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Thursday, Jul 26, 2012
Filmed before the protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March 2011, Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix's documentary offers a glimpse at the thin line some Muslim women must walk.

“The world is in turmoil,” observes 20-year-old Enas al-Khaldi, a Qu’ran student in Damascus. “There’s terrorism and a sheikh is talking about how thick a woman’s socks should be!” Enas and her classmates describe their education as crucial to their futures, as well as Syria’s. “Before, a woman was a prisoner in her own home,” another girl says. “There is a saying that a woman only goes two places, to her husband’s house, and then to her grave. This was a really dangerous thing.”


The girls’ understanding of history and enthusiasm for their future are at the center of The Light in Her Eyes. Filmed before the protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March 2011, Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix’s documentary—airing as part of PBS’ POV series on TV and online—offers a glimpse at the thin line some Muslim women must walk. It also shows how Enas came by her commitment, namely, her mother, Houda Al-Habash. A preacher who runs a school for girls, Houda remembers, “When I was growing up, in my religious school, there were only four or five girls who had memorized the Book of God. Now there are thousands.” This despite a continuing effort by conservative clerics to suppress women’s education, efforts made visible here in a series of video pronouncements: “If a woman does as the prophet says, then she should stay home as much as possible,” or again, “Reading, for women, it is not required for them at all.”


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Sunday, Jul 22, 2012

“I think the really important part of this trip,” says Heather Tehrani, “is for Alex’s dad to have completion of our wedding.” Just so, the couple—both born in the US—plan to travel from New York City, where they live, to Iran, where they mean to have a second, Muslim, wedding ceremony. The trip will be complicated, as travel between the US and Iran has been for decades, and their parents—in particular their fathers—are not inclined to support it. The complications are documented in Arusi Persian Wedding, a film by Alex’s sister Marjan Tehrani available on Global Voices and online Global Voices beginning on 22 July. While the wedding provides compelling visuals and some minor melodrama (concerning Heather’s decision to convert, on paper, to Islam from her vague Christianity, as well as her dress, as the one she brings along from the States must be replaced, according to her new relatives and family friends), the film is most interesting as it integrates its personal stories within a broad historical context.


See PopMatters‘s review.



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Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012
Real Sports correspondent Frank Deford investigates the brutal hazing performed by marching bands, specifically, the death last year of Florida A&M University's drum major Robert Champion.

Real Sports correspondent Frank Deford investigates the brutal hazing performed by marching bands, specifically, the death last year of Florida A&M University’s drum major Robert Champion. Visibly frustrated by his interviewees’ apparent lack of candor, Deford makes the obvious point, that “The bands make so much money for the schools and are so popular that administrators don’t punish them.”


“I was caught up in the moment,” says Rikki Wills, “I wasn’t doing it to hurt him. I didn’t want the tradition to die.” Frank Deford sits across from him, not even trying to hide his disbelief. “Why,” he asks, “is it a good tradition?” Wills has answers, none convincing. “It kind of builds up a camaraderie, builds up a brotherhood,” he says. “We play the same instruments, we ate together, studied together, and got hazed together.” Here the segment on this week’s episode of Real Sports with Bryan Gumbel cuts away from Wills, to Baton Rouge ADA Steve Danielson, currently prosecuting the murder case against Wills and 12 other individuals in the 2011 hazing death of Robert Champion, a drum major at Florida A&M University. Danielson says hazing has “gotten out of hand,” necessitating intervention by the legal system.


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Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012
Premiering 17 July on PBS, Debra Morton's short documentary follows the EVX Team's participation in the 2010 Automotive X Prize, which takes them from Philadelphia to Michigan International Speedway.

“There was a need to engage students,” says Simon Hauger, a math and science teacher at West Philly High. “The normal curriculum was boring and kids are disinterested.” His answer was cars. More specifically, as recounted in the new Frontline, Fast Times at Philly High, the answer was hybrid vehicles, designed and built by Hauger’s Hybrid EVX Team. Comprised of 20 students in an after-school program, they’ve been building successful, prize-winning vehicles for 12 years, competing with other high schools, universities, and professional teams.


Premiering 17 July on PBS, Debra Morton’s short documentary follows the EVX Team’s participation in the 2010 Automotive X Prize, which takes them from the garage at Philadelphia’s Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering to Michigan International Speedway. Here they enter cars in the Mainstream and the Alternative classes, both using unusual hybrid drivetrains.


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Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012
NY Med confirms two notions: your fear of hospitals is well founded. And the people in them do their best to get you through it.

“You aim not to be surprised, but surgery is basically dealing with a deck of cards that you never know how they’re gonna work out when you turn them over.” Arundi Mahendran smiles as she speaks, an exhausted, slightly ironic, utterly convincing smile. A surgical resident at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, she’s one of several subjects in Ny Med, an eight-part series starting 10 July on ABC. Like Terence Wrong’s previous series, Boston Med, Hopkins, and Hopkins 24/7, it observes doctors and nurses at work. They talk with patients, perform surgeries, and describe their complex feelings about what you’re watching. When Mehmet Oz meets with Jack Abramson, facing heart surgery, he wonders why he’s come to the hospital alone. Dr. Oz insists that Jack call his ex-wife, confiding to the camera, “I didn’t voice this too firmly to him, but I’m very concerned whenever a patient walks into my office without family. It’s a very concerning sign because it means that they may be isolated socially.” Jack’s ex is plainly thrilled to be contacted by the celebrity doctor, and as hey make jokes about that, it’s also plain that the effects of recording such medical dramas (and traumas) are inevitably mixed.


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