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Social Science

Social Documentary


Director: Martin Doblmeier

Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer remains one of the most quoted writings in American literature. Yet Niebuhr's impact was far greater, as presidents and civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. often turned to Niebuhr's writings for guidance and inspiration on the most volatile political and social issues of the 20th century. Niebuhr rose from a small Midwest church pulpit to become the nation's moral voice - an American conscience - during some of the most defining moments in American history.

From award-winning director Martin Doblmeier comes this powerful, insightful and inspiring documentary, rich in archival material and featuring new interviews with former President Jimmy Carter, civil rights leader Andrew Young, New York Times writer David Brooks, author Susannah Heschel, and a host of notable historians and theologians.

DVD / 2017 / 60 minutes

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Directed by Steve Bradshaw

Examines whether human impact has tipped the planet into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, with all of its political, social and behavioral implications.

A Working Group of international scientists is deciding whether to declare a new geological epoch - the Anthropocene - a planet shaped more by mankind than nature. Its members tell the story of the Anthropocene and argue whether it's a tragedy, a comedy, or something more surreal. With archival footage, award-winning stills and interviews, ANTHROPOCENE proposes a common secular narrative for mankind but leaves viewers to decide how we should write the ending. The film has the blessing of Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, who coined the term, and is the first feature film about the Anthropocene. It is now our turn to decide--in this decade--how the Anthropocene will end.

Interviewees include Will Steffen, Erle Ellis, Jan Zalasiewicz, Andrew Revkin, John McNeil, Monica Berger Gonzalez, Eric Odada, Davor Vidas.

DVD / 2017 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adults) / 57 minutes

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Directed by Eve Morgenstern

Follows a community devastated by coal, starting with American Electric Power's buyout and bulldozing of this Ohio River town, after exposing them to years of harmful emissions.

A gun toting 83-year old woman refuses to sell her house to the power plant next door but the plant has moved ahead with their 20 million dollar deal to buy out most of Cheshire and bulldoze all the homes. What happened in this Ohio River town overrun by one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the world? A story of money, power and the increasingly difficult choices we face surrounding coal and the environment, CHESHIRE, OHIO makes us think twice about home.

Filmed over a decade, CHESHIRE, OHIO follows a community devastated by coal, starting with American Electric Power's buyout and bulldozing of this Ohio River community after exposing them to harmful emissions, and then returning several years later to the now almost emptied town as we follow the case of 77 plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit against American Electric Power for cancer and other diseases they developed from working unprotected at the plant's coal ash landfill site.

As the cycle of pollution from coal continues, we see how one quintessential American town suffers from our reliance on carbon energy.

DVD / 2017 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adults) / 75 minutes

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Directed by Judith Pyke

A clinical research trial at the Personalized OncoGenomics Program is changing the way scientists think about the future of cancer care.

Six years ago Zuri Scrivens, the mother of a toddler, was very ill with incurable breast cancer that had spread to her liver and lymph nodes. Today Zuri has no signs of cancer, not because of a miraculous new cancer drug, but thanks to a diabetes medication.

CRACKING CANCER follows a group of patients with incurable cancer on a trailblazing journey through a highly experimental clinical trial at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver called POG -- Personalized OncoGenomics.

The trial compares patients' normal DNA -- each cell's complete set of instructions -- with that of their tumors, to find the genetic mutations causing their cancer. Zuri's cancer driver was a mutation that caused a very high growth factor. The team plowed through decades of data to isolate which drug in all of medicine, not just cancer, might block that growth factor. They zeroed in on a diabetes medication. Zuri received the drug and standard hormone treatment. Within 5 months, her cancer became undetectable.

POG offers a radical new way of treating cancer, not according to where it originates in the body, but rather as a disease of genetic mutations. Thousands more will join the trial, all hoping for their own salvation, all helping science to crack the cancer code.

