territories during World War II and post-war attempts to restore stolen
masterpieces to their rightful owners, filmmakers Bonni Cohen, Richard
Berge, and Nicole Newnham’s fascinating documentary is based on the
bestselling book by Lynn H. Nicholas. (VL-1/09)

Resolved (Image, 90 min., DVD: $27.98). Greg Whiteley’s HBO-aired
documentary focusing on two disparate high school debate teams combines
archival footage with clever animation to examine the transformation of
debate over the last few decades—from a carefully reasoned rhetorical
contest into an intense verbal battle known as “the Flow.” (VL-7/09)

Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story (Stax, 114 min., DVD: $19.98).
Aired on PBS’ Great Performances series, this Samuel L. Jackson-narrated
musical documentary recounts the story of the creation of Memphis’ Stax
Records and the evolution of its artists, including Otis Redding, Isaac
Hayes, Sam & Dave, and Booker T. & the MG’s. (VL-3/09)

Second Skin (Liberation, 94 min., DVD: $19.95). Filmmaker Juan Carlos
Piñeiro Escoriaza’s engaging documentary looks at the enormously popular
world of online gaming, featuring a quartet of adult roommates whose lives
revolve around World of Warcraft, as well as a couple who met in the game
world and wound up marrying in real life. (VL-9/09)

Secrecy (Docurama, 81 min., DVD: $26.95 [DVD or VHS: $295 w/PPR from
Bullfrog Films, www.bullfrogfilms.com]). Harvard professors and filmmakers
Robb Moss and Peter Galison’s intriguing documentary offers a balanced look
at the increasing trend towards classifying government information in the
name of national security in the post-9/11 era. (VL-7/09)

Stranded (Zeitgeist, 126 min., in Spanish w/English subtitles, DVD: $29.99).
Known to many from Piers Paul Read’s 1974 bestseller Alive, the story of the
famous 1972 plane crash in the Andes in which the survivors were forced to
resort to cannibalism is told in filmmaker Gonzalo Arijón’s powerful and
moving documentary, which interweaves dramatic reenactments with interviews
of survivors who recall their incredible ordeal. (VL-7/09)

The Union: The Business Behind Getting High (Phase 4, 104 min., DVD:
$29.99). Canadian director Brett Harvey’s documentary takes a compelling
look at British Columbia’s illegal marijuana trade industry, incorporating
contemporary research, humorous clips from vintage educational films, and
interviews of colorful characters such as Tommy Chong and cannabis culture
personality Watermelon Girl. (VL-9/09)

Waltz with Bashir (Sony, 90 min., in Hebrew w/English subtitles, DVD:
$28.98, Blu-ray: $39.95). Israeli director Ari Folman embarks on a gripping
psychological journey into his own repressed memories of the horrors of the
First Lebanon War in 1982—part of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian
conflict—in this surreal animated documentary that was nominated for Best
Foreign Film. (VL Online-6/09)

Best,

Randy

Randy Pitman
Publisher/Editor
Video Librarian
8705 Honeycomb Ct. NW
Seabeck, WA 98380
Tel: (800) 692-2270; Fax: (360) 830-9346
Email: vidlib@videolibrarian.com
Web: www.videolibrarian.com

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Received on Fri Dec 18 09:10:48 2009

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