New on Must See Movies

Must-See Movies—For What You Need to Know

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are newly-listed films on this website:

Fed Up

Documentary 2014 PG 90 minutes. Childhood obesity has become an ever-more serious medical issue in the United States. This eye-opening documentary examines the underlying causes behind the epidemic, including the marketing strategies of major U.S. food producers. I’ve seen Dr. Robert Lustig’s famous sugar lecture on YouTube and other documentaries concerning this issues, but when all the facts come together the result is astounding. This is a movie that every parent should see to understand the way in which they could be risking their children’s health, and their own with excessive and dangerous sugar consumption. A very good parallel is drawn with the tobacco industry, how they continued to fight for decades against the overwhelming evidence that their product caused cancer. Now the food industry is doing the same, desperately calling efforts to modify food, particularly processed food, as the actions of ‘a nanny state’. I urge you to see this movie and make your own mind up. See Full Review

Waging a Living

Waging a Living is a thought-provoking documentary that tests the mantra “get a job” to see whether low-wage jobholders — otherwise known as the “working poor” — can pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Filmed in California, New York and New Jersey over a three-year period, the film tracks the ups and downs of four ethnically diverse Americans living below the poverty line on minimum wages as they face a persistent struggle to make ends meet. A very good look at the working poor in America told through the eyes of: 1. a newly divorced mother, 2. a former drug addict who cleaned himself up and works a full time job, 3. a divorced mother of three who also is supporting a very sick adult daughter plus four grandchildren on a single paycheck, 4. and a single mother from a broken home with one sick child who tries to further her education while on minimum wage. Thought-provoking and interesting situations. A film that will resonate with people in different ways. This revealing documentary asks us to consider how the American Dream actually works. It’s the lowly journey of the many, versus the upward destination of the few, that’s worth considering. From one perspective, if you’re fortunate, this film likely will reinforce your belief in your superior intelligence and strategic life choices — perhaps even your genetics. After all, why would hard times fall on any but the inferior? This reminds me of Job’s friends in the Bible, who insisted he must have done something to deserve all his suffering. But from the opposite perspective, if you’re less than fortunate, say having been downsized or divorced or challenged by illness, you’ll have understanding and compassion for the human struggles in this film. To work so hard and receive so little in return doesn’t sound like a “dream” to me. As one says, “I’m hustling backwards”, and another says, “Steal my identity, please do.” Excellent documentary that shows the real struggles of the working poor. It seems quite authentic, because it took me back to those days when, even though I was making more than minimum wage, it was still tough to make it from paycheck to paycheck. I am amazed at how these people survive on so little. This is the reality of life in America for so many Americans who have low wage jobs. They are stuck barely scraping by, with no insurance, no job security, but still working 40+ hours per week. The stories are gripping and each is unique, each person has their own reasons for getting stuck in the cycle of the low wage jobs. And these reasons are why most Americans end up in poverty: those reasons being divorce, illness, unstable & abusive childhood, and drug & alcohol addiction. Viewing this doc is like reading someone’s biography, but starting at chapter 10. Since the producer gives no background information about the four subjects’ earlier years, the viewer is forced to concoct his own. Strictly guessing here (what else can I do?), I visualized these people as wasting their formative teenage years choosing a good time over a good education. So such is the price one pays for making bad decisions. A common theme is the plight of broken families where separation/divorce and providing for children has caused great hardships that led to misery. My overwhelming sadness in viewing this is for their children who bear no responsibility in the cruel fate they were dealt. My sympathy goes out to the children. The part that bothers me about it is when there are so many kids in the mix. If you don’t have any savings, or don’t have a stable job, or don’t have a stable marriage, why are you bringing 4 or 5 children into the world? Contraception is not very expensive! For example, the mother of five children. For some time now birth control has been readily available and inexpensive to purchase. Try using it……it’s much cheaper and easier to deal with than a child. Why should other taxpayers pay for your failure to plan? I’m all for helping out people fallen on hard times for unexpected things that can happen to anyone (for instance, Hurricane Katrina, etc.). But for people with no savings and a bad marriage and low paying jobs to have five kids is really not too smart. So this is a fairly accurate, exasperating look at how the working poor eek out their lives in our brutal freakonomy. But I found it somewhat difficult to feel sorry for, or identify with, some of the people featured. The people in this film – how to put it politely? – I don’t want to say, “Well, it kind of figures.” but, one guy in it is a reformed alcoholic, one woman grew up as an abused child, and some of them have way too many kids than they should have thought of having. I would have really liked to see someone who didn’t have kids because they were smart enough to know better, who got the education, who tried to connect all the dots…and yet still failed to achieve the dream. I would have liked to have seen at least one of the subjects from my own demographic: a highly educated person who can barely get work, even though (s)he did everything right. Such a film would have gotten the point across better, in my humble opinion. The widening gap between the rich and the poor is seriously worrying and so unjust. It raises doubts about the idea that the capitalist system is the best system — and that if you work hard you’ll get rich. Nonetheless, the film does have a happy ending (sort of) and everything seems to work out for the most part. The stories of a waitress, health care aide, or security guard, are as compelling as those of a member of the Kennedy or Bush clan. Please–take a look at four true American’s and decide for yourself who the real heroes are in the world. This is an excellent documentary. documentary that really shows you were we are at economically as a country. It shows how hard it is for those on the bottom, but this film also has a lot of good moments. I found myself really wrapped up in the lives of the four characters, eager to see how things would work out for each. Never a dull moment here. A well-made film, that can be difficult to watch at times, but you find yourself falling in love with its subjects! I was moved to tears several times — out of joy and out of sadness. These people are working very hard, but yet they still struggle to make ends meet. Normally you think if you work hard you can get ahead. But it wasn’t that easy for these people. Definitely watch the 30 minute extra at the end about a refugee named Rosevelt Henderson from Liberia who lives in Chicago — this guy is inspiring! He had to leave his wife and unborn child in Liberia due to the war, but he has his daughter and grandchild, father, mother, and two sons living with him. Having not been born in America, he does not have a sense of “entitlement” whereby he expects the government to just give him stuff. He loves America for giving him the opportunity to mop floors, drive an airport shuttle bus, fold boxes, etc. He, being paid minimum wage, is living the American Dream and loving it. He too gets laid off, but somehow he keeps a good attitude. I think his experience in Liberia makes him realize that the USA is a much better place no matter how little money he makes. He said working hard gets you the American dream. And also, it was wonderful to see the love he and his wife have for one another and for their children — a wonderful family! However, be aware that this Liberian refugee story has some brief yet horrific war footage from that country, including an execution in the streets that is not for everyone to view. So in conclusion, this documentary sheds light on an issue that I just hadn’t really thought about before. It deals with a very difficult issue that is invisible to most people I know — the working poor. What I think is the saddest thing about the film is that more people don’t get to see it. If people watched this film, then maybe some things would change. This film appeared on the POV series on Public Broadcasting (PBS). Documentary 2004 NR 85 minutes.

United States of Secrets

United States of Secrets is a two-part documentary in which “Frontline” investigates the secret history of the unprecedented surveillance program that began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and continues today. Right after we were attacked by terrorists in 2001, these men in the government stole our civil liberties. The film’s focus is on the National Security Agency (NSA), and its surveillance programs that came to light with the Snowden Leaks. The film first delves briefly into the history of the NSA, explaining that it was founded to prevent another Pearl Harbor. The NSA is a United States intelligence agency responsible for global monitoring, collection, decoding, translation and analysis of information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. Watch as our intelligence service grows from having no information so they can’t see a sneak attack coming (9/11) — to having so much information they can’t see a sneak attack coming (US Embassy, Libya) — or even notice that a low-level computer clerk (Snowden) is swiping classified documents by the thumb-drive-full. The timeline of the first episode begins on September 11, 2001, and talks about the reaction within the NSA and Washington to the attacks. From there it chronicles the proposals, conception, implementation, and growth of the various programs that the NSA uses to collect data. This documentary goes into great detail about the controversy of those programs, and highlights the internal discourse within the NSA over the legality and ethics of the programs. This documentary manages to interview many of the key players involved. Overall, Frontline does a wonderful job of going through the story in detail and providing interviews from both whistle-blowers and the Washington scum who cooked up and carried out this heinous scheme. It does a great job of showing both sides of the argument. Frontline provides interviews from a wide spectrum of top-ranked government officials. It also provides clarity and answers about the past cover-ups and those that continue. One thing that infuriates me is how self-righteous both presidents and their cronies were when whistle-blowers dared to go public. They unhesitatingly destroy the lives of whistle-blowers, claiming that what they’re doing is treasonous. But it is really these actions of the U.S. government that are completely illegal and unconstitutional to begin with.  Anyone interested enough to watch this probably won’t be surprised at the chilling decay of our civil liberties. It’s been happening for years by politicians on both sides of the aisle. This Frontline special is worth trading any disposable 2 1/2 hours you have for an education and enlightenment about what’s been going on here. This two-part series is nearly flawless and one of the best Frontline productions yet. It captures varying points of view on U.S. surveillance and data collection, its history from a post-9/11 standpoint, whistle-blowing and the media, and the relationship between government surveillance and the web’s private sector. Well-rounded, informative, concise and fair, this Frontline production manages to be both a great introduction to the issue of government surveillance in the digital age, and also engaging for those of us well-educated on the issue. It surely encourages questions and critical thought. This is an excellent, well-produced documentary. I really enjoyed it. Much of the information presented I knew very little about. I would recommend this documentary to all, as it is very interesting and informative. Overall, this is one of the best Frontline docs I’ve seen. This has fully reaffirmed my respect for Frontline. Documentary 2014 TV-PG 2 Episodes.