DVD / 2017 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adults) / 44 minutes

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Director: Kirk Simon

Directed by Academy Award Winner Kirk Simon, The Pulitzer at 100 celebrates the centenary of this revered and seminal national award for literary excellence in journalism and the arts. The riveting tales of the winning artists give an insider's view of how these pinnacles of achievement are selected and how the award has the power to change lives and communities. The diverse stories explored in the film relate to immigration, race, gender, and above all freedom of speech - all issues that are ever more relevant in America today.

Featuring interviews with several notable prize recipients, including authors, journalists, playwrights and musicians such as Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon, Junot Diaz, Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, Ayad Akhtar, Carl Bernstein, Robert Caro, Martin Baron, Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Friedman, David Remnick, Wynton Marsalis and John Adams, the film also brings Pulitzer-winning works to life through readings by Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, Live Schreiber, John Lithgow and Yara Shahidi, all of whom bring their own talents to bear on the words of their favorite writers.

Interwoven with the stories of the journalists and artists and readings is the history of the man who created it. Joseph Pulitzer, who came to America to fight as a mercenary in the Civil War, left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911. A portion of his bequest was used to found the School of Journalism in 1912, not only to elevate the professionalism and to improve the craft but also to establish the Pulitzer Prizes which were first awarded in 1917. A thoughtful and colorful tapestry of the last 100 years of journalistic and artistic life in America, The Pulitzer at 100 is an illuminating and thought-provoking work that will spark the imagination of viewers, marking the beginning of a re-exploration and revisiting of the astonishing power of literature, in all forms, that have enriched our lives.

DVD / 2017 / 91 minutes

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Directed by Anne Makepeace

Documents an effective criminal justice reform movement in America: the efforts of tribal courts to return to traditional, community-healing concepts of justice.

TRIBAL JUSTICE is a feature documentary about a little known, underreported but effective criminal justice reform movement in America today: the efforts of tribal courts to create alternative justice systems based on their traditions. In California, the state with the largest number of Indian people and tribes, two formidable Native American women are among those leading the way. Abby Abinanti, Chief Judge of the Yurok Tribe on the northwest coast, and Claudette White, Chief Judge of the Quechan Tribe in the southeastern desert, are creating innovative systems that focus on restoring rather than punishing offenders in order to keep tribal members out of prison, prevent children from being taken from their communities, and stop the school-to-prison pipeline that plagues their young people.

Abby Abinanti is a fierce, lean, elder. Claudette White is younger, and her courtroom style is more conventional in form; but like Abby, her goal is to provide culturally relevant justice to the people who come before her. Observational footage of these judges' lives and work provides the backbone of the documentary, while the heart of the film follows offenders as their stories unfold over time, in and out of court. These other stories unfold over time, engaging viewers with the dedication of the judges, the humanity of the people who come before them, and a vision of justice that can actually work.

Through the film, audiences will gain a new understanding of tribal courts and their role in the survival of Indian people. The film will also inspire those working in the mainstream legal field to consider new ways of implementing problem-solving and restorative justice, lowering our staggering incarceration rates and enabling offenders to make reparations and rebuild their lives.

DVD / 2017 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adults) / 87 minutes

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Director: Matthew Ornstein

Musician Daryl Davis has an unusual hobby. He's played all over the world with legends like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, but it's what Daryl does in his free time that sets him apart. In an effort to find out how anyone can "hate me without knowing me," he takes an interesting line of research. Daryl likes to meet and befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan - something few black men can say. In his travels, he's collected robes and other artifacts from friends who have left the Klan, building a collection piece by piece, story by story, and person by person in hopes of eventually opening a "Museum of the Klan" - a testimony to what knowledge and respectful, personal communication can accomplish. In Accidental Courtesy, Daryl's journey takes him across the country, from DC to California, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama, from old friends who have left the Klan, to friends still active in the organization, including a current Imperial Wizard of the KKK. In an age of digital disconnection, Daryl's method is rooted in personal interaction and we as viewers reap the rewards.

