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Recommended Viewing: March 2011

DVDgenericCheck out this month's selection of DVDs for creative thinkers.









13 March 2011

Transcendant Man
Director: Barry Ptolemy
Available from Transcendant Man

Transcendant_ManThe compelling feature-length documentary film, by director Barry Ptolemy, chronicles the life and controversial ideas of luminary Ray Kurzweil. For more than three decades, inventor, futures, and New York Times best-selling author Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future.

In Transcendent Man, Ptolemy follows Kurzweil around the globe as he presents the daring arguments from his best-selling book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Kurzweil predicts that with the ever-accelerating rate of technological change, humanity is fast approaching an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly non-biological and millions of times more powerful.

This will be the dawning of a new civilization enabling us to transcend our biological limitations. In Kurzweil's post-biological world, boundaries blur between human and machine, real and virtual. Human ageing and illness are reversed, world hunger and poverty are solved, and we cure death.

Ptolemy explores the social and philosophical implications of these changes and the potential threats they pose to human civilization in dialogues with world leader Colin Powell; technologists Hugo deGaris, Peter Diamandis, Kevin Warwick, and Dean Kamen; journalist Kevin Kelly; actor William Shatner; and musician Stevie Wonder. Kurzweil maintains a radically optimistic view of the future, while acknowledging new dangers.

Award-winning American composer Philip Glass contributes original theme music that mirrors the depth and intensity of the film.

A Film Unfinished
Director: Yael Hersonski
Available from A Film Unfinished

a_film_unfinishedAt the end of WWII, 60 minutes of raw film, having sat undisturbed in an East German archive, was discovered. Shot by the Nazis in Warsaw in May 1942, and labeled simply "Ghetto," this footage quickly became a resource for historians seeking an authentic record of the Warsaw Ghetto.However, the later discovery of a long-missing reel, inclusive of multiple takes and cameraman staging scenes, complicated earlier readings of the footage.

A Film Unfinished presents the raw footage in its entirety, carefully noting fictionalized sequences (including a staged dinner party) falsely showing "the good life" enjoyed by Jewish urbanites, and probes deep into the making of a now-infamous Nazi propaganda film.

A Film Unfinished is a film of enormous import, documenting some of the worst horrors of our time and exposing the efforts of its perpetrators to propel their agenda and cast it in a favorable light.

As part of the Final Solution for the Jews, the massive transfer of Jews to impossibly unlivable urban ghettos was a key tool used by the Nazis to eviscerate the Jews of Europe; ghettos were often the last transit point before deportation to gassing and liquidation centers.

Of the many ghettos, the Warsaw Ghetto, which was walled in beginning April 1940, was the largest and most notorious of the ghettos of Eastern Europe. Before the German blitzkrieg in September 1939, over 400,000 Jews lived in Warsaw, and were now forced to live in a single zone of the city; over the course of its existence, at least another 200,000 refugees passed through the progressively smaller and more constricted ghetto.

By the summer of 1942, at least 100,000 of these residents died from malnutrition, disease, and starvation, all the result of the draconian limits placed on supplies permitted into the Ghetto. Surrounded by German soldiers and Polish police, and administered internally by a Nazi-appointed "Jews' Council," the residents of the Warsaw Ghetto tried to simultaneously preserve a semblance of normalcy and struggle against the inhumane oppression of the Nazi overlords.

Beginning July 1942 there were near daily deportations by railcar of Jews from the Ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp, and by September, over a quarter of a million captives of the Ghetto were transported to their deaths.

By the beginning of 1943 there were less than 100,000 Jews left in a far smaller ghetto. Another round of deportations led to an armed and open resistance; the most famous, but by no means the only, example of a ghetto uprising. Between April and June 1943 the largely young remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto engaged the Nazi forces in urban guerilla warfare.

While some of the first skirmishes caught the Germans off guard, eventually the Nazi determination to eliminate all Jews from Warsaw won out, often by simply burning to the ground the surviving structures of the ghetto. By August 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto was liquidated, with only a handful of survivors making it out to the "Aryan" side of town.


