This international independent series samples the best of international documentary.
El General (#710) Duration: 1:21:58 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Past and present collide as award-winning filmmaker Natalia Almada brings to life audio recordings she inherited about her great-grandfather Plutarco Elias Calles, a revolutionary general who became Mexico's president in 1924. In his time, Calles was called "El Bolshevique" and "El Jefe Maximo" (the foremost chief). Today, he is remembered as "el Quema-Curas" (priest-burner) and as a dictator who ruled through puppet presidents until he was exiled in 1936. Through Almada's grandmother's recordings, El General moves between memories of a daughter grappling with history's portrait of her father and the weight of his legacy on the country today.
Diamond in the Dunes (#711) Duration: 53:57 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
This film is the true story of hope and baseball in China's Xinjiang Province - a region harshly divided between an indigenous Muslim minority and the ruling Han Chinese. It follows Parhat Ablat, a 20-year-old Uyghur shepherd, as he attends the region's racially segregated Xinjiang University and forms an integrated baseball team.
Parhat is on a fraught quest to raise his people out of what he calls their "spirit sickness." While at the helm of Xinjiang University's first mixed-race team, he also starts a baseball program at a minority elementary school. For Parhat, baseball is more than a game; it's a vehicle for spiritual transformation. Finally, after a year of practice in the shadow of tense ethnic relations, Parhat and the university team travel 2000 miles for their only game of the season - against a team of Tibetans on the Qinghai Plateau.
Ice People (#713) Duration: 1:26:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
No one gets to Antarctica by accident. For the few scientific teams who brave this beautiful and silent landscape, it feels like another planet. Their discoveries yield secrets about the Earth's past and future, and prompt questions about our place in the world. This documentary captures the experience of vastness and claustrophobia, of excitement and waiting, and of a life still set to nature's rhythm.
Before The Revolution (#712) Duration: 56:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Dan Shadur's brother can't forget the day in November 1978 when he stood on the balcony of his family's apartment in Tehran and watched thousands of demonstrators clash with tanks and soldiers of the Shah's regime. His mother stood behind him, trembling, baby Dan in her arms. The next day, the Israeli embassy ordered the Shadur family, along with thousands of other Israeli citizens, to evacuate the city. The Islamic Revolution had begun. Dan's father stayed behind, and only managed to escape in 1979 with the help of others from the Israeli Embassy and the Mossad. Two years later, he died, leaving nothing but some 8 millimeter film for his sons to remember Tehran by. Director Dan Shadur is 30 - the same age as his father had been that fateful year. He set out to discover the man his father was, and the humble beginnings he imagined his parents had had. Instead, he discovers the extravagant lives of led by many Israelis in pre-Revolution Iran, and of Israel's intimate connection with the Shah's violent and corrupt regime. Using exclusive 8mm footage and rare television archival clips, Before the Revolution offers a glimpse of Israel's dramas in the Middle East, and illuminates the cycles of change in the region, all the way up to the Arab Spring of 2011. The film tracks one of the first great modern first popular uprisings in the Middle East through the people who experienced it firsthand without realizing its historic import or its ongoing consequences.
A Village Called Versailles (#613) Duration: 56:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
The incredible story of this little-known, tight-knit community in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. When the storm devastated New Orleans in August 2005, Versailles residents rebuilt their neighborhood faster than any other damaged neighborhood in the city, only to find themselves threatened by a new toxic landfill slated to open just two miles away. Forced out of Vietnam by the war 30 years ago, many residents felt their homes were being taken away from them once again.
Here Comes Uncle Joe (#714) Duration: 56:46 STEREO TVG (Secondary audio: none)
He is not their uncle, and his name is not Joe. But to the old ladies of An-dong, a rural community in southeastern Korea, Uncle Joe is almost the only contact they have with the modern world. As the young leave these rural areas to acquire higher education and to find high salary jobs in the cities, there are no services or people to support old people. In this situation, Uncle Joe becomes the only man for the old.
However, his road taken isn't always happy. Because of their advanced years, Joe often encounters his old customer-friends' misery and death. Moreover, as he reflects on his life, he faces his inner conflict and shame. In this film, we see how Uncle Joe serves these communities with humor and attention, how love and friendship are infused in life, and how he overcomes his conflicts with his friends.
Oil & Water (#717) Duration: 56:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Shot over 6 years, this documentary is the true story of 2 boys coming of age in the middle of one of the world's worst toxic disasters. Hugo fights for the survival of his Amazonian tribe, while David attempts to revolutionize the oil industry.
When Hugo Lucitante was 10 years old, the Cofan tribe of Ecuador made a desperate decision. Fearing extinction, they sent Hugo to be educated in the US, in hopes that he would return to lead them into a better future. A decade later, Hugo returns to the Ecuadorian Amazon to meet his destiny, armed only with a high school diploma.
David Poritz was just a 6th grader when he learned of the oil disaster in Hugo's homeland. With the blessing of his mother, David started a humanitarian aid project that led him away from his home in Amherst, Massachusetts to spend much of his youth in the Amazon.
The two teenagers meet by chance during a shared canoe ride, and then again to tour Hugo's ancestral lands where 18 billion gallons of oil waste was dumped, leading to unexplainable rashes, childhood deformities, and ballooning cancer rates.
While still a college student, David launches the world's first international company to certify oil as "fair-trade," meaning that it is drilled in a safer way. David's approach could be a game changer for the oil industry. Meanwhile, Hugo struggles with culture shock, the demands of learning to be a Cofan tribal leader, and also becoming a husband. Financial pressures cause him to shoulder two minimum wage jobs, even as oil prospectors push deeper into the rainforest.
Will Hugo become the leader his tribe so desperately needs? Will David clean up one of the world's dirtiest industries? This film follows the twists and turning points in their lives to bring a powerful conclusion to the story.
Last Train Home (#718) Duration: 1:26:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Every spring, China's cities are plunged into chaos, all at once, as a tidal wave of humanity attempts to return home by train. It is the Chinese New Year. The wave is made up of millions of migrant factory workers. The homes they seek are in the rural villages where they left behind family to seek work in the booming coastal cities. It is an epic spectacle that tells us much about China, a country discarding traditional ways as it hurtles towards modernity and global economic dominance.
This visually striking debut film from Chinese Canadian director Lixin Fan draws us into the fractured lives of a single migrant family caught up in this desperate annual migration. 16 years ago, the Zhangs abandoned their young children to find work in the city, consoled by the hope that their wages would lift their children into a better life. But in a bitterly ironic twist, the Zhangs's hopes for the future are undone by their very absence.
Qin, the child they left behind, has grown into adolescence crippled by a sense of abandonment. In an act of teenage rebellion, she drops out of school. She too will become a migrant worker. The decision is a heartbreaking blow for her parents.
In classic cinema verite style, this film follows the Zhangs's attempts to change their daughter's course and repair their ruptured family. Intimate and candid, it paints a human portrait of the dramatic changes sweeping China. We identify with the Zhangs as they navigate through the stark and difficult choices of a society caught between old ways and new realities. Can they get ahead and still undo some of the damage that has been done to their family?
- KQED World: Sun, May 31, 2015 -- 11:00pm email reminder