Petula Clark sang about the reasons going downtown. After all, a visit “can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.” That was then. Fast forward a decade or so, and the music and energy about to explode in the ’70s punk underground electrifies the coming-of-age drama London Town (IFC Films). Featuring a stunning performance by Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Joe Strummer of the legendary band the Clash, the film comes to DVD from IFC Films on February 14.
Think of this as a musical valentine.
When 15-year-old Shay (portrayed by Daniel Huttlestone) hears the music of the Clash for the first time, it’s a revelation, opening up a new world of social consciousness and anti-establishment defiance beyond anything he’s known in his dead-end London suburb. After his father is injured in a work accident, Shay takes over driving his cab and one fateful night, picks up none other than Joe Strummer (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the lead singer of the Clash. Drawn into the heart of the city’s burgeoning punk scene, Shay forges two relationships that will change his life, falling in love with rebellious cool girl Vivian (Nell Williams) and finding and unexpected connection with the Clash’s electrifying frontman.
Through being forced to take care of his family, his friendship with Strummer and his relationship with Vivian, Shay passes some important milestones on his way to adulthood.Propelled by a blistering soundtrack that bounces from the Clash to the Ramones to Buzzcocks, London Town captures the sound and spirit of a scene that shook the world. And lives on still.
The IFC Films theatrical release co-stars Natascha McElhone and Dougray Scott. It features the classic music not just of the Clash but of such other major artists as the Ramones, Buzzcocks, the Stranglers, Toots and the Maytals, Willi Williams and Stiff Little Fingers. It was an official selection of the BFI London Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival.
It’s certainly a hot topic: The coldest and snowiest places on earth pose a challenge to anyone visiting such locations as the Arctic Circle or Antarctica, but what about the year-round animal population? How do they cope for many months with life in these frozen wonderlands where temperatures can plummet to as low as minus 50 degrees?
In Nature: Snowbound: Animals of Winter (PBS Distribution), Gordon Buchanan, a wildlife cameraman used to filming in frigid lands around the globe, explains how creatures like the wolf, Arctic fox, bison, reindeer, lynx, weasel, polar bear, penguin, Weddell seal and woolly bear caterpillar adapt to their surroundings or employ clever tactics to survive in these extreme climates. The documentary will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on February 7; the program will also be available for digital download.
In the opening segment, Buchanan is seen calmly stroking the thick coat of a wolf in Norway’s Polar Park where wolves have grown up with humans. He shows how the wolf’s fine hairs provide much needed insulation, while its longer, outer hairs repel snow and water. Also helping to reduce a wolf’s heat loss, despite its paws being in constant contact with ice and snow, is an ingenious adaptation: An image displayed on a thermal camera illustrates that as a wolf’s warm blood flows down its leg, it cools down. This means only cold blood stays within the paws and all the warm blood can remain within the body.
The Arctic fox however has a different solution to keeping warm during the winter months: its thin brown summer coat undergoes an amazing transformation to one that is white, very fluffy and 200 percent thicker, the warmest coat of all arctic mammals.
The film also cites hibernation as another cold weather strategy practiced by several animals including the brown bear, ground squirrel, and polar bear. Buchanan explains that even though a female polar bear’s heart rate drops dramatically in hibernation and she doesn’t eat or drink and relies solely on fat reserves, she can still give birth during this time. The cubs are kept warm by her body heat and grow quickly due to their mother’s extremely fatty milk. The wildlife cameraman is on hand as tiny twin cubs crawl out of their winter den to explore the outside world.
Possessing super senses gives other animals an edge when it comes to successfully hunting prey during the big freeze. Buchanan describes how a lynx can use its keen vision to spot a mouse 80 yards away or the benefits a reindeer has with ultra violet vision. He also remarks on how the great grey owl employs its super sensitive hearing to detect the movement of mice or voles beneath two feet of snow. Similarly, a young Arctic fox can pick up the faint sound of lemmings under the snow. To nab its unseen victim, the fox performs a special pouncing technique known as mousing. Buchanan says foxes align their pounce to the earth’s magnetic field in order to pinpoint the right spot for the kill. The film concludes with the remarkable metamorphosis of the Arctic woolly bear caterpillar that spends most of its life frozen stiff during the winter months and miraculously thaws itself in the spring, as if rising from the dead.