DVD / 2016 / 96 minutes

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Director: Fred Peabody

Independent journalists like Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Matt Taibbi are changing the face of journalism, providing investigative, adversarial alternatives to mainstream, corporate news outlets. Our cameras follow as they expose government and corporate deception - just as the ground-breaking independent journalist I.F. Stone did decades ago.

DVD / 2016 / 91 minutes

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Director: Garrett Zevgetis

Off a dirt road in rural Maine, a precocious 20-year-old woman named Michelle Smith lives with her mother Julie. Michelle is quirky and charming, legally blind and diagnosed on the autism spectrum, with big dreams and varied passions. Searching for connection, Michelle explores love and empowerment outside the limits of "normal" through a provocative sex-positive community. Michelle's joyful story of self-discovery celebrates outcasts everywhere.

DVD / 2016 / 91 minutes

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Directed by Steve Alves

The deep history of cooperatives in America -- the country's longest-surviving alternative economic system.

FOOD FOR CHANGE looks at the current resurgence of food cooperatives in America and their unique historic place in the economic and political landscape. Born in the heartland, cooperatives are seen as the middle path between Wall Street and Socialism.

The film profiles several food co-ops that have revived neighborhoods and communities - right in the shadows of corporate agribusinesses and supermarket chains. It's an inspiring example of community-centered economies thriving in an age of globalization.

DVD / 2016 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adults) / 82 minutes

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Director: Donald Rayne Mitchell

The 20th century was a dangerous time to be young: a multitude of diseases too often kept children from reaching even their teenage years. Millions suffered and died. From that environment one man would emerge to lead a revolution in vaccine innovation that would save many millions of young lives every year; the greatest scientist of the 20th century, and no one knows his name.

Maurice Hilleman had a singular, unwavering focus: to eliminate the diseases of children. From his poverty-stricken youth on the plains of Montana, Hilleman came to prevent pandemic flu, invent the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, and develop the first-ever vaccine against human cancer. Responsible for more than half of the vaccines children receive today, he is credited with saving more than eight million lives every year. Now through exclusive interviews with Dr. Hilleman and his peers, rare archival footage, and 3-D animation, this documentary puts a human face to vaccine science, revealing the character that drove this bold, complex, and heroic man.

When parents began choosing not to vaccinate their children in the 1990s, a cruel irony became clear; Hilleman's unprecedented successes have allowed us to forget just how devastating childhood diseases can be.

DVD / 2016 / 67 minutes

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Directed by Thomas Bena

Trophy homes threaten Martha's Vineyard. When he feels he is complicit in wrecking the place he calls home, one carpenter takes off his tool belt and picks up a camera.

Gentrification comes in many forms. On the tiny island of Martha's Vineyard, where presidents and celebrities vacation, trophy homes threaten to destroy the island's unique character.

Twelve years in the making, ONE BIG HOME follows one carpenter's journey to understand the trend toward giant houses. When he feels complicit in wrecking the place he calls home, Thomas Bena takes off his tool belt and picks up a camera. Bumping up against angry homeowners and builders who look the other way, he works with his community and attempts to pass a new bylaw to limit house size.

DVD / 2016 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adults) / 88 minutes

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Directed by Steve Liss, Andy Laub, David Abel

Captures the collapse of the historic cod population in New England, delving into the effects of overfishing, climate change and government policies on fishermen and the fish.

For centuries, cod was like gold, driving men to extremes. Cod were so abundant in the waters off New England that fishermen used to say they could walk across the Atlantic on the backs of them, and generations of men from places like Gloucester and Cape Cod spent their entire lives chasing the coveted fish.

In recent decades, something began to change in the Gulf of Maine. As the region's cod catch plummeted, government surveys of the iconic species reported increasingly dire results. Scientists and environmental activists raised alarms about overfishing and the warming ocean. They urged officials to act.

On Nov. 10, 2014, after years of ignoring warnings, NOAA officials banned virtually all cod fishing throughout the region. Fishermen were infuriated. They challenged the findings and accused the government of trying to destroy their livelihood. Environmental activists feared the government's action had come too late to save the cod.