It Was a Wonderful Life

It Was a Wonderful Life shows that a growing number of middle-class women are forced to live out of their cars following a divorce, job loss or a long illness. They’re clean, educated, articulate, and rarely receive public assistance, as they struggle to survive one day at a time. This film chronicles the hardships and infrequent triumphs of six of these homeless women. I expected to see a documentary about bag ladies who talk to themselves, etc., but this is all about people just like myself. It introduces us to a new sub-genre of unfortunates, the “THE INVISIBLE HOMELESS,” so-called because most of their acquaintances do not realize they are homeless. Looking at them at work you’d never know they had lost their home. These women are educated, hard-working, but homeless. You wonder, how in the hell did this happen to them. These women are people you might know in your everyday life who have had bad things happen — a divorce, loss of a job, loss of a home or apartment, refusal of a divorced spouse to pay child support – if any of those happen, a person or family can be out of their home and onto the street or into their car, with nowhere to turn. These women are not the delusional, dirty, penniless souls we automatically associate with the homeless; rather, they are articulate, smart, well-adjusted, and above all, determined to make their own way. I felt that these women were not only very intelligent, but also competent and sincerely good people. They seem to just have dug themselves a hole and have been unable to climb out. It certainly is easy to believe that all “street people” are homeless because they are all a bunch of lazy drunks or drug addicts, and therefore deserve their misfortune. But the women profiled here were articulate and educated. Much of the blame is on bad relationships with men who did not provide for their future after separation. These unfortunate women defy stereotypical classification; they aren’t the archetypically downtrodden but rather highly educated, well-spoken and talented individuals, who have for a multiplicity of reasons — e.g. divorce, illness, bad investments—slipped through the cracks. Initially it might appear as though they’ve all managed to snatch defeat out of the jaws of expected victory given their aforementioned individual qualities and the upwardly mobile cultural tenor of the 90s, but in truth their hard luck circumstances were in no small part due to factors beyond their control. Delinquent absentee husbands, a pitifully under-funded local housing authority, or a discriminatory city ordinance against sleeping in your car (an overt salvo callously lobbed at the homeless) were complicit in marginalizing these hard-working courageous American women. This film shows how hard it is to get back into the job market or back into a house or apartment once you don’t have one. Their inability to accumulate enough money to pay first and last months’ rent plus security deposit, coupled with their lack of a permanent address & phone number, creates a vicious cycle of homelessness and joblessness. What is so good about this documentary is that you get to know these women well, and none of them strike you as “the homeless type”. They live in cars but don’t call themselves homeless…or helpless. The film may be depressing at times, but its message is one of hope — never give up. The feeling is that one day they’ll turn things around if they just keep going. I hope they do. It also showed some hope as a few of these women were eventually able to break out of the cycle of homelessness. What intrigued me the most is that all these woman had hopes and smiles on their faces – whereas I’ve known people with money who are unhappy and always have something to complain about. This documentary really got to me for several reasons, the first one being that anyone can become homeless, as so many people are only one paycheck away from being homeless. Not much difference between “them” & us, leaving the viewer (especially if you’re a woman) with a renewed awareness of what’s really going on in our society. I don’t think anyone who watches this will walk away without the realization that homelessness could happen to them. It sheds light on the fact that many of us are vulnerable to financial hardship in ways we might not consider. It made me think about ways that I could be more responsible with my own financial life. I used to live in a place where housing costs were and still are astronomical. Losing our home was often a worry that I was forced to think about. I was blessed to have family that could help us out when everything didn’t go as planned financially. I know that some people don’t have that safety net, and their worst fears can become real — as did those of these women. I think that many who watch this documentary might question their own spending habits. This implies the old advice that when times are good, it would be a good idea to save or prepare in some way for a rainy day. And don’t rely on your ex-spouse for financial support. At one point a meter-reader gives one of these homeless women a parking ticket on her car, which is also her house — and so the filmmaker confronts the meter-reader, who says, “Well I’m just one paycheck away from being homeless too. I work two jobs to support my kids.” This movie will make you appreciate everything that you have in your life — all the things you take for granted like a roof over your head, a safe place to sleep, a shower & toilet, nutritious food. I found this movie to be real. I understand their situation because I myself have been there. Fact is, it could happen to many of us quite easily. (Look at the health insurance crisis or the housing collapse). It makes you realize that nothing is “permanent”. You can lose it all tomorrow, so we need to live the moment to the fullest and be happy and be thankful for what we do have. Although this documentary is about the plight of homeless women, being a man I could not deny that homelessness could happen to me too. This is a real kick in the pants for people who say, “It could never happen to me.” The film was sad and it is still bothering me two days after viewing it. This movie has inspired me to do something about the homeless. I talked to some people at work about how I felt about homelessness (something I rarely gave thought to before seeing this film) and the things that I could be doing to help those in unfortunate circumstances. One thing the film didn’t address clearly is how to help if you know someone who may be or soon may become homeless. We must embrace our brothers and sisters and not turn up our nose at someone because they have less than we do. As adroitly depicted in the film, homelessness takes on the quality of a disease the rest of us shun like a highly communicable socio-economic plague. It’s true what one woman said in this film — if you’re not homeless yourself, you don’t really care about the homeless person. I wonder, with all the social, political and economic forces seemingly conspiring against them, why people continue to view homelessness as a purely individual problem. We could be one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. Pay it forward. Help someone. I think the real message is that in any level of class that we’re in, we are all consumed with our own problem which would be considered a minor problem to anyone homeless or people in poverty. We are all selfish. I enjoyed watching this film. This documentary keeps the viewer interested until the end, and concerned for the subjects. Please watch all the way through until the end of the credits for an update on Lou, a woman who lived in a U-Haul — I suspect a lot of people miss that update. By the end of the movie I was in tears. It proved to me, once again, how delicate is the balance of life. I would hope all who do grab on to the handle of life a little harder because it can flip on you. It gets the point across explicitly that homelessness is not just for derelicts any more. It is a cautionary tale against complacency. It shows us how homelessness can overtake almost anyone. Wow, this movie struck a chord in my heart and mind. Powerful stuff here. Everyone needs to see this documentary. I strongly recommend this movie to everyone in all walks of life. This movie is an eye-opener, sad but true. I think all women should see this movie, and it should be required viewing prior to every wedding. This documentary deeply affected me when I saw it and has stayed with me since then. If one of the purposes of a documentary is to embed images in your consciousness, this one succeeded. Well worth the 84 minutes it will take to watch it, if only to stimulate your thinking…and rethinking…of this social issue. I will be viewing it a second time, tomorrow, as it has had a great impact upon me after just seeing it. I rated this documentary as 5 stars because it is extremely enlightening and forcefully informative. Narrated by Jodie Foster. Documentary 1993 NR 84 minutes.

Judgment Day:
Intelligent Design on Trial

Documentary “Nova” series 2007 NR 112 minutes. With this episode, the popular “Nova” series examines the trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a controversial legal battle sparked by a group of science teachers who refused to comply with an order to teach intelligent design (ID). Through scene re-creations, interviews and expert testimony, the program presents the arguments of both sides and illuminates the conflict that thrust the people of Dover into the worldwide spotlight. A fantastic documentary about the absurdity that is “Intelligent Design.” The film explores the religious right’s conscientious attempt at infiltrating the public school system. They wish to inject faith based teaching into science classes and they’re willing to bend their strict morality to do so. The film explores the ‘debate’ between ID and evolution by showcasing a trial that took place in Dover, Pa. Similar to the insanity shown in the Scopes trial in the 1920s, this court case involved a group of teachers who refused to teach ID as science. simply because it’s not. And it’s also about how the school board (on which sat a number of religious folks) who tried to get this pseudo-science into the curriculum. And this doc goes about showing why this isn’t really science and how scientists know that it is not. The doc is put together so well — it’s smart, it’s explanatory, it’s relevant. I highly recommend this doc to all, and especially to people who think it wouldn’t be so bad to teach ID in science class. This shows why that is simply an absurd idea. Apparently those who want to “teach the debate,” as this documentary discusses, are eager to provide an opening for Christianity to take a foothold in schools and use the concept of a ‘designer’ as a sanitized word for God to open the door. Indeed, there is an amusing discovery during the trial where researchers find the “missing link” between creationism and ID. To teach this “debate” in a classroom would do the same disservice to the young as teaching slavery might not have been wrong because the Bible does not condemn it, or that germs might not exist in a health class because no messiah ever discussed them. Such lessons undermine the very purposes and processes the classes are trying to teach. As Americans fall further and further behind in world rankings for science and math, the idea of taking more time out of classes to discuss non-scientific nonsense, concepts that do not engage rigorous thinking, is an insult. The biology teachers who testified in the trial and spoke on this program were aghast at the suggestion. In all, this NOVA production does an excellent job of profiling the debate, re-enacting the case, and contextualizing the urgency of this issue.

Where Soldiers Come From

Where Soldiers Come From is a documentary that tells the story of five friends from a small town who grew up together, join the military together, and then get shipped off to war together. This tight-knit group of friends all signed up for mostly the same reasons many small town youths enter the National Guard — money, college, and to get out of a small town. But these kids who join the reserves to get money for college are then deployed to the extreme opposite—active duty in the harsh desert of Afghanistan. The film shows the realities and daily struggles of their rural home lives as well as the time spent maturing over nine months in a foreign and stressful place. This film starts off like a warm cup of tea, full of boyish innocence, naivety and humor. But then you get a bucket of cold water thrown in your face as you move with them through insomnia, pills, and bitterness. When asked how they felt about their personal experiences in the war, these young men show exceptional courage and honesty for their age. These are real soldiers and this is how they feel. Watch as real-life American innocence is changed by combat. Each one found out things about himself going through this experience. It is a realistic portrait of young men whose job it is to find improvised explosive device (IEDs). They are assigned to sweep for IEDs while using huge trucks that do not protect them from major explosions or concussions, and any minute an IED can blow your truck up. Watching this film I really felt like I was in the middle of Afghanistan, scared that a bomb might blow up at any minute. This is a truly devastating look at what these men went through before, during, and after the war. This is a film that also shows the aftermath of coming home from Afghanistan. It shows what war does to young men — and how poorly the military and other people treat them when they return home. The 1000-mile stares that you see on their faces as they return home only begin to tell the story of the struggles and repercussions they are about to go through. These kids are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — but some of them don’t even realize it yet. For the rest of their lives they will have a much higher propensity for depression, anxiety, alcohol & substance abuse, sleeplessness, joblessness, and a greater risk of committing suicide. As a foreign-deployed infantryman myself, I totally understand the mental change and transformation that these guys went though. I lived and still live it myself — every day and every moment. There is no going back to the sweetness of normality. I understand the hatred and the impotent rage which governs the mind after the wartime experiences and blasting injuries. I do not envy their girlfriends and wives whose lot is harder than what most can envision. I embrace the guys and love them as brothers…. more than brothers….they are comrades! I am very proud of all of them after having seen this movie, and wish I knew how they all are now. I’m really glad these guys had the guts to say WHY they felt they should/shouldn’t be over there. Let the whole story be told, I say, no matter how you feel about this war. You may not like these soldiers thoughts and feelings, but they exist so why be blind to them? Not all soldiers can convince themselves that all of this war is for “freedom” — because it’s not. It’s mostly about controlling resources. These guys gave up a chunk of their youth to serve in a meaningless war. For what? Afghan people who don’t want you in their country. There is so much more to war than being shot at and shooting at an enemy. By the end you see the hopelessness and futility of this war — and what a waste of young lives it is. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is thinking about joining the military, because this is a good look at the true cost of war. Military enlistment centers take advantage of young, uneducated, impressionable minds. What I have learned from documentaries on the war on terror like this one is that most of the young men who enlist don’t know what they are signing up for. They don’t know that they are signing up for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The realities of war and the depth of friendship of these young men, who reflect the values of the small town they come from, leaves one wishing there would never be another war for any reason. I have children and I do not encourage them to join the military. I encourage them to get an education by other means. This film is one I would watch with my children as its message is timeless. This is one of the more moving military docs that I have seen on the recent conflicts. The profundity of this film is just simple truth. If you like movies, do yourself a favor and watch this film. This is a great movie, an exceptional documentary, one of the best anti-war films I have seen that isn’t preachy. A must-see. I hope that many people watch this film. Documentary 2011 NR 1hr31m. (Also watch the Pat Tillman Story. Similar thing. He joined wanting to serve his country, but his family later discovered the official account of his death was a cover-up.)