Whether it’s undergoing a physical adaptation, using super senses, employing clever tactics to gain the advantage, or just being built for frigid conditions, these animals of winter not only subsist, but thrive in some of the coldest places on earth.
The dreaded day comes Friday, but we found a great new PBS Distribution two-disc DVD that trumps it all: 16 for ’16: The Contenders. The multi-part documentary features candidates in the most contentious and compelling political campaigns of the last 50 years and includes interviews with candidates and their inner circles that offer unexpected human moments and new insights into political battles for the U.S. presidency.
Each part in the program features two candidates whose stories appear vastly different on the surface but share common elements that changed the outcomes of campaigns and the course of history.
16 for ’16: The Contenders will be available on DVD January 24; the program will also be available for digital download.
The program kicks off with one such unlikely pair: 1972 presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, the first black American and first female to run for the country’s top post, and Senator John McCain, who ran against George W. Bush in the 2000 primaries and against Barack Obama for the presidency in 2008. Despite extraordinarily different backgrounds, Chisholm and McCain both ran as plain-spoken outsiders. Chisholm’s slogan, “Unbossed and Unbought,” was underscored by a grassroots approach that saw her teams collecting cash in the streets, while McCain’s image as an outspoken maverick often led him to speak off-the-cuff.
The show depicts game-changing moments in both campaigns: Chisholm’s betrayal by a friend in the House of Representatives who, at the last moment, decided he would not officially nominate her; and a revealing off-camera show-down between McCain and George W. Bush just prior to a live debate.
The second part revisits the campaigns of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and conservative insider Pat Buchanan—men of two divergent perspectives who were seen as insurrectionists within their own parties. Dean provided a voice for furious Democrats who opposed the war in Iraq and brought “participatory democracy” innovations to his campaign, such as the introduction of Internet fundraising that is now a standard part of campaigns.
Buchanan—a so-called “paleo-conservative” insider who served several American presidents and advocated a strong move rightward for the Republican Party—ran twice for the Republican presidential nomination (1992 and 1996) and on the Reform Party ticket in 2000. Despite the strategies, scripts, data analysis and marketing that went into these campaigns, it was, again, the human moments that led to their unpredicted outcomes. For Dean, it was the excitement (and problematic acoustics) that gave rise to his infamous, campaign-imploding “scream.” For Buchanan, who had barely recovered from heart surgery at his first convention in 1992, a decision to go off the party script and detail his concept of a “cultural war” for the soul of America resulted in a speech that many believe divided Republicans and propelled Bill Clinton to the White House.
Pairings for the balance of the series include: Mitt Romney and Michael Dukakis; Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson; Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan; Ross Perot and Ralph Nader; Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin; and George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Featured alongside the candidates, their families and their friends are a who’s who of campaign managers, observers and Washington, D.C., insiders such as Susan Estrich, Karl Rove, Donna Brazile, Karen Hughes and dozens more. Through background stories of groundbreaking campaign moments, fatal missteps, behind-the-scenes insights and lessons learned by each candidate, the series explores deeper questions such as “Can a positive campaign be a winning campaign?” and “Should a single misstep define a campaign and a candidate?”
You gotta have friends. Sometimes you gotta have remakes. It will be interesting if Idina Menzel and Nia Long can stir up more (read = better) memories and deeper sobs when they star as lifelong best friends in the remake of the Bette Midler-Barbara Hershey flick Beaches. The new flick, an Original Lifetime movie, premiers on Saturday, January 21 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT).
Want an earlier taste? Warner Bros. Records. has already released a five-song soundtrack EP performed by Menzel. The disc features new takes on the classic songs “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “The Glory of Love,” as well as “I Can Hear the Music,” “I’ll Stand by You,” and “Last Time” recorded specifically for the movie.