In 2016, officials estimated there were fewer than 200 cod fishermen left in the fleet, and they're now in the fight of their lives, struggling to hold fast to a tradition that has endured for centuries in New England.

SACRED COD gives us an up close look at the challenges many will have to face in the age of climate change.

DVD / 2016 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adults) / 65 minutes

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Director: Maria Schrader

The official Austrian entry for Foreign Language Feature at 2016 Oscars, Stefan Zweig: Farewell To Europe tells the story of the Austrian writer and his life in exile from 1936 to 1942. Zweig was one of the most famous writers of his time, but as a Jewish intellectual he struggled to find the right stance towards the events in Nazi Germany. Driven to emigrate to South America at the peak of his worldwide fame, Zweig fell into despair at the sight of Europe's downfall.

This visually stunning and emotionally powerful film explores what it means to be a refugee, and exposes the difficult decision to speak out or remain silent in the face of tyranny.

DVD (German, English, Portuguese, French & Spanish with English Subtitles) / 2016 / 106 minutes

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Director: Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker

Unlocking the Cage follows animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. Arguing that cognitively complex animals such as chimpanzees, whales, dolphins and elephants have the capacity for limited personhood rights, Steve and his legal team are making history by filing the first lawsuits that seek to transform a chimpanzee from a "thing" with no rights to a "person" with legal protections. Unlocking the Cage captures a monumental shift in our culture, as the public and judicial system show increasing receptiveness to Steve's impassioned arguments. It is an intimate look at a lawsuit that could forever transform our legal system, and one man's lifelong quest to protect "nonhuman" animals.

DVD / 2016 / 91 minutes

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Directors: Dave Davidson & Amber Edwards

What does it take to keep Jazz Age music going strong in the 21st century? Two words: Vince Giordano -- a bandleader, musician, historian, scholar, collector, and NYC institution. For nearly 40 years, Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks have brought the joyful syncopation of the 1920s and '30s to life with their virtuosity, vintage musical instruments, and more than 60,000 period band arrangements. This beautifully crafted documentary offers an intimate and energetic portrait of a truly devoted musician and preservationist, taking us behind the scenes of the recording of HBO's Grammy award-winning Boardwalk Empire soundtrack, and alongside Giordano as he shares his passion for hot jazz with a new generation of music and swing-dance fans. - Jacob Burns Film Center

DVD / 2016 / 90 minutes

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Directed by Sharon Shattuck

Tells the story of a love, and family, that survived the most intimate of transformations.

With her own wedding just around the corner, filmmaker Sharon Shattuck returns home to examine the mystery at the heart of her upbringing: How her transgender father Trisha and her straight-identified mother Marcia stayed together against all odds. From This Day Forward is a moving portrayal of an American family coping with the most intimate of transformations.

As the film evolves into a conversation about love and acceptance in a modern American family, it raises questions relevant to all of us. As individuals how do we adapt to sustain long-term love and relationships? Where do sexuality and gender intersect? And how do families stay together, when external forces are pulling them apart?

DVD / 2015 / (Grades 6-12, College, Adults) / 76 minutes

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Directed by Ian Cheney

A quest to understand the origins of this ubiquitous, spicy red chicken dish and to explore the history of Chinese-American food.

This mouthwateringly entertaining film travels the globe to unravel a captivating culinary mystery. General Tso's Chicken is a staple of Chinese-American cooking, and a ubiquitous presence on restaurant menus across the country. But just who was General Tso? And how did his chicken become emblematic of an entire national cuisine?

Director Ian Cheney journeys from Shanghai to New York to the American Midwest and beyond to uncover the origins of this iconic dish, turning up surprising revelations and a host of humorous characters along the way. Told with the verve of a good detective story, THE SEARCH FOR GENERAL TSO is as much about food as it is a tale of the American immigrant experience.

DVD / 2014 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adults) / 73 minutes

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