Poisoned by Polonium:
The Litvinenko File

Documentary 2007 NR 1hr 44m. This thought-provoking documentary looks at the role the Russian government may have played in the poisoning death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko. Brilliant exposé of the brutal Kremlin regime of Vladimir Putin. Exiled dissident Alexander Litvinenko (since murdered) comes across in interviews as an honest and articulate critic of Putin’s Kremlin and its FSB (Federal Security Service) murder gang. Formerly an FSB counter-intelligence officer Litvinenko makes his case as somebody who refused to be corrupted by the mafia culture within the FSB, risking prison and assassination by staging a notorious press conference in Moscow in 1998. During this event he accused his FSB superiors of betraying their duty to serve and protect the Russian people by instead engaging in policies of assassination and intimidation in the goal of self-enrichment. After his trial acquittal in 1999, Litvinenko was granted political asylum in Britain, where he continued to be a thorn in Putin’s side until his assassination by poisoning in 2006. Film-maker Andrei Nekrasov got to interview Litvinenko and the journalist Politkovskaya shortly before both were murdered. Nekrasov uses these exclusive interviews, hidden cameras, rare stock footage, and banned tapes from now forbidden Russian programs to paint a tragic picture of an entire nation, one that is both victim and an enabler of one of the most corrupt and cynical regimes currently in power. After seeing this film, you’ll have little doubt in your mind about who did it and why. This powerful and terrifying documentary offers a clear indictment of Putin’s criminal regime. This may not be laid out like a typical 60 minutes report, but the facts are all there. Director Andrei Nekrasov probably put his life in risk by doing this documentary. Heroic individual. His personal reflections of life in the Soviet Union and modern-day Russia and poignant and help to explain much about this sad tormented country. For those interested in the Litvinenko case and Putin’s Russia in general, this is a must see. Compelling story. Amazing this got so little expose in the western media.

Holes in My Shoes

Documentary 2006 NR 1hr30m. New Yorker Jack Beers, 94, defies the concept of aging in this documentary that chronicles his diverse achievements and infectious enthusiasm. Even though he looks his age, you would not be able to tell from the way he talks. It is wonderful to see someone that age still showing a zest for life. This is the life story of a man I would have liked to know. A man full of unfailing energy, and love of life. I began watching it wondering why he was being documented, and for each segment of his life, I would think, ahh this is who he is. But no, within a few more minutes of the story, my perception once more changed. This man is inspirational, so don’t let the slow first few minutes in the opening distract you from the real meat of the film. Jack Beers is simply one of the most wonderful men I have ever heard of. His life story, were one to tell it, would seem to be a bit over-the-top, sure-you-did kind of story. It seems outlandish. But it’s all true! It is an inspirational biography about an ordinary man doing extraordinary things. He is not being honored for his longevity but for the endless energy and love of life that this man and his actions so clearly depict.  We should all live this way. His father advised him, “No matter what you do in life, be the best at what you do.” Truly had tears in my eyes when Jack sang at the top of the Empire State Building at the end: “…and when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” We can all glean from Jack as he continued to find a reason to smile his way through life, in the good and bad times. We can all benefit from him! Great story, and told so beautifully by the man himself. He did live a Wonderful Life, overcoming all obstacles along the way. From beginning to end, I absolutely and totally loved, loved, loved this extraordinary man’s bio. Watched this documentary three times, then I joined my husband who watched it twice! The BEST documentary I have ever viewed. I highly recommend this one, I recommend to anyone, anywhere. Watch this, you won’t be sorry!  Wonderful story, wonderful man. (I see online that he passed on two years after this film was made.)

The Lady in Number 6:
Music Saved My Life

Documentary 2013 NR 38m. Czech pianist and holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer describes how music enabled her to survive one of the darkest chapters in human history. Wow….all I can say is wow! What a profound and uplifting film! Alice shares her views on how to live a long happy life using the tools available to everyone: music, laughter, love and unrelenting optimism. This powerfully inspirational video tells not only her amazing story of survival but how, throughout her life, she was able to be strong by choosing to be happy, even during times of great loss. Alice is probably more full of life than anyone ever after living through so much. Alice’s friends are as inspiring as she is. Three women who not only survived Nazi death camps, but did so with a positive attitude. Quite a testament to the human spirit, and how it can survive even indescribable horrors. The emphasis is on the eldest of the three, a consummate musician who at 109 is still playing, and smiling. Never has a film of 38 minutes better reflected the human power of supreme optimism and joy amid such great adversity. What a touching and inspiring documentary. Absolutely beautiful! A true inspiration that we all should take lessons from. We can learn a lot about how to live our own lives with joy, fulfillment, mental fortitude, and positivity from listening to and learning from Alice. She could teach all of us with the beauty of her spirit. She certainly helped me put some things in perspective. A great lesson for all generations. Wise words and beautiful music. So sad to learn she died 2/23/14. An amazing life. Really makes you think about your own. This won the 2013 Oscar for Best Short Documentary. A must-see film. Do not miss this one. Watch it, that’s all I can say. Watch it and be amazed, touched and enlivened.

Citizen Koch

Citizen Koch explores the mounting struggle between money and American democracy, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision, probing the sources of money behind politics and how it bends the rules. The title of the movie refers to the link between the super-wealthy Koch brothers and the effects of the Citizens United decision. This title may be a bit misleading because it seems to imply that the subject of the doc is the Koch brothers specifically, but rather the focus is their influence on politics. This Citizen United group is an unorthodox organization controlled and funded by the Koch Brothers, as well as their Americans for Prosperity. But make no mistake, the primary motive of these two Americans is their personal and corporate profit, not widespread “American prosperity”. These men puppeteering these supposedly “grass roots” organizations are very powerful, and the influence they have come to wield over our political system is frightening. By the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, big businesses were declared to have the same rights as citizens. Our constitution that protects citizens’ rights was not written to protect businesses and give them freedom to do whatever they want. Now businesses are allowed to indirectly give unlimited funds to election campaigns. So rich men like the Koch brothers own the candidates and craft the messages. Showing one election as an example, this documentary examines the effects of “big money” on Wisconsin’s politics, and the disastrous consequences of the Koch brothers’ direct meddling in a Wisconsin election for governor, while casually breaking multiple election laws, in an effort to create a consolidated national platform (in the form of a very powerful gubernatorial office) for their favorite new toy — the “Tea Party”. So the film sheds some light on the issue of big money corrupting the political process. Specifically, the influence of outside money for the election of Scott Walker as anti-Labor governor of Wisconsin. This later resulted in a grassroots citizens’ effort to recall Walker, the governor they had unwittingly helped Big Business install. The citizens of Wisconsin were blindsided by the Koch brothers and Scott Walker. This is what happens when people do not research the candidates — you get what you vote for. Things do not go better with Koch! With the financial help of the Koch brothers, Walker won, and then he won the recall election too. His campaign outspent the competition by 8 to 1. The film includes a radio host punking Scott Walker by posing as David Koch, with an actual conversation between Walker and the fake Koch, and that conversation is damning to Walker. Also in many other states, big corporations like the ones owned by the Koch brothers finance efforts to mislead and lie to the American people in order for the corporatocracy to get its way at the expense of the middle and lower classes. I hate to see big corporations run this country by fixing elections. America is on a treacherous course with corporate power becoming the directing force behind the government. American oligarchs and international corporatists obviously don’t give a damn about most American citizens, but offer them hollow rallying-cries and flag-waving instead. Historically masses of people have been susceptible to propaganda propagated by a few to conceal their motives from the masses. This documentary pulls the curtain back on the phony populism bought and paid for by billionaires and trumpeted by right-wing pundits. Americans need to see through the smokescreen before it’s too late. Big money must be removed from politics! This documentary explores how we allow ourselves to be exploited if we don’t think & act rationally about our freedom & future. The average person seems completely unaware of what has taken place in our political system. The US has been slowly taken over by large corporations since Regan was elected in 1980, but people have just now started to notice. What amazes me is that so many people cannot see reality, and can be steered into acting to their own disadvantage. Even worse, the vast majority of mankind are willing to let things around them happen without any thought as to what it means, and only wake up to injustice when it is upon them. Sheep to the slaughter. Everyone should watch and learn about what is really going on and stop turning a blind eye on how corrupt government really is. Voters beware! Vote against the money and the intense negative ads which present lies and distortions to achieve the Koch brothers’ agenda. The Republican Party is no longer the party of your grandfather, and it hasn’t been for years. Almost without voters’ knowledge, wealthy businessmen like the Koch brothers have assumed control of the Republican Party. The candidates they have installed in governors’ mansions, halls of “justice”, and even the White House, have betrayed traditional middle-class Republican values in just about every possible way. In this movie, several “lifelong Republicans” voted for Walker in Wisconsin, but then complained when he did Republican anti-labor things after he got into office. Their grassroots effort to recall Scott Walker was steamrolled by special interest money, much of which came from out of state. The dismay and disappointment of a number of these hard-working, lifelong Republican voters of Wisconsin brought tears to my eyes. This movie should be a must-see for everyone living in a state with a Republican governor. In Florida, when Rick Scott became the governor, he proceeded to pursue law changes similar to the Wisconsin governor in this movie. The Tea Party fascists are trying to take over the country, by hoodwinking well-meaning conservatives. Listening to some of the rhetoric in their meetings made me wonder if listening to Hitler in a German coffee shop in the ‘thirties might have been similar. As a former Republican voter, I exhort you to watch this documentary. If you vote, watch this documentary — but especially if you vote Republican, watch this documentary. If you live in America and want to know where all the frenzied, hate-filled, divisive rhetoric is coming from, watch this documentary. If you only watch one documentary in your life, watch this documentary. This film is necessary viewing for anyone concerned about how the richest 1% are influencing American politics. Hopefully you will see what some of these super-wealthy people are doing to our country, and how their influence has become such a major destructive force. Our country is being maneuvered into a position where it will become harder and harder for the public to exercise any restraint over entrenched business interests. Big business is determined to buy this country. Don’t sell your rights for a promise that corporations will reward you later! The right to choose and to be heard is why you have to vote. We the People must send corporate interests a stern message that no matter how much money they throw into elections, they can’t buy our system. This documentary should be seen by all. It is another of many examples of how the very rich, the Republican party, Fox News and even the Republicans appointees on the supreme court, have again betrayed Americans and America as a whole for their own greedy interests This is the main reason why America has become the mess it is now. The USA has a great potential for change, it’s just so very slow to do so. I suspect that there will be many one star reviews of this film – reviews from Tea party and GOP pawns who actively go to sites like Netflix and write negative reviews on everything that dares to bring to light just how corrupt, racist, and ethnocentric the Tea Party and GOP really are. They have been recorded on camera many times proudly proclaiming that they write negative reviews on Amazon and movie sites to try and negate the argument that the Tea Party is not for average Americans, but clearly just a tool of the rich. (also known as or a.k.a Koch Brothers and friends, a.k.a Citizens for Prosperity, a.k.a the 1%). Any conservative wanting to dismiss this film as some biased piece of left wing propaganda is in for the sad realization that there is only one side to the issue of democracy — equal participation. Now we need to see another film about how corrupt the Democrats are in their efforts to win the game for their team. The truth is, neither party is actually for the people anymore. They are either for big business, or for some of the people….not for all. The reality is that there are multitudes of opulently wealthy people who fund both parties. I sure hope that our country quickly realizes what is going on in both parties (though the Republicans are much worse). Both political parties need to be reformed by getting rid of the corporate funding in our elections. Period. The fact that PBS was too scared to air this because of the power wielded by Koch and his billionaires boys club should make you want to watch this. This is a great documentary, especially if you are concerned about the political influences of big money. “Citizen Koch” is a powerfully important film! Knowledge is power, and this is a must-see film that no American should miss. Documentary 2013 NR 1hr25m.