In this contemporary remake, Beaches follows the serendipitous meeting of two young girls on the Venice Boardwalk, who, though worlds apart in lifestyle, embark on an unexpected and lifelong friendship. CC (Menzel) is an aspiring singer trying to make it in Los Angeles until she is discovered by a director who gives her her first big shot. Hillary (Long) is the daughter of a prominent civil rights lawyer who struggles to find her own destiny. Their friendship—even with its ups and downs—sustains them for decades.
What does Bette think? She’s too busy preparing for the Broadway run of Hello, Dolly!, revival opening in March and long sold-out.
We’ll march right the exciting news delivered by MVD Entertainment Group: MVD will be disturbing works in the U.S. by Arrow Academy, one of the world’s leading distributors of independent, arthouse and world cinema, beginning in March.
The label releases definitive and prestige edition films by revered maestros of cinema from across the globe, including filmmakers such as Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, Fritz Lang, R.W. Fassbinder, Roberto Rossellini and Jean-Luc Godard.
Each of Arrow Academy’s five new titles feature :
– Definitive editions of classic arthouse films from across the world
– World class restoration and an award-winning label
– A label which goes above and beyond to release films in their original release format
– High-end and well-produced boxsets aimed at the cinephile audience
– New and insightful extras on each release
Film fanatics, movie mavens and committed cinephiles take note and save these dates!
March 7 Ludwig He loved women. He loved men. He lived as controversially as he ruled. But he did not care what the world thought. He was the world. A string of masterpieces behind him, the great Italian director Luchino Visconti turned his attentions to the life and death of King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1972, resulting in an epic of 19th century decadence. Dominated by Helmut Berger in the title role, Ludwig nevertheless manages to find room for an impressive cast list: Romy Schneider (reprising her Elisabeth of Austria characterization from the Sissi trilogy), Silvana Mangano, Gert Fröbe, John Moulder-Brown and Trevor Howard as Richard Wagner. As opulent as any of Visconti’s epic (Piero Tosi’s costume design was nominated for an Academy Award) Ludwig is presented here in its complete form in accordance with the director’s wishes and features the English-language soundtrack for the first ever on home video.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS 4K restoration from the original film negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Two viewing options: The full-length theatrical cut or as five individual parts
Original Italian soundtrack with optional English subtitles
Original English soundtrack available on home video for the first time ever with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Brand-new interview with Helmut Berger
Luchino Visconti, an hour-long documentary portrait of the director by Carlo Lizzani containing interviews with Burt Lancaster, Vittorio Gassman, Francesco Rosi, Claudia Cardinale and others
Speaking with Suso Cecchi d’Amico, an interview with the screenwriter
Silvana Mangano: The Scent Of A Primrose, a half-hour portrait of the actress
Property Is No Longer A Theft Having tackled the corrupting nature of power with Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and taken an angry, impassioned look at labour relations with The Working Class Goes to Heaven, Italian master Elio Petri next turned his attentions to capitalism for the darkly comic Property is No Longer a Theft.
A young bank clerk (Flavio Bucci, the blind pianist in Dario Argento’s Suspiria), denied a loan by his employer, decides to exact his revenge the local butcher (Ugo Tognazzi) who is not only a nasty, violent, greedy piece of work but also one of the bank’s star customers. Quitting his job, the clerk devotes all of his time tormenting the butcher, stealing his possessions one-by-one, including his mistress (Daria Nicolodi).
Told in an off-kilter fashion by Petri, abetted by the woozy sound design and another outstanding score by Ennio Morricone, Property is No Longer a Theft presents a caustic, blackly comic look at a corrupt society.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
4K restoration from the original film negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
New subtitle translation
Brand-new interview with actor Flavio Bucci
Brand-new interview with producer Claudio Mancini
Brand-new interview with make-up artist Pierantonio Mecacci
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh
Cinema Paradiso (Barnes & Noble exclusive)
Giuseppe Tornatore’s loving homage to the cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier. Presented in both the original award-winning cut and the expanded Director’s Cut incorporating more of Salvatore’s backstory, newly restored from original negative materials.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
Restored from the original camera negative and presented in two versions: The 124 minute Cannes Festival theatrical version and the 174 minute director’s cut
Uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
Optional English subtitles
Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
A Dream of Sicily A 52-minute documentary profile of Giuseppe Tornatore featuring interviews with director and extracts from his early home movies as well as interviews with director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato, set to music by the legendary Ennio Morricone
A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise – A 27-minute documentary on the genesis of Cinema Paradiso, the characters of Toto and Alfredo, featuring interviews with the actors who play them, Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio as well as Tornatore
The Kissing Sequence Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene
Original director’s cut theatrical trailer and 25th anniversary re-release trailer
March 14 The Creeping Garden
The Creeping Garden is an award-winning feature-length creative documentary exploring the extraordinary world of the plasmodial slime mold as revealed through the eyes of the fringe scientists, mycologists and artists who work with them. Long overlooked by biologists, in recent years this curious organism has become the focus of much research in such areas as biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot engineering, much of which borders on the world of science fiction.
