Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Thursday, Sep 18, 2014

“My father told me, this is a dark organization, don’t go there.” Gonen Ben Itzhak sets up the moment when he decided to join Shin Bet, the Israeli secret security service, with his reaction to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “I was shocked like everybody else,” he says, “I felt I needed to do something for my country.” His belief that joining Shin Bet appeared to be that something initiates the unresolved, perhaps irresolvable, conundrum at the center of The Green Prince, open in theaters 12 September. That conundrum begins with definitions and expectations, of self and nation, individual and community, morality, vengeance, and survival. The Palestinians were enemies, even the idea of Palestine was an existential threat to Israel, and so Itzhak embraced his work as a handler of double agents for Shin Bet, believing that the lines were clearly drawn. They were not. As it tells the story of Itzhak’s complicated relationship with one of these, Mosab Hassan Yousef, also known as “Son of Hamas,” Nadav Schirman’s film blurs lines as well, between drama and documentary, truth and desire, intersecting stories framed by smart edits between reenactments, archival footage, and interviews. 


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Friday, Aug 29, 2014
The work of Dr. Susan Robinson forms the focus of Martha Shane and Lana Wilson's intelligent, conscientious documentary, After Tiller, premiering on PBS' POV series on September 1.

“Of course you don’t want an abortion. Nobody wants an abortion.”


Dr. Susan Robinson provides abortions, in particular, for women in their third trimesters who, for any number of reasons, need to end their pregnancies. Robinson is one of four such providers in the US who do this work, work they once did with Dr. George Tiller and work they now continue to do, after his 2009 murder in his church in Wichita. The work, and more importantly, the people who choose to do it, form the focus of Martha Shane and Lana Wilson’s intelligent, conscientious documentary, After Tiller, premiering on PBS’ POV series on September 1.


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Monday, Sep 23, 2013
Janet Mino patiently coaxes her students to say what they feel and to feel safe. Some are afraid, some are frustrated, and some are eager; all sit in her classroom at John F. Kennedy High School in Newark, New Jersey, and all have special needs.

Each day, Janet Mino patiently coaxes her students to say what they feel and to feel safe. Some are afraid, some are frustrated, and some are eager; all sit in her classroom at John F. Kennedy High School in Newark, New Jersey, and all have special needs. As you see right away in Samantha Buck’s documentary Best Kept Secret, premiering on PBS’ POV Documentary Series on 23 September, Mino and her associates, other teachers, counselors, and staff members, are deeply committed to the individuals in their care, a number that includes the students and their families.


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Monday, Sep 9, 2013
As the Obama Administration and its allies contemplate entering into another world policing situation, everyone might do well to consider multiple consequences.

As the Obama Administration and its allies contemplate entering into another world policing situation, everyone might do well to consider multiple consequences. While the advocates of missile strikes insist that the US will not enter into war or “boots on the ground.” One looming example of good intentions going wrong is the Iraq War, a lingering US misadventure. “There is the impression in the United States that Iraq had some problems in 2005 and 2006, but then we sent more troops, we sent Petraeus, and we won the war and we solved all of the problems. And so now there’s no more violence and the Iraqis who worked for us are in peace and they can just go home.”


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Monday, Jun 17, 2013
Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall spend a year with David Kato, tracking this bold gay rights activist's efforts and confidence, his infectious good humor and his terrific charisma.

It took David Kato some time to discover his calling, his identity as a gay man in Uganda and, beyond that, as a courageous fighter for gay civil rights. As he recalls in Call Me Kuchu, he came to his self-understanding when he left Uganda, briefly, in 1992. On arriving in South Africa, he remembers, he stayed at a YMCA. “I saw these men on the street,” he says, and when he asked what they were selling, wondering whether it was “gold or diamonds,” he was told they were selling themselves. He was further surprised when he learned that these men sold themselves to other men. “I said, ‘For what?’” Here David exaggerates his response, cocking his head to the side. “I said, ‘Ahh.’ And I’ve always wanted men, so I went to the street.” Returning to Uganda, he cofounded SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda), and took up a series of public and legal campaigns against various sorts of homophobia, particularly concerning newspapers outing and targeting individuals. The filmmakers, Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, spend a year with Kato, tracking and commending his efforts and confidence, his infectious good humor and his terrific charisma.


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