Gasland Part 2

Gasland Part 2 is a follow-up documentary expanding on the Oscar-nominated film about Fracking by director Josh Fox. His new film explores long-term consequences of the controversial oil-extracting method, including earthquakes and poisoned water. While there is some great information in this sequel, the original Part 1 takes the form of an eye-opening journey of discovery about Fracking across the USA that, as a film, is just better as a story. But this second documentary, Gasland Part 2, has a more sledgehammer impact than the earlier Gasland Part 1, and it is even scarier than Part 1, mainly because it probes the extensive political corruption that has allowed the oil and gas interests to bend Congress and local governments to their will. Energy companies have enormous monetary influence on Federal, State, and Local Governments — I would like to use the word “corruption”, but you can reach your own conclusions after you see the documentary. In addition, they have hired PR firms that specialize in confusing the uninformed public by creating controversy and disinformation, and also use lawyers to silence individuals, and generally have fought every hint that there may be any problems with Fracking. Their priority is to make money, so they do not have the best interest of everyone in the country in mind. Natural Gas from Fracking will give the industry another hundred years of fossil fuels. During the early years of fracking Natural Gas will be cheap enough to allow us to switch from oil, but much of this new natural gas will be shipped abroad where because of fuel scarcity it is selling for much higher prices than in the USA — which will eventually cause the price to rise in this country too. So Fracking may appear on the surface to be about energy independence for the USA and continued prosperity. But ultimately it’s all about profits for the industry that will turn the USA with its vast areas fuel shale into a new Saudi Arabia of exports from Fracking. As for Global warming, Fracking is the worst of all the emitters of greenhouse gasses because it releases them directly into the air from the millions of wells. So 100 years of fracking will result in 100 years of increasing global warming. Though it might be in US strategic interests to develop the Natural Gas industry, what of the local towns and people affected, the aquifers polluted? The citizens that are being lied to and intimidated. The human interest side of things in this film is provocative as well. Seeing families with chronic nosebleeds and neurological impairment getting ready to move because their well water has been poisoned is wrenching. So much more study needs to be done on health effects of Fracking! Many regular people around the country have been terribly impacted after Fracking moved into their area. Heartbreaking for the victims, who have no power to stop this destruction of their lives. Merely give them enough money to hush them, and then move on to waste another town or county. What’s more, many sites are owned by subsidiary corporations, which can be dissolved easily, and dissolved corporations and subsidiaries rarely provide any compensation. The government corruption is mind boggling. Is everyone in government bought and sold? I think so. Whatever happened to the Environmentalist movement in America, not to mention honesty and compassion. But it is up to the public to pressure the politicians and businesses to make changes. Unfortunately, the ones who are profiting from this mess are the only ones who CAN make any political changes. Why would you change any law that you are personally benefiting from? Food And Water Watch, which I support, is one group leading the fight against the greedy energy companies. Study the maps. Know where you are and where the gas and Fracking is. When you travel, don’t stop to stay in Gaslands — the water and air are not guaranteed. What happens to affected housing — more and more people forced to abandon their homes and move away from the Gaslands. If the Fracking boom continues domestically and abroad we are consigning future generations to irredeemably poisoned aquifers and other environmental ills of which we are not even fully cognizant. Yet another grim chapter in the ongoing human assault on the biosphere. Excellent film, although long at 2 hours. I feel that the information presented in this film is important to see. A don’t-miss documentary, this Part 2, as well as Gasland Part I. Everyone should see both. Documentary 2013 NR 120 minutes.

Commanding Heights:
The Battle for the World Economy

Documentary 2002 NR 360 minutes. Based on the best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, this three-part PBS documentary series is the story of how the new global economy was born. It traces the rise of free markets during the last century, as well as the process of globalization. There are three segments – 1. “The Battle of Ideas” (primarily between Capitalism and Communism);  2. “The Agony of Reform” (after the end of Communism)  3. “The New Rules of the Game” (of Globalization). See Full Review

The Whale

The Whale is a documentary that introduces Luna, a wild killer-whale living off Vancouver Island who befriends a community. His presence there draws conflicted emotions. This wonderful film shows many loving and playful interactions between Luna and people, in a beautiful Pacific Northwest setting.  The way this Orca interacted with us (humans) is far beyond what is usual in the wild. The fact that this highly intelligent mammal sought people out for attention and affection, then communicated and interacted with them, is astounding. Such an amazing creature. The people who were lucky enough to be in the presence of this majestic being were truly blessed. People wanted to reach out and connect with this wild animal. Such a beautiful bond that this whale forged with so many people. Wildlife bureaucrats tried to protect him by limiting his contact with people. A whale researcher offered to reunite the whale with its family pod for free…no government involvement and on his dime. The wildlife bureaucrats rejected this offer, because they didn’t want the whale to be subjected to possible abandonment by his family. The situation was very complex, and warranted an entire film to cover its entirety. This film does a great job telling this compelling story gracefully, honestly, and openly. No over-dramatizing. Luna, his story, the people involved, the questions it stirred, are all worth learning about. I learned more about nature and mankind and think I’m better for it. It just might have a profound impact on your sense of connectivity with all living creatures sharing our common journey through life on this planet. Luna’s such a beautiful creature.  I wish I could have had the privilege to see him out in his bay. What an amazing experience it would have been.  It was an unimaginable natural phenomenon that will more than likely never happen again in any of our lifetimes. I only dream that I could have such an experience, and yet, watching this movie, I feel like I have. This documentary is one of the best I have seen on the incredible nature of killer whales (actually the largest member of the dolphin family, and not a whale at all). Kudos to the folks who filmed this documentary, and everyone else who had a hand in this film.  Ryan Reynolds narrating is a plus. Such a moving story — one of the most moving documentaries that I’ve ever seen. Not a big nature documentary watcher but for some reason I decided to watch this film. I’m glad I did. I was expecting the usual boring documentary about some animal. I fell in love with Luna!  Awesome footage of a beautiful creature. Absolutely breathtaking. I highly recommend this to anyone, especially those with a love for animals. I cannot recommend this film enough to anyone who has a passion for understanding our place in nature. This movie had me laughing and crying. I cried from happiness as well as heart-break. Have Kleenex handy. By the end the tissues were out and my eyes were leaking. First I laughed, then I cried, then I smiled, then I sobbed… and sobbed. My heart aches for this beautiful creature. I’ll never forget the whale’s eyes. This movie forever changed my life — and it can change yours. This film is well worth watching. Loved it. Don’t miss this one. I think that everyone should watch this. This documentary needs to be seen by more people, especially anyone who attends marine theme parks. Watch it if you love the relationship between man and animal. *****THIS MOVIE IS A MUST-SEE!!***** Documentary 2011 G 1hr 25m. Also watch the films Killer Whales and Black Fish.