The film transports us from the laboratory into its natural habitat, depicting these otherworldly lifeforms using startling time-lapse macro-cinematography to reveal hidden facets of the world around us. The Creeping Garden is a unique exploration into a hitherto untapped subject matter, immersing the viewer within the worlds of the observers and the observed.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original 2.0 audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Audio commentary by directors Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp
Biocomputer Music, a short film by Grabham on the first biocomputer music system, allowing a two-way musical dialogue between man and slime mold
Return to the Fungarium, a featurette revealing further treasures of the fungarium at Kew Gardens
Feeding Habits of Physarum, a featurette on the feeding preferences and dislikes of slime molds
Three cinema iloobia short films: Milk (2009), Rotten (2012) and Paramusical Ensemble (2015)
Angela Mele’s animated slime moulds
US theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of original artwork
The Creeping Garden soundtrack [Limited Edition Exclusive]
Bonus CD containing the rearranged soundtrack to The Creeping Garden by legendary producer and musician Jim O’Rourke
Story of Sin
The life of a beautiful, young and pious woman is thrown into chaos when her parents takes in a dashingly handsome lodger. Having embarked on a torrid affair, the lodger goes off to Rome to seek a divorce from his estranged wife.
Unable to live apart from her beloved, our hero leaves home only to fall prey to the infatuations and lusts of a band of noble admirers, unsavory criminals and utopian do-gooders . . .
The only feature Walerian Borowczyk made in his native Poland, Story of Sin transforms Stefan Zeromski’s classic melodrama into a deliriously surrealistic meditation on l’amour fou.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
2K restoration from the original film negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
New subtitle translation
New 2K restorations from the original negatives of Borowczyk’s ground-breaking Polish shorts: Once Upon a Time (co-directed by Jan Lenica), Dom (co-directed by Lenica) and The School
New introduction by poster designer Andrzej Klimowski
New interview with Story of Sin lead actor Grazyna Dlugolecka
New interview featurette on Borowczyk’s career in Poland by Daniel Bird (co-founder Friends of Walerian Borowczyk)
New interview featurette on Borowczyk’s innovate use of classical music in his films by writer and filmmaker David Thompson
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Andrzej Klimowski
We can name the one major reason the country goes into terror this month. But we’d rather name three reason, good ones, that will frightened film fans looking for movies that trump releases from those “big” Studios.
MVD Entertainment Group keeps furthering the distribution of Arrow Video in the U.S. with a triumvirate of titles to kick off 2017. Each release is crammed with incredible extras and bonus tracks.
Fans of Japanese crime cinema will revel Takashi Miike’sBlack Society Trilogy, arriving on Blu-ray and DVD. After several years spent working almost exclusively in the direct-to-video world of “V-cinema” in Japan, Miike announced himself as a world-class filmmaking talent with this trio of thematically-connected, character-centric crime stories about violence, the underworld of Japanese society, families both real and surrogate, and the possibly hopeless task of finding one’s place in the world.
His first films made specifically for theatrical release, and his first for a major studio, the “Black Society Trilogy” was the beginning of Miike’s mature career as a filmmaker and they remain among the prolific director’s finest works.These stylish and gripping crime films put Miike on the cinematic map and proved he was more than just a specialist in blood and guts. See the films that made Miike’s name as a master of Japanese crime cinema with this exciting set; including Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog and Ley Lines, in beautiful high definition transfers, the set also contains a host of special features including a brand new interview with the director himself.
