Don McLeroy is a believer. He believes in God, in the Bible, and in the need to ensure that all children come to believe what he does. In The Revisionaries, airing 28 January on PBS, he makes his case again and again, in the office where he works as a dentist, in the church where he serves as a pastor, before assorted cameras, and as a member of the Texas State Board of Education. Scott Thurman’s documentary charts the inspiration SBOE Chairman McLeroy provides for other board members, like Cynthia Dunbar (who served from 2007-2011), as they insist that science classes in Texas teach intelligent design, given that evolution is just a “theory.” The “power” here has to do with Texas’ influence on textbook selections around the nation: it has to do with numbers, as textbook publishers endeavor to serve (profit from) those schools ordering the most books. Well aware of this power, the Texas School Board creationists in the 1980s made a case for teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution: this language is challenged in 2008, and The Revisionaries follows the battle between McLeroy’s Republicans and a set of opponents, including Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education and Steve Schafersman, of Texas Citizens for Science.
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Skye, Garrison, and Kevin live in Canyon County, California. Here they observe adults, look for distractions, and find themselves. Skaters and rebels, smart kids and members of the Ignition Skate ministry, they’re romantics, too. They have a sense of a future that has little and also everything to do with their present, life in a small town where houses are flat and horizons limited. With the filmmakers of the documentary Only the Young, the kids both share and shape their experiences. The film, screening at the Doc Yard 28 January, followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Jason Tippet, is a collaboration as much as it is a revelation, and in that, it pushes the edges of documentary and fiction, articulating both realities and fantasies, feelings and fears. Tracking the teenagers over a few months, the film is remarkably composed, full of poetic images of skate ramps and shadows framing the boys’ lithe, athletic crouches. In their bedrooms, where they build models of the ramps, they keep their boards close, balanced across their long white legs as they imagine what’s coming next.
See PopMatters’ review.
Two scenes introduce the doubled focus of Five Broken Cameras. First, the population of Bil’in’s collective efforts to resist a coming Israeli settlement, and second, the filmmaker Emad Burnat’s efforts to make sense of the resulting chaos. “I was born and lived all my life in Bil’in,” he says. He used to work alongside his father picking olives, but more and more, the land where the olive trees grow is being claimed by Israelis. As his future changes before him, Emad also thinks about his past, his father and his four sons. The youngest is born in 2005, just as Emad begins recording events in earnest). The “land of my childhood and his birth,” Emad observes, will never be the same.
“Why would you ever take in a stranger?” The question posed by FBI agent Nancy Fisher comes late in The Imposter. Bart Layton’s fascinating film, recently short-listed by the Academy Award for Best Documentary, traces the case of Frédéric Bourdin, one of the stranger strangers you might imagine. In 1997, the 23-year-old called the police in Linares, Spain, pretending to be a tourist who’d discovered a traumatized boy in a phone booth. When the police arrived, Bourdin pretended to be the boy; taken to the police station, he was left alone in an office where he found the name of a missing boy from San Antonio, Texas, Nicholas Barclay. He then pretended to be Nick, whose family, desperate to find him, took in.
When Mildred and Richard Loving were married in 1958, they became criminals. She was black and he was white, and so their union violated Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. On July 14 in 1958, they were arrested: “They came one night and they knocked a couple times,” remembers Mildred. “I heard ‘em, and before I could get up, you know, they just broke the door open and came on in. When we got up they were standing by the bed, with flashlights.” The sheriff asked who she was, and she answered: “I said, ‘I’m his wife, and the sheriff said, ‘Not here, you’re not.’”