The Loving Story

The Loving Story is a documentary profiling Mildred and Richard Loving, who were arrested in 1958 for breaking Virginia’s laws against interracial marriage, and forced to leave the state. This couple fought for what they believed in, and as a result a change spread across the nation. A captivating look at the lives of the couple who reluctantly and inadvertently caused the eventual setting aside of the blatant racist laws in 16 states against interracial marriage. The last miscegenation laws was repealed in 2000 in Alabama. I expected a movie with lots of drama and speeches from civil rights leaders. Instead I found this quiet subtle story of two simple country people who loved each other and wanted to be permitted to go home. There is a very special quality of deep affection, love and simple tenderness between Richard and Mildred. It’s easy to see the powerful chemistry between them in the film-clips from that era. They are comforted by each other’s presence in a way that nothing would have been able to separate — you can see the love they had for each other. Their name Loving describes them beautifully. An unforgettable couple. Her spirit was so intelligent and motherly and calm. His demeanor was so tough and honest and protective. Richard Loving is obviously a private person, uncomfortable with the cameras and press. He says maybe 20 words in all 77 minutes of the film. At first his silences are awkward and hard to watch, but then his quiet becomes as much a presence in this film as the narration. This guy wasn’t going to allow ANYone to dictate to him whom he couldn’t love or marry. Now that was a real man in real love. He is kind, tender, gentle — and knows exactly who he is and what he wants. I was especially impressed by Mrs. Loving as a person. Mildred is more open and gentle. She is trusting and strong, with simple dignity. I felt for this couple and their struggles. The Lovings are strong — the fact they fought for their rights to be married for eight years tells you a lot about them. The way that the couple handled themselves throughout all the procedures was amazing. I am glad, glad, glad that they won. It is interesting in that little part of the world of Virginia, the people did not see black or white, they were simply neighbors. I didn’t realize it was just 55 years ago that two grown people in love would be hassled because one has darker skin than the other. I am bewildered by the whole concept. It is hard to believe the bigotry and small-mindedness that went on only such a short time ago. I’m appalled that race was such a blinding influence that it took this quiet, poor, loving couple to change the tide of whom you can love and want to marry. The subject matter — anti-miscegenation laws in America and one couple’s struggle to be allowed to love each other in the state of their choice — serves as a bitter reminder of how far we’ve come in race relations and Civil Rights in such a short amount of time. I found this story fascinating and moving — simply beautiful. This is an extraordinary documentary. Like the Lovings themselves, it is quiet, understated, dignified and hugely moving. Remarkable footage and flawless storytelling. I loved the documentary format. The film isn’t shot in traditional documentary-style, however, I actually think that benefited the film. The uncut archival footage of the Lovings during the 1960s is absolutely fascinating. Great film footage and photo selections of the time, including the lawyers and audio from the highest Court. The quality and quantity of the archival photos, news-clips, interviews and home movies stand out. My favorite part was the end of the film, where oral arguments before the Supreme Court are playing over pictures and film of the Lovings just going about their lives. Awesome love story! This documentary is very beautiful in its simplicity. A moving film! One of the best I have seen in a long time. Really enjoyed this documentary even more than I ever thought I would. Very touching, powerful. Amazing story. I do not think I have ever seen a better documentary, one that has better caught and held my interest. Kudos to all on this one! An important subject that people should learn of and from. ALL HISTORY TEACHERS IN ALL HIGH SCHOOLS ACROSS THE COUNTRY SHOULD SHOW THIS!!!! The significance of the story itself combined with the raw footage makes this a must-see. What a moving documentary! I was extremely moved by their trials and their never-ending love for each other. Richard Loving didn’t want to go to the Supreme Court hearing and told the civil rights lawyers, “Just tell the judges that I love my wife”…..SO moving. I cried at the end. This is a real love story — one man and one woman set an example for the rest to follow. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Loving. I would have been proud to be their neighbor, proud have known them. After you watch this movie and get to know these two fine Loving people, you will never ever forget them. (Long Way Home: The Loving Story) Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 17M.

War on Whistleblowers


War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State. This documentary from Robert Greenwald highlights four cases in which whistleblowers exposed government wrongdoing to the media and faced serious repercussions. It presents stories of government employees who discovered wrongdoing, brought the evidence to their superiors and, after encountering neglect or resistance, at last took the information to the news media — to the benefit of the public but to the detriment of their families and careers. The account begins with Franz Gayl, a whistle-blower ultimately applauded by conservatives and liberals alike. Because of Mr. Gayl’s efforts, the Pentagon substituted appropriately armored vehicles in Iraq for the far more vulnerable troop carriers that were originally deployed. The film moves on to more politically charged cases: those of Thomas Drake, a former official at the National Security Agency, and Thomas Tamm, a former Justice Department lawyer. They discuss how they disclosed that the George W. Bush administration was conducting warrantless surveillance of Americans as part of its counterterrorism program. Using the testimony of journalists (including The New York Times) and advocates in nongovernmental organizations and the most distinguished of whistle-blowers Daniel Ellsberg, The film contends that government secrecy is entrenched and largely self-serving, as demonstrated by the reprisals inflicted. To clinch this argument, it points out that despite President Obama’s promises of transparency in government, prosecutions of whistle-blowers during his administration have markedly increased. This is a very good documentary — a “MUST SEE”. Some really relevant and important information is presented in this doc. Eye-opening, frank, and disturbing, this film is a must-watch. This is a fraction of what is really going on in our government. The people of this country need to stand up and say NO MORE and start fighting for your rights before they are gone. Documentary 2013 NR 1hr 6m.

I Am Slave

I Am Slave is the heartbreaking story of a girl who was kidnapped in 1993 in Sudan Africa at age twelve and sold into slavery, first in Khartoum Sudan and then in London. I had no idea that such atrocities are happening today in western countries. Slavery sounds the stuff of yesteryear, but the horrifying truth is that today slavery still exists, as absurd as it may intellectually seem. In Sudan, tribes are raided for their young women; their families killed and villages razed to the ground. This is a powerful story of modern day slavery that will touch you to the core. It all began one horrific night when Arab raiders swept through a Nuba village, murdering the adults and rounding up thirty-one children. Young Malia was sold into slavery to a wealthy Arab family in Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum. Her Arab owners called her “Yebit,” meaning “black slave.” She called them “master.” She was subjected to appalling physical, sexual, and mental abuse. She slept in a shed and was fed leftovers like a dog. She had no rights, no freedom, and no life of her own. This drama inspired by true events follows this Sudanese girl who learns to fight her oppressors. I was drawn into the terror, despair and helplessness of the young Malia serving a cruel mistress in Khartoum, and then as a late teen serving a selfish Arab mistress in London. She was caged for six long years, but Malia never gave up her dream of freedom. In September 2000, she made a dramatic break for freedom. My heart was pounding as I cheered for Malia to run for her life. This story is simultaneously heartbreaking and triumphant. It reminds us all of the psychological and physical abuse placed upon Africans for centuries for economic gain. Really shows how things must have been in USA not too long ago. Many folks think slavery went out with Lincoln, but it is still present. Highly recommend this movie for everyone, so hopefully people will get some awareness of these horrible crimes. Please, please, please watch it. This is the best movie I have seen in a very long time. I do not give too many six stars, but this little gem is more than worthy! On a scale of 1-10, I give it a 15. I’m still in tears!!! This movie will haunt me for a quite a while. Thank you to the producers, writers, and actors for making it. And I didn’t even have to read subtitles, as these Sudan people speak English. This is a do-not-miss — a must-see, heart-touching, heart-breaking film. Read the book also: Slave: My True Story by Mende Nazer (real name of “Malia”) and Damien Lewis.  It goes into so much more depth on her entire life story. In the movie at the end are postscripts estimating that 5,000 women are living as slaves today in London, and that 20,000 people have been enslaved in Sudan. It’s tragic that in this enlightened age and society slavery still exists – everywhere. Women, men, and children are taken and forced to be slaves. Breaks my heart to know this is happening all over the world to thousands of people.  It brings tears to my eyes knowing that people in Africa and Asia and the Middle East are still being sold into slavery every day. One of the reviewers wrote about slavery as a “world issue” as if it was something outside of the USA. If people think this just happens in Africa to blacks, think again, since people of all races are taken and forced into slavery – yes, even in America. Sadly, there are invisible and silent slaves in every city in the US, and no doubt in the suburbs and rolling estates, as well. The fact that human beings can treat others like this does not speak well of the human race. How can anyone believe they truly own another human being? It’s despicable that these atrocities continue to happen. What is being done to stop this?? As more survivors speak out and expose the horrible truth of slavery, there is a greater chance this will be stopped. I love this film. It actually was a wake-up call for me. I think I was ignorant that this is happening in the world around me. I am now going to look for ways I can get involved to help.  Docudrama 2010 NR 1hr 20m.

Abduction of Eden


In Abduction of Eden, “Hyun Jae” is a teenager when she’s kidnapped and taken to Las Vegas, where she’s forced to work as a prostitute for two years. (It is based on the true story of Korean-American Chong Kim’s abduction and enslavement.) She was 18 years old, out one night with a close friend, when she meets someone new who convinces her to hang out and afterwards he’ll drive her home, but abducts her instead. She is put into prostitution, and goes through what you could only imagine. The film version is shocking but actually cleaned up quite a bit if you do a little research on the internet and discover the real story of happened to her. I liked the fact that there wasn’t much nudity or sex, because it made the occasions when she was put into sexual situations all the more real and unsettling. I went to this film expecting the worst due to its extremely touchy subject matter, but I like that the movie does not sensationalize the horrors of sexual slavery — you get a glimpse of what’s going on but don’t need to see it all in detail. This is one film that doesn’t need nudity to tell its story nor does it need to show graphic abuse and violence, because it is so well written and acted. The film doesn’t shy away from the perversity of its subject but doesn’t exploit it. Instead, this shows a complex picture of young women who are bought and sold and disposed of — and the choices they have to make to survive. It is the story of one girl’s struggle, and how this smart, brave and strong young lady patiently waits to break free finally after years of enslavement. This movie is told from the point of view of the victims and what kind of mindset they need to survive, which is way more interesting that your standard Hollywood movie told from the point of view of a fictional savior. Given the subject matter — the human traffic trade from prostitution to drugs to black market babies and the collusion (both active and passive) of law enforcement and the porn consumer-demand of “normal” “nice” folks — this film is incredible. The subject is sordid but unflinchingly portrayed. This movie has lots of interesting and unexpected twists and turns in the story, and put me on an emotional rollercoaster. Suspense, drama, heartbeat pumping, blood rushing. If you like “Don’t know what will happen next” kind of feeling, then this may be a film for you. Like all excellent movies, this one has a great finish! This is a true story, this did happen in America, this did happen to an American citizen, and very well could still be happening. This happens more than you may think — we live amid human trafficking even in the United States. To raise awareness, give it a watch and realize that things like this can and are happening in America today. Child sexual slavery exists right now in the USA, with some of these girls flown in from overseas while many are kidnapped right here in the US and then sold into slavery. I was born in Las Vegas and lived here 47 years but never thought that something like this was going on here in this town. As a woman it is very shocking to me, especially since something like this could easily have happened to me. Here’s an eye-opener for you, ladies — on your next trip out of town hit up the porn channel on your hotel’s TV (and I don’t mean some cheap roadhouse motel, I mean the best hotels) and take a look at what’s on offer. Do you think those girls are in it for the fun of it? WE don’t know anyone involved in the Trade, not us, nope. Except every one of us may be complicit in it. I don’t hear anyone complaining to the Radisson, the Hilton, the Hyatt, or the Marriott about their part in the porn industry. But I think you would hear some complaints if they did away with these so-called ‘adult’ channels, though. Sick of people talking about how horrible this all is, while they support the Trade as consumers. Enjoy your movie. If you ever see any suspicious activity involving young girls, please call the Human Traffic Hotline to report it — you may potentially save someone’s life. Watch the “making of” documentary on the DVD to learn more about the real woman that the story is based on, who escaped and founded an anti-slavery non-profit in Minnesota. This movie is so intense that it was hard to watch at certain points and made me sick to my stomach, so I almost stopped watching a few times. But altogether I would definitely recommend this movie. After viewing it, I understand this is a necessary film, a wake-up call from the underbelly of human trafficking. If you want to become aware of the immensely tragic reality of the rising crime of human sex trafficking in the USA, this is the movie to see. To know it is a true story made it more hard hitting and emotional. The acting of the main character is enthralling, and the story of this girl’s survival is truly inspirational. People should definitely give this one a watch. It is however a very touchy subject, and you should warn people of that before watching it in a group. I really loved this movie. I watched it with pillows behind my head but never let my head rest on them because I was so into this movie that I was tense! This is a really good movie and before I knew it, it was over. I saw this movie three times. You must see this for yourself. I highly recommend this film to EVERY female. Loved it. It truly is a great movie, and the sad part is that it is based on a true story. Five Stars Stunning. Docudrama 2012 R 1hr 38m.