Fresh from recent festival and filmmaker acclaim, We Are the Fleshdebuts on DVD and Blu-ray. We Are the Flesh is a Mexican arthouse head-trip which takes you on a nightmarish journey into a post-apocalyptic hell. Outrageous and explicit, it sees a brother and sister taken in by a strange hermit who uses them as he acts out his own depraved fantasies. The longer they stay, the more they find themselves slipping into the darkness, despite their better judgement.
This bizarre slice of Mexican arthouse is one of the most unsettling film experiences you will ever have and an all-out psychedelic head-trip. It details the adventures of a brother and sister who take refuge with a strange hermit in a post-apocalyptic city. As he acts out his dark, depraved fantasies, they find themselves drifting further into the realms of the forbidden.
Last but not least, the United States gave motorcycle-mad cinemagoers Easy Rider, The Wild One and The Wild Angels. The United Kingdom gave them Psychomania, the tale of zombie bikers run amok is southern England, coming to dual format DVD + Blu-ray on February 21. The Living Dead are a delinquent biker gang, fond of causing havoc on British roadways and making out in graveyards. Gang leader Tom (played by Nicky Henson) also has a Satanist for a mother, and when he discovers the secret of immortality, the name of his motley crew takes on a more literal meaning. Psychomaniais a wonderfully offbeat gem, outlandish and eccentric in equal measure.
Listen up, dear readers. This is important news. Even those with a scant knowledge of art know about the moment when artist Vincent van Gogh looked into a mirror, held up a blade and cut into his ear. Ouch! The deed was dramatized by Irving Stone in his best-selling novel Lust for Life, and portrayed vividly by Kirk Douglas in the 1956 film.
But did Stone get it right? What did van Gogh really do on the fateful night of December 23, 1888 in the town of Arles in southern France? Afterwards, there was a successful effort by his family to play down the event. His friend, artist Paul Gauguin, who was present, gave conflicting accounts. Still others tried to profit from his local infamy. Generations have theorized about what really happened, but no one has unearthed the true details. Until now.
Answers lie in Secrets of the Dead: Van Gogh’s Ear (PBS Distribution), available on DVD January 17. The program will also be available for digital download.
The program offers fascinating evidence discovered by Bernadette Murphy, an independent researcher living in Provence, France. Murphy had long been intrigued by van Gogh’s story and spent seven years piecing together a meticulous picture of his life in Arles; person by person, house by house, exploring closely his friends and his enemies.
Her detective work uncovered definitive long-lost evidence, which graphically reveals exactly what happened that night, who was involved and how it ultimately shaped van Gogh’s remarkable art. Murphy finally provides answers to the mystery that has divided art historians for decades.
The program focuses on van Gogh’s time in Arles including the visit from Gauguin which proved to be life-changing, weaving together a detailed timeline of the momentous events. Following Murphy’s meticulous research and a reexamination of van Gogh’s work, the film reveals the artist’s roller coaster of emotions and his mental health, placing his actions in proper context for the first time.
We got so excited when we heard Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment was releasing The Birth of a Nation on Blu-ray. The D.W. Griffith controversial masterpiece, finally to be (re)introduced to a (new) generation!
The silent version is a landmark in cinema history, yet since the day it opened, it has been continuously protested . . . and defended. It depicts the Civil War, and as such contains some battle scenes, though nothing overtly gory or bloody. We see the shooting of Abraham Lincoln. A black slave tries to attack a white woman, and she runs, leading to her accidental death. It also depicts drinking and drunkenness, mostly by the African-American characters. It contains some of the most disturbingly racist images ever filmed. Still, it’s unlikely that audiences today will be as powerfully influenced by this film as audiences were nearly 100 years ago.
Then we learned that the film was not the film. Kino already released the Blu-ray. This time ’round, director Nate Parker simply “stole” the title of the 1915 silent epic . . . to confuse audiences? Make a statement? Who knows? Who cares?
The new Birth? It’s set against the antebellum South and follows Nat Turner (also played by Parker), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities against himself and fellow slaves Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.