The End of Poverty?
Director: Philippe Diaz
Available from The End of Poverty

End_of_PovertyGlobal poverty did not just happen. It began with military conquest, slavery and colonization that resulted in the seizure of land, minerals and forced labor. Today, the problem persists because of unfair debt, trade and tax policies -- in other words, wealthy countries taking advantage of poor, developing countries.

Renowned actor and activist, Martin Sheen, narrates The End of Poverty?, a feature-length documentary directed by award-winning director, Philippe Diaz, which explains how today's financial crisis is a direct consequence of these unchallenged policies that have lasted centuries.

Consider that 20% of the planet's population uses 80% of its resources and consumes 30% more than the planet can regenerate. At this rate, to maintain our lifestyle means more and more people will sink below the poverty line.

Filmed in the slums of Africa and the barrios of Latin America, the film features expert insights from: Nobel prize winners in Economics, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz; acclaimed authors Susan George, Eric Toussaint, John Perkins, Chalmers Johnson; university professors William Easterly and Michael Watts; government ministers such as Bolivia's Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and the leaders of social movements in Brazil, Venezuela, Kenya and Tanzania.

Can we really end poverty within our current economic system? Think again.


Mugabe and the White African
Directors: Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson
First Run Features

Mugabe_White_AfricanMugabe and the White African is the story of one family’s astonishing bravery as they fight to protect their property, their livelihood and their country.

Mike Campbell is one of the few white farmers left in Zimbabwe since its leader, Robert Mugabe, enacted his disastrous land redistribution program. Once the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe has since spiraled into chaos, the economy decimated as farms given to Mugabe cronies are run into ruin.

After enduring years of intimidation and threats, Campbell decides to take action. Unable to call upon help from his country’s authorities, he challenges Mugabe before an international court.


Carbon Connection
Carbon Watch & Fenceline Films
Green Planet Films

Carbon_ConnectionTwo communities affected by one new global market – the trade in carbon dioxide. In Scotland a town has been polluted by oil and chemical companies since the 1940s. In Brazil local people's water and land is being swallowed up by destructive monoculture eucalyptus tree plantations.

Both communities now share a new threat. As part of the deal to reduce greenhouse gases that cause dangerous climate change, major polluters can now buy carbon credits that allow them to pay someone else to reduce emissions instead of cutting their own pollution.

What this means for those living next to the oil industry in Scotland is the continuation of pollution caused by their toxic neighbours.

Meanwhile in Brazil the schemes that generate carbon credits gives an injection of cash for more planting of the damaging eucalyptus tree.

The two communities are now connected by bearing the brunt of the new trade in carbon dioxide. The Carbon Connection follows the story of two groups of people from each community who learned to use video cameras and made their own films about living with the impacts of the trade in carbon.

From mental health issues in Scotland to the loss of medicinal plants in Brazil, the communities discover the connections they have with each other and the film follows them on this journey.


Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
Director: Tamra Davis
Hopscotch Films

JeanMichelBasquiatAs an artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a phenomenon. He became notorious for his graffiti art under the moniker “Samo” in the late 1970s, sold his first painting to Deborah Harry for $200, and became close friends with Andy Warhol.

Appreciated by both the art cognoscenti and the wider community, Basquiat was unwittingly launched into international stardom.

Budding filmmaker Tamra Davis first met Basquiat in 1983 while working at an LA art gallery. In 1985 she filmed casual, unguarded interviews with her friend and it is this never-before-seen footage that forms the basis of this intimate and revealing tribute.

Davis paints a vivid picture of life in New York in the 1970s, a period during which everyone and anyone who wanted to be an artist came together to form a sublime and unique underground community.

It was a world in which Basquiat earned cult status, but the pressure, affluence and notoriety that came with this label would ultimately trigger the artist’s demise through drug addiction leading to his untimely death in 1988 at the age of 27.

Featuring interviews with Basquiat’s girlfriend of the time Suzanne Mallouk, filmmaker Julian Schnabel, art dealer Bruno Bischofberger, hip hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy and many others, Davis has crafted an incredibly rich and compassionate portrait of one of the 20th century’s most important and enigmatic artists.





DVDs selected by Katrina Fox, Editor-in Chief.

For details of where to send review copies, click on the Contact menu.



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