The Invisible War

The Invisible War is a documentary exposing a rape epidemic in the armed forces, investigating the institutions that perpetuate it as well as its personal consequences. This deftly shows how women and men who are raped by their fellow servicemen are victimized yet again by a system that often punishes victims while shielding (and sometimes even rewarding) perpetrators. The filmmakers focus on exposing the institutionalized barriers to seeking justice. I had no clue that this was going on in our military and the fact that women (and men) are losing their careers and sanity because of these predators is astonishing. What is worse is that commanders and other high-ranking officers are suppressing and burying the evidence as well as the investigations and dishonorably discharging these brave soldiers who are standing up for themselves. It is truly horrendous. Military leaders suppress these cases to avoid affecting their record as leaders. So the military command doesn’t help, and often they will start investigating the victim and turn it around and try to blame the victims. Shameful. It makes me so upset that the men that do this horrible crime aren’t locked up and disciplined. As a veteran, military spouse, army brat and a parent, I know all too well that these things happen daily. I know many victims personally (not those portrayed in this film but military rape victims in general). You will be astounded at how many women (and men) this happens to, and the fact that this is happening in such large numbers is appalling. As a victim who must live with this reality daily, I know this documentary to be a truthful exposure of the facts. My friend of 30 years was in the Marines at LeJeune when in her first year she was repeatedly groped, harassed, and nearly raped by her C.O. — who told her go ahead, try and report it and see what happens. She tried to file complaints and was turned away every time. This shows what military “justice” is not. One of the worst parts is how the government handles these cases. Also shows the struggle of dealing with the VA in trying to collect benefits for rape-related injuries. These women proudly served our country and this is how our government repays them, with pain and shame. It’s embarrassing that our country and government care so little. The thing that shocked me was a statement shown toward the end of the film: “In December 2011, the Court dismissed the survivors’ lawsuit, ruling that rape is an occupational hazard of military service. An appeal has been filed.” I was in tears after reading this. After watching this film, I was grateful that I hadn’t joined one of these branches when I almost did. I had been considering being a doctor for the military and when I told my dad that, he automatically said ‘no’, I don’t want you to, but I didn’t understand. I only saw the military as something as honorable. He told me that bad things happen to females in the military, but I didn’t understand how something so disgusting could happen. I found this documentary and decided to watch it and I am so happy that I did. I couldn’t believe that this happened to these servicewomen and servicemen and I am astonished. Others in my family no longer hold their heads high knowing they proudly served this country to secure freedom for all when the very military they served in makes people slaves and victims. If my children want to join when they are older I will do everything to stop them. The documentary made me feel bitter toward every military branch. And it scares me to realize that the perpetrators, who often go scot-free or are even promoted, may one day mix amongst us civilians without our knowing. They could create new victims in workplaces and in our neighborhoods. Absolutely fantastic exposé of an issue that any man who has worn a uniform in the service of this country should be ashamed of!!! Important story and excellent storytelling. This film is heartbreaking, powerful, and absolutely worth watching. I promise you will be stunned by what you see and hear. A tremendously moving and engaging documentary. Thought-provoking, gut wrenching and terribly aggravating to watch — powerful, eye-opening & absolutely appalling. This film stirred a lot of emotion in me. It is not only moving but extremely heartbreaking. This absolutely outraged me! I am so grateful someone made this documentary. For the women and men who courageously shared their testimonies and unveiled their pain, thank you. Kudos to Kirby Dick and his team for bringing this important issue to our attention. If you think that rape in the military happens because of “a few bad apples,” watch this Oscar-nominated film. This film should be required viewing for anyone considering joining the US military. You may think you know the issue, but this film teaches you more. Every potential female soldier needs to be required to watch this documentary during their recruitment process. Every parent with little girls should watch this documentary in order to protect them from potential harm in the event that they join the armed forces. Everyone, especially members of the Armed Forces Committee should see this film. I hope it makes a difference. THIS IS A MUST-SEE FOR ALL! Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 37m.

A Place at the Table

A Place at the Table is a powerful documentary using personal stories that illuminate the plight of the 49 million Americans struggling with food insecurity. It is a startling fact that millions of people don’t know where their next meal is coming from in the US (15% of 316 million population). Food insecurity is an invisible but very real problem in this country. Of the developed world, the US ranks 23 in food security. Hunger in America had almost been eliminated by how well the government programs started in the 70s worked in just a few years — before being cut back by Reagan-era legislation. But now hunger has returned, and this film looks at several individuals, all basically members of the working poor, and their struggles to provide their families with good nutritious meals. All the families profiled are hard-working and trying their best to just barely keep their heads above water. Their poor kids didn’t choose to be born into such adversity. Of these 49 million Americans struggling with food insecurity, many millions are children, and many millions are infants. Hungry infants do not develop normally, and as a result are permanently disabled. Hungry kids do not do well in school and have less chance to pull themselves out of poverty. Tears came to my eyes when a hungry little girl hallucinates and sees her teacher as a banana. Wow! One out of two children in the USA will be on food stamps at some time. President Obama was once on food stamps. This documentary covers hunger, school lunches, and food politics. The facts are spelled out concisely and with clarity by articulate victims of the problem, as well as scholars, physicians and activists like Jeff Bridges and Tom Colicchio of “Top Chef” fame. The tone is more pleading than angry, as it spends more time on the plight of the hungry than on low minimum wages and the corrupt politics of agricultural subsidies. The film focuses on misplaced priorities of government, while emphasizing social injustice. Each year fifteen billion dollars of our taxes go to farm subsidies, of which 84% goes to corn, soy, wheat, rice, & cotton, 15% goes to dairy & livestock, and 1% goes to fruits & vegetables. Thus a hamburger is cheaper than a peach. I quote from the film: “Since the 1970’s the cost of fresh produce and fruits has risen by 40% and the price of junk food chips and candy has come down by 40%”. One excellent scene shows a teacher teaching her class to choose honeydew melon over chips at the grocery store. Three dollars per day is the maximum that a person on food stamps (SNAP) is allocated. But if a person only has $3 per day for food, they can buy 3000 calories of junk food or 350 calories of fresh produce and fruit. It is impressive that one political leader was willing to actually try to live on $3 per day, which many poor people are expected to live off of daily! I wish that members of the House and Senate could be forced to live on $3/day for food for a week before they vote on Dept. of Agriculture issues. America has enough food to feed the hungry, as this film makes very clear, but the downtrodden have the cards stacked against them. One single mother, after years of food stamp use, finally lands a job. She is making only slightly more than her income on public assistance, but thus is no longer eligible for food stamps. She’s right back to square one. Congressional legislation resulting in enormous farm subsidies (many billions of dollars) to agribusinesses is the overriding issue here. Farm subsidies go to Monsanto and other big agribusiness farms out west, not to small farms and orchards that subsidies were originally designed to help during the Depression. This legislation is resulting in the middle and lower middle classes not having access to affordable fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods that should be subsidized –instead of corn, soy, wheat, etc. that go into junk foods. This legislation combined with the recession that destroyed the economy since 2008 is resulting in hunger and debilitating illnesses such as diabetes across the country. Our country has a lot people who are both fat and undernourished. I have always wondered about the obesity epidemic in our country. Obesity results from hungry people eating cheap low-nutrient foods of empty calories. What the filmmakers attempt to point out is the link between obesity (which believe it or not is a sign of poverty in some), the disparity in subsidies provided to monopoly-farms vs. smaller vegetable-producing farms that directly affect the prices of fruits and vegetables, and how this is all linked to the common problem of hunger. Food insecurity and proper nutrition are major issues in the United States. When it comes to feeding families most Americans are aware that broccoli and asparagus contain more nutritional value than boxed macaroni and cheese — but guess what? Boxed Mac and Cheese is a quick and much cheaper financially feasible fix. A McDonald’s value menu is much more feasible on the poor budget than baked chicken, fresh string beans, corn on the cob (not canned), and yams. It’s not that poor parents want to feed their children less-nutritious food, it’s that they have to feed them something affordable or nothing at all. This is a very real problem in America. So the current state of affairs is poverty with unhealthy and insufficient diets in this wealthy but often morally bereft nation (witness the recent brutal cutback in food stamps). Since government stopped helping the poor people adequately, charities have had to step it to fill the gap. After watching this film one viewer said, “Our donations to the El Caldito Soup Kitchen have just increased!” The food banks are funded by charity but are passing out crap (chips, cookies, canned spaghetti, hydrogenated fats & GMOs, etc.). But it is not enough to count on charities and churches — we cannot and should not rely on a string of charities to feed the poor. As Jeff Bridges points out: “We don’t fund the Department of Defense with charity” & “If another nation did this to our children, we’d be at war”). If there is ever an area of life that the government should be involved in, it is making sure that our citizens are at least fed. (The ancient Roman government was famous for feeding the population, giving them “Bread and Games”, partly to keep them from revolting.) The worst part of this is that nothing will change due to agro-corporate lobbyists lining the pockets of politicians. Many of these huge agribusiness “farms” are paid not to produce. They call it subsidies, but we all know that it is corporate welfare. This film is an excellent introduction for the unaware. I have been there. I’m a single father raising a seven year old alone without anyone’s help. Until a week ago I had never applied for assistance. It is very much a pride thing that drove me to not take that step. But a year ago I was hurt at work with a severely damaged back and forced out of work and treated like a liability at every turn. It’s one thing to be hungry yourself, but knowing you have to feed your child and you don’t know how you’re going to do it is a terrifying reality check, especially when a few months before it was not an issue because you had a good job. I have had no choice but to ask for help. Don’t judge someone unless you have been in the situation yourself. Hunger is so much more than being hungry — it’s desperation, depression, loss of identity, and loss of the feeling of stability. I feel this documentary does a very good job of presenting that. It just goes to show that childhood obesity and the daily struggle to provide is a social problem, due to the inefficiencies of society. This movie gave me an idea why there are families having such an unhealthy lifestyle and children starving. Excellent activist interviewees were Raj Patel (“Politicians think that the price of hunger is what they spend on food stamps, but it is far higher–reaching into lost productivity, lost potential, chronic health problems”), Marion Nestle (“Our priorities are all wrong. We’re subsidizing unhealthy foods when we could spend far less to subsidize healthy ones.”), and Dr. Mariana Chilton (“85% of the food insecure have at least one family member employed full-time, so we need a living wage. Government & corporations must take responsibility to provide living wages.”) Truly an eye opener!!! Very well done, great statistics. This is an incredibly insightful documentary about REAL hunger in this country. Sad, just sad. This is a well-made movie that cannot help but affect all but the hardest-hearted businessman or politician. Just watch this documentary and weep. I recommend this movie for everyone to see. This film should be required viewing for Civics and Political Science classes. This film should be mandatory viewing for all members of Congress and local legislative bodies, not to mention every one of us who is blessed with the ability to afford to eat nutritiously. This is an important film and should be seen alongside “Food, Inc.”, which examines the American food system that is dependent on corn. Documentary 2012 PG 1hr 24m.

Death by China

Death by China is a frank documentary that chronicles the growing power and global ambitions of China, and concludes that its strength threatens America’s own future. Starting with the agreement in 2001 which allowed China into the World Trade Organization, this movie recounts trends to the present. It makes some valid points about the negative effects that our trade agreements with China have had. This is an excellent, frank look at China’s unethical business practices since joining the WTO. Much of the film is about the manner in which multi-national corporations headquartered in the US exploited free trade agreements for their own short term interests, at the expense of the greater good for the US economy. The documentary makes it clear that the multinationals coupled with their successful lobbying groups have made it easier to move our manufacturing to China. “Corporations owe no allegiance to any government or country, only to profit.” That seems to sum it up nicely. When corporations become involved, the responsibility of human action is removed. The documentary lays the blame where it belongs – multinational corporations that have their interests misaligned with interests of the nation. Most of the people interviewed were CEOs that try to justify why jobs are being sent to China in terms of the capitalist/corporate paradigm — CEO’s talking as if they have done nothing wrong. These talking heads are capitalist apologists, claiming to act in such ways for the sake of their shareholders. As long as the elites are rewarded for this behavior (i.e. with profit margins and bonuses etc.) they’ll keep it up. This is their mindset, and people need to see and understand that fact. So the documentary clearly places blame on the greedy multi-national corporations that could care less if America were to crumble like the Roman Empire. Yet, our Government allows this to happen because the greedy companies are simply looking for cheap labor. The culprits, rightfully pointed out, are the mega corporations and their political Democrat and Republican lackeys. It places blame on our backboneless politicians — a political system in the US that is manipulated by the money from these corporations, a corruptocracy. It’s the activity of the US political class (both parties) and US multinational corps that are most disturbing. A main point of the documentary is that policy makers in BOTH parties are beholden to big global corporations that are headquartered in the US, whose CEOs and CFOs are US citizens but who are interested in their shareholders, not their nation. If moving plants out of this country, relying on labor which is cheap because of abuse of workers in China, and ignoring the environmental impacts of unregulated industrial sector in China is expedient, then big business lobbies here will keep pressuring both parties to maintain the status quo. The responsibility of U.S. legislators to regulate has been essentially bought out by these corporations, the wholesale takeover of our legislative institutions by corporate interests. Cheap labor in China is a threat to US manufacturing, and it was the USA government who opened up his door to the Chinese. Shame on these corporations, but a bigger shame on the U.S. government. There is also an ethical question, do we want to support a government in China that manipulates currency, exploits the poor and children to make the cheap and sometimes sub-standard products it exports?  Everyone should know about the lack of regulation of manufacturing in China and how that affects basic rights. China’s human rights abuses are horrible, and the documentary does a decent job at pointing some of them out. I did not see it as “all anti-China propaganda”. Yes, it did highlight some Chinese trading practices, but it is what it is. It’s not China-bashing if it’s true! The Chinese Government has successfully use our own capitalist principals to kill the USA slowly by draining our wealth and our way of life. They take it to another level because they are ruthless and have absolute control over an almost infinite cheap labor force due to their huge population. The future prosperity of our nation is being eroded in a single generation. The overall feeling that we, the American people, have had our finest hour and are now passing from the spotlight as the center of world commerce and influence, similar to the way Britain was once the largest manufacturer, only to be surpassed by America. This is a long overdue documentary on a very important topic that completely transcends partisan points of view. The arguments are valid and must be addressed, no matter how uncomfortable they may be. I have always been scared of the China trade imbalance, and have suspected that much of the U.S. unemployment is attributable to our trade relationship with China. But never to this degree. The film goes on to place blame on the US citizenry for being so apathetic and ignorant of what is going on around us — the apathy of the US population as a whole to the outright castration of US production of anything other than hamburgers and reality TV stars. Blaming communist China for our own problems sounds convincing, if you don’t understand U.S. politics or don’t want to accept responsibility for your own actions. I’m not buying anything during this holiday season that’s “Made in China” and will determine how to protest, going forward, about this urgent issue. I will now vote with my money whenever possible. I will vote for “Made in America!” The message is clear, be a more informed consumer. Vote with your money. Spend a few more bucks and buy from that local small business. We really are asleep as consumers — so many things to be mindful of. This documentary was helpful to give another point of view that I can use to form my own actions. This is an important subject. This documentary links all the pieces together very well — laws, regulations, incentives of all the players, economics and weaves it into a complete picture of the US predicament. Its interviews are forceful, the facts are laid out very logically, the movie is easy to follow, informative, and never boring nor drags on. There are some decent points made. There is plenty of empirically-grounded information here which should be taken seriously by policy makers and citizens in the US. This is very sobering. Sometimes a documentary slips though and speaks the truth. This is one of them. This documentary is right on the money. A real eye opener. Very insightful. Enlightening documentary. Very highly recommended. A must-see film. Every American citizen should watch this documentary. – democrat, republican, liberal, and conservative. Watch it, you won’t be disappointed. This movie should be required in every classroom. This should also be played on every major TV network throughout this country, because the people of America really do need to know the truth behind the relationship between America and Communist China. Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 19m.

Declining by Degrees:
Higher Education at Risk


Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk: This PBS documentary debunks commonly held notions about the rite of passage known as the college experience, following 30 students and their teachers along the path of higher education, from admission to graduation, and exposes the disappointment, disorientation and deflation many students feel, in both public and private schools. This revealing study also addresses the quality and readiness of America’s future work force. The film provides a mix of perspectives from teachers, administrators and students. By following a variety of students (ranging from community colleges to expensive Northeastern colleges), we are introduced to the many problems plaguing our college/university systems, including lack of funding, lack of challenge in the classroom, the sometimes-questionable funding priorities of schools, the issues facing students who have to balance school and work, and much more. This two-hour analysis of contemporary American higher education articulates several critical issues in a coherent and trenchant manner. As a portrait of higher education, the picture this paints presents viewers with a disconcerting sense that something is deeply and structurally flawed in the American academy. Specific issues include: 1) the commercialization of higher education, especially in college sports; 2) the decline of teaching in favor of “research”; 3) the increasing cost of higher education for students; 4) the lack of structure within public higher education; 5) the reality of “uneducated” college graduates; and 6) the dog-eat-dog competition among colleges for ever-higher (perhaps spurious) rankings. These and other issues are given concrete expression in several case studies of widely varying students over a two year period. The sometimes abstract issues are brought closer to home when we see what, for example, higher costs mean for folks who are not born into privilege. Also very useful was commentary by experts, all dead-on in their analyses (my bias!). My only gripe is that the proposed solution boils down to this: more money from taxpayers. While more money might help address some issues (something tells me it would be used to build bigger/better sports arenas rather than help financially strapped students), it would do nothing to address several others that the film brings up, including the lack of engagement in the classroom (by many students and some teachers), the social problems on campus (binge drinking among them), and the lack of accountability within the system. How about student motivation? As far back as 1967 we learned that there were generally two kinds of graduates from the state-mandated high-schools: those who were motivated to learn and those who were motivated to hang out. Many arrive at college expecting to skate on through it like high school but eventually learn they can’t. Most of the people I go to school with are fresh out of high school and still think and act like they’re in high school. This film cover students in undergraduate programs (not graduate programs) and most of their undergraduate majors are anything but difficult — they coast through and brag about not putting any effort into their studies (these are not Pre-Med or Engineering students). The proportion of serious learners coming from public high schools seems to have diminished over the years. College tuition costs have been rising, and rising even faster are the higher wages that college graduates receive over those without a degree. A degree is becoming more important, not less, in our digital economy. And so while the cost of going to college is rising, the cost of NOT going to college is becoming more crucial. I was disappointed that a broader range of potential solutions (of which money could be a part) wasn’t discussed. But this is an important and necessary start to a discussion that needs to take place now, and I recommend it on those terms alone. This film manages to pack a massive amount of information into two hours in an informative and attention-keeping way. I didn’t get any sense of it being an unfair attack on public education. I saw what I’ve read in numerous books on this very topic. Research is valued more highly than teaching and hence teaching suffers since the system contains no incentives for university lecturers to go and get some teacher training — only financially lucrative research is rewarded. The exposé of big time college sports echoes what some respected people have written on the topic of how certain “students” are kept in the system for the primary purpose of showcasing the college on the national sports stage, and their academic requirements are watered down to the bare minimum. Some sports programs turn a profit, but most of them don’t, and yet the market forces driving the sporting arms race remain as entrenched as ever. Having gone to both a public and a private university, I can see the difference in the approaches to education as mirrored by this movie. However, community colleges were painted as a place of last resort, and while community colleges may not be Ivy League, they certainly work more toward educating students instead of recruiting faculty for research. This documentary deserves plaudits for taking a closer look at the failures of higher education in this country. This doc is breathtaking in its honesty, hopeful in certain respects yet unflinching in its critique. No political agenda — no “Right vs Left”. Overall, a good film about higher ed! I would certainly recommend watching it to get a better understanding of what challenges our higher education community faces. Very enlightening. This documentary gives a great indication of what college really is about. I strongly recommend this documentary to anyone planning to attend college, and HIGHLY recommended for all adults who are preparing to send their kids off to college. Excellent, must-see movie. Documentary 2005 NR 120 minutes.