The flick is riddled with white characters who define evil: Think bad teeth, stupidity,violence. Plus it’s extremely violent. Characters are beaten and/or raped (happens largely off screen, but the effects of the violence are shown), and there’s fighting, shooting, stabbing, and more, with lots of blood and gore, in many forms. Slaves are also whipped, hung, and tortured. Topless women are seen in both a sexual context and during an African tribal scene. Language includes many uses of the “n” word, plus “hell” and “goddamn.” While it’s undeniable that Turner’s actions sent a message against oppression, the fact that he relied on violence makes things more complex.
It’s obvious Parker knew he was pushing buttons with the title.He says his film had the same title “ironically, but very much by design.” He adds: “Griffith’s film relied heavily on racist propaganda to evoke fear and desperation as a tool to solidify white supremacy as the lifeblood of American sustenance. Not only did this film motivate the massive resurgence of the terror group the Ku Klux Klan and the carnage exacted against people of African descent, it served as the foundation of the film industry we know today. I’ve reclaimed this title and re-purposed it as a tool to challenge racism and white supremacy in America, to inspire a riotous disposition toward any and all injustice in this country (and abroad) and to promote the kind of honest confrontation that will galvanize our society toward healing and sustained systemic change.”
If you can make it there, you’d make it anywhere. No wonder it’s called Madhattan. First Run Features is off to a great New Year run with the DVD release of True New York, an anthology of five award-winning short documentaries about New York City and the amazing characters who call the city home
C-Rock (Director: Jordan Roth)
Featuring stunning cinematography and staggering footage of cliff-diving, C-Rock tells the story of a group of Bronx boys who leap off the 100-foot tall cliff known as “C-Rock” and into the Harlem River. A dangerous rite of passage going back generations in the Bronx, the film captures the rawness of youth while also revealing a wistful nostalgia for a changing neighborhood.
Taxi Garage (Director: Joshua Z Weinstein)
Forget Louie De Palma and Elaine O’Connor Nardo. This Taxi Garage is a powerful and touching look inside a taxi depot in Queens filled with classic New York personalities and a melting pot of immigrants with big dreams of making it in America. The film focuses on Johnnie “Spider” Footman, a colorful octogenarian who has driven a taxi all his life and is New York’s oldest taxi driver.
One Track Mind (Director: Jeremy Workman) One Track Mind reveals the amazing story of Philip Coppola, who has devoted four decades to cataloging, archiving and sketching every station in the New York City subway system. Filmed over the course of four years, this is a portrait of a man consumed by a singular obsession as well as a loving exploration of the city’s unique artistic idiosyncrasies.
A Son’s Sacrifice(Director: Yoni Brook) The award-winning film is a classic immigrant story and father/son tale. Imran is just another 27-year-old New Yorker struggling to take over his family’s business, which happens to be a halal slaughterhouse in Queens. Imran must confront his mixed Bangladeshi-Puerto Rican heritage and gain acceptance from his father’s conservative community.
Black Cherokee (Directors: Sam Cullman & Benjamin Rosen) This film focuses on street performer Otis Houston Jr., a self-taught artist from Harlem who performs before a captive audience of car-bound commuters along Manhattan’s FDR Drive. A meditation on family and inspiration.
I may live in Churchill (PA), but I can’t bear the though of not visiting Churchill (Manitoba, Canada). Every fall, about 10,000 tourists from around the world descend on Manitoba, “The Polar Bear Capital of the World.” This community of about 800 people on Hudson Bay in Northern Canada is home to the annual migration of more than 1,000 hungry polar bears that pass through town as they wait for the bay ice to return.
Polar Bear Town (Public Media Distribution) documents a season in Churchill, following this extraordinary migration of human and four-legged animals as they collide in unexpected and sometimes dangerous ways. The Smithsonian Channel original series will be available on DVD on January 24.
The program takes viewers close to the enormous creatures known as the “Lords of the Artic.” These polar bears can grow to be 10 feet tall and more than 1,300 pounds. They are also skilled hunters that can detect the presence of seals beneath three feet of snow and ice and can pick out scents from nearly 20 miles away. Ouch!
Churchill is one of the few human settlements where polar bears can be observed in the wild and prime viewing happens in October and November. The program captures that moment when tourists from around the world fly into town in hopes of getting up close and personal with a polar bear. Professional guides Dennis Compayre and Kelsey Eliasson have a delicate mission: To get their clients close, but keep them safe.
A look at the segments on the two disc set:
Welcome to Churchill
The town prepares for the fall migration. As the season opens, tensions are higher than usual. Last Halloween, a surprise late-night encounter with a polar bear left a local woman seriously injured and the bear dead, the nightmare all in Churchill strive to avoid. Officer Bob Windsor of Manitoba’s Department of Natural Resources, who leads a team of conservation officers, is stepping up efforts to make the town safer, even if it means increasing challenges for guides like Dennis and Kelsey. Among the bears closing in on Churchill is a Polar mom with two cubs to protect and a 1,000 pound male known as Big Bear. Churchill resident Brian Ladoon, who owns and operates the Miles 5 Dog Sanctuary, braces for bear interlopers who try to poach food from his pack of endangered Canadian Eskimo dogs.
A mother bear is leading her nine month-old cub back from his first hunting season on the ice. Now, they’ll face an even more daunting challenge: Throngs of tourists descending on Churchill, which could put the cub and themselves at risk. Veteran guide Compayre takes his apprentice, but an aggressive client might complicate her “baptism by bear.” And fellow guide Kelsey Eliasson flips the script and takes up a camera himself to assist in a groundbreaking research project that identifies bears through their unique whisker patterns.
Rumble on the Tundra
Polar bear season has reached its peak and Brian Ladoon is looking for help at his Mile 5 Dog Sanctuary. Brian can’t be in two places at once–feeding his Canadian Eskimo dogs and on the lookout for polar bears. Luckily, volunteer Russell Hausler has traveled from Australia to give Brian a hand. Meanwhile, bear guide Dennis Compayre and regular client, California photographer Andrew Bazeley, are looking for the perfect shot to complete Andrew’s book. They encounter a pair of polar bears that locals call the Scrappy Brothers, because they wrestle each other to hone their skills for mating battles to come. And a cub called Curious ventures away from its mother and finds itself on a dangerous collision course with a hungry but elderly male known as St. Pete.
Halloween Horror Story
Halloween has arrived in Polar Bear Town. It’s the worst day of the year for bears in Churchill and the busiest for conservation officers. Children are trick-or-treating and people like Erin Greene are attending parties. Last year, Erin was on her way home from a party when she was attacked by a polar bear. Erin survived the attack but is afraid that it could happen again. Erin enlists her friend; bear guide Karine Genest, to confront her fears by getting close to a polar bear for the first time since the attack. While humans are understandably fearful, the bears are even more at risk. New Mom follows her nose into a bear trap and separates herself from her cub, whose very survival may depend on Kelsey’s intervention. And a roaming Big Bear is headed directly toward the army of guards protecting town.
Winter has settled in on Churchill. It’s the time of year when conservation officers release bears from its polar bear holding facility, which the locals call “Polar Bear Jail”. A special release sees a mother polar bear and her cub airlifted out of town, to be safely released in the wilderness. Kelsey has special access for the release and follows along in a chase helicopter. But the tranquilizers that conservation officers use on bears wear off quickly and the helicopter pilots need to find a place to land before the bears wake up. Meanwhile, Compayre enlists some friends to help him find a special bear called Dancer, who he’s known for over 20 years.
Quest for Cubs
It’s spring in Churchill. While most polar bears are now hunting for seals on the frozen Hudson Bay, pregnant females have migrated south to their ancestral dens to give birth. The race is on for guides, photographers and scientists to find hidden denning sites outside of Churchill, in hopes of seeing mothers and cubs emerge. Inside one of those dens, a mother bear has spent three full months nursing her cubs. At around 20 pounds each, they’re nearly ready to leave the den and embark on the epic trek to their icy hunting grounds. And a team of biologists, including Don Moore of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, make an astonishing discovery–a maternity denning complex that a group of polar bears has used for generations.
Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some