The Chile of Patricio Guzmán’s childhood is long gone, a collective history he’s explored in other films. But Nostalgia for the Light (Nostalgia de la luz), premiering on PBS on 25 October, looks at that history in brilliant new ways, articulating two searches for the past. One is a pursuit of scientific knowledge, the evidence to support theories of how life began and what might be coming for the planet earth; it’s conducted by astronomers via the world’s largest optical telescope (called the European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT) located in Chile’s Atacama desert. The other, ongoing since 1990, is undertaken by the relatives of victims of August Pinochet’s dictatorship: they seek remains and stories, knowledge of how their loved ones died. Both searches, the film points out, involve bodies, material and celestial, and both are endless.
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“There’s fans, then there’s Kansas fans, then there’s Josh,” says Daymion Mardel. He’s Josh Swade’s friend, according to his credit in There’s No Place Like Home, and his description frames the story of Josh’s efforts to bring James Naismith’s original “Rules of Basketball” to Kansas University. Because Naismith coached and taught at KU for 40 years, Josh reasons, the Allen Fieldhouse is the document’s rightful home.
“He wants to get inside me, in awful ways, to squeeze me out until there’s nothing left inside.” I suppose it’s helpful that Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) is so articulate—so poetic and so precise—when she describes her relationship with her director, Alfred Hitchcock (Toby Jones). But it’s also acutely disconcerting, that she is so able to maintain her self-awareness amid a series of abuses and threats during the two films she makes with him, The Birds and Marnie. You always knew there was something dreadful about these two movies—the aggressions against her, by all manner of fowl and Sean Connery—and HBO’s The Girl offers some detail (based on Donald Spoto’s Hitchock books, including Spellbound By Beauty: Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies (2008). In this version of Hitch (as he invites his new mentee to call him), he is calculating and also unnervingly out-of-control, admired and cruel. He torments Hedren on the set in front of everyone, has her endure attacks by real birds for five days in order to obtain the genuine terror on her face in the notorious Birds attic scene. He also leans in too close, pesters her with stories about cocks, invites her to touch his, paws her and bullies her, all, he says, to make her a great movie star. “There’s only so much I can teach you through kindness,” he explains.
“Right now, I’m creating an opportunity for me and my family,” announces Lemon Andersen. Newly released from prison back to the projects, he means to make changes, to look ahead, to survive. The hope and the promise sound familiar enough, at the start of Lemon. But Laura Brownson and Beth Levison’s documentary, premiering 19 October on Voces and available on DVD and VOD, goes on to complicate this story, exploring how the collisions of poverty and celebrity produce stereotypes, myths, and also forms of truth.
“To Fidel, everything had to be the greatest in the world,” says Selma Diaz. “To him, they were the best in the world, not just the best in Latin America. They had to be the best schools of art in the world.” Under her narration, the camera in Unfinished Spaces makes its way along brick corridors and up stone stairways. As the structure appears both old and empty, in some disrepair, you might guess this journey is coming to an end even as she remembers its origins.
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