Let’s Make Money

Let’s Make Money is not about how to make money. This film traces money as it goes through the global finance system — exposing policies and practices affecting the worldwide economy. This film is about the billions, trillions of dollars that go to selfish human greed and not to basic human need. This shows the global marketplace from all perspectives: wealthy investors, business owners, bankers, laborers, activists, government officials, impoverished people — from all around the world. A very good film that subtly presents the various sides of the process by which wealth is being created and then concentrated in the grasp of a small group. The World Bank and IMF are going from nation to poor nation, using up all its natural resources, and then moving on to the next vulnerable nation to rape its resources — gold, diamonds, cotton, coffee, or minerals of all kinds. The profiteers rake in the cash and move on, leaving a trail of pollution and poverty in their wake. The air and water are dumping grounds for these outfits. The poor governments, trying to compete, impose no environmental or employee protection regulations. Greed and corruption result in all this grief and devastation, and will leave us with a planet damaged by their ruthlessness. The wealthy vultures in the film seem completely unaware of how greedy they are. They speak about avoiding unions and getting the workers to accept as little as possible — a new form of modern slavery. The living conditions of the people inside the country they are destroying are of no interest or concern to these voracious plunderers. They don’t want to be bothered with any kind of sad stories about the plight of the people. In the exploited countries, those workers benefit nothing from their countries’ resources. Instead the richest one percent, using the World Bank and IMF, make entire countries literally debt slaves through finance mechanisms, and plunder natural resources. Almost nothing comes back to those countries to improve the lives of their citizens. If only all of us who live the good life could understand and realize where much of the money comes from – and what the companies and/or governments do to provide these cheap materials, food, etc. In this film we hear about US economic hitmen from the very perpetrators themselves of what amounts to and is not overstated to call “crimes against humanity”, so it’s all the more compelling if not outright shocking. In the words of one famous cinematic witch, “What a world, what a world”. What a world it is where capital and a small percentage of elites without conscience have run completely amok.  I was shocked to find out about the huge Spanish “housing bubble” that burst in 2008.  This doc does an outstanding job showing us the dire global consequences of capital without controls. When will the little people wake up? Well, little people like ourselves have NO clue about what’s going on with the global economy, because it seems that those who have the money continue to make globs of it, at our expense. These marauders should be put in prison and never get out for what they are doing to the poor people in those vulnerable countries. The filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer finds people unafraid to say exactly how it is. But he also does something else. Unlike other documentarians who bombard the viewer with endless streams of data and information, this director creates tactful breaks the presentation to let the information sink into the viewer’s mind.  The documentary is done in such a way as to not preach but instead to lay out the horrors of poverty and the blatant greed of callous investment bankers without requiring many words of explanation. Western civilization got where it is today and Britain gained such economic might in the 19th century through colonization and plundering. America would not have become such a great power without the extermination of the natives and then importing slavery. The economic model and the institutions of the west are built on the wealth generated by such exploitation. This documentary only tries to tell the current generations of Americans and Europeans that descendants of Christopher Columbus and Spanish Conquistadors are still alive and doing very well. They no longer go out with armies, slave ships or East India trading companies, as in the past. Instead they do it through free-market principles, World Bank, IMF, GATT, FX markets and intellectual property regime. The poorest of the poor in the west would not want to switch places with the poor in third world ’emerging markets’. Instead they would ask their leaders to carry the torch of colonialism from the past century forward (in the form of neo-colonialism using capitalism, business globalization, and cultural imperialism to influence a country, instead of either direct military control or indirect political control). Westerners love to give a charity check or have complex immigration laws and be ready with trade sanctions. But in the end westerners knows the system works very well — passed on for the last 500 years — of where and how ‘money can be made’. No one is telling the truth to Indians and Africans — nor willing to return their lands and money. Of all the documentaries on capitalism and economics I’ve seen in the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession, this has had the most impact on me. Great documentary! Probably the most “cinematic” doc I’ve seen — beautiful. Especially the storytelling makes this documentary exceptional, telling its stories in a very dry and objective manner, and moving away from the popular sensational journalism of Michael Moore. This is the most important movie I’ve watched in the last five years. Six Stars. For documentaries about the times that we live in, this one is well above the rest in a class of its own. It will leave you aware of the global scale of the financial catastrophe of 2008, how wide and deep it has been. This film is worth a re-watch — didn’t take it out of my queue. Mandatory viewing. Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 47m.

The Central Park Five

The Central Park Five is a documentary that examines the case of teenagers, all African-American or Latino, who were falsely accused and convicted of the brutal rape of a white woman in 1989. What is revealed is very intriguing: how a huge legal case was made out of pretty much thin air, with support of the press and the public. The facts reveal that the entire police brass, DAs, politicians and especially the NYC media were complicit in railroading these youths. The prosecutors’ quest for convictions never wavered, even when there was no clear forensic evidence of proof, and no link of the five accused to DNA samples found at the scene. The film’s opening statement by Mr. Dwyer, then a journalist who wrote on the case, says it all: the case embodied frustrations regarding many social issues of the time, but Truth and Justice weren’t on the plate. I appreciated the first third of the film, which gave us a human view of these young men, who came from close-knit families that had expectations for them, as opposed to the racist picture painted by the media record. What the documentary so powerfully shows is how racist attitudes can still lead to a mob groupthink hate mentality by the public. Add in class (these were five lower-class youths), headline-grabbing politicians and law enforcement figures, along with sensationalistic media — and you have a toxic brew indeed. I remember this time period as one of the first moments I felt media overkill. The need by authorities to satisfy the media in order to look good plays into these incidents whether the frenzied media wants to admit it or not. I thought the five were guilty based on the reports I was reading. What makes this film work is that it fills in all the details of the case. If the five had competent representation and there had not been such a firestorm over the case, I doubt they would have been convicted. They were just young kids, and the fact the cops got away interrogating them without legal representation or parents present is criminal. It does make me wonder where is the political leadership that should have told the cops to find the right bad guys and take the heat for the slow police investigation, instead of find the guilty fast. I vividly recall this infamous Central Park rape, the media circus after it happened, and the sensationalist hype about 25 “wilding” youths on a rampage. But these five young men didn’t take part in any of the other lesser assaults that occurred that night. Several of them took the assaults as their queue to leave and go home — one even had a curfew. They were taken from their homes to the precinct — a fact that was NOT in the news accounts of the time. So, this doc is a refreshing counter to the incomplete record. The boys were convicted despite the existence of exculpatory evidence. This documentary enraged me that the system railroaded these teens and took their unrecoverable youthful years. Accurately portraying it in the context of the late 1980s as a proxy for the vigilante justice and racially-tinged fear of crime that engulfed New York and the nation by extension. What was missing for me was an explanation by the cops – I’d love to hear their excuses for what they did to these young boys. Eventually modern forensics exonerated them with the help the actual perpetrator who eventually confessed. Mayor Koch seemed unfazed by the injustice — and NYPD are criminal in their refusal to acknowledge that they forced those confessions. It is infuriating that cops and prosecutors can get away with stuff like this, without repercussions. Cops and prosecutors who railroad innocent people and ruin lives should do jail time. Prosecutor Fairstein and her minions are seen as either zealots or headline seekers, pursuing verdicts that would appease the outraged public. Fairstein’s behavior seemed so outrageous that in the 1993 appeals decision on Salaam’s case then appellate court judge Vito Titone blasted the entire interrogation process: “I was concerned about a criminal justice system that would tolerate the conduct of the prosecutor, Linda Fairstein, who deliberately engineered the 15-year-old’s confession. Fairstein wanted to make a name. She didn’t care.” The Central Park 5 deserve to win their civil lawsuit against the City of New York. The underlying racism and ‘Old Boy’ networks persist in this country. This documentary is spot on as far as looking at all sides of the issue and the travesty. A very important documentary of one of the worst miscarriages of justice in modern American history. Very well done. The film captures that time period in New York City quite vividly. Riveting is the word I would use. When I heard famous documentary maker Ken Burns and his daughter Sarah were involved in producing this film, I immediately wanted to see it. Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 58m.

Triumph of the Nerds

Triumph of the Nerds is an in-depth look at the rise of Silicon Valley giants from nerd-dom to success, providing an impressive history of personal computing by Robert X. Cringely. All three one-hour sections (“Impressing Their Friends,” “Riding the Bear” and “Great Artists Steal”) invite viewers into the lives of movers and shakers such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. This is a very interesting PBS series done back in 1996 covering the beginnings of the personal computer, or PC. It does a good job of explaining the changes to that point and the characters involved in the early developments of the computer revolution. For a look back at the power players of the early PC, this is informative and entertaining fare, especially for those who might not have background knowledge of Silicon Valley and its history. The information is presented in an entertaining fashion. This series combines some basic explanations of technical knowledge with the surprising story of the explosion of the PC market. So this movie on the birth and growth of the personal computer is entertaining even for non-geeks (my wife liked it!). For folks who work in the tech industry, this is a great trip down memory lane! The story is informative and trivia-laden about an interesting subject. Clearly lays out the development of the PC and the roles of key players like Gates, Jobs, IBM, Xerox, Apple, etc. in bringing this technology to market. One can see the contrasting styles of the main protagonists, such as Gates vs. Jobs, and everyone vs. IBM. Shows the give-and-take of different individuals as they worked to bring modern computing power to the average person. Host Robert X. Cringely does a very good job explaining and showing how the first personnel computers came to be. He keeps the episodes moving at a brisk pace while covering most of the really big moments in early personal computing history. His slightly off-the-wall style is highly entertaining. He does a great job with interviews, photos and field trips to places where the personal computer was developed. Spotlighting mostly Apple and Microsoft, the documentary provides an interesting history of the personal computer by showing film clips. He interviews most of the major players of that time who started all the biggie companies: Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Intel, Oracle, IBM and the granddaddy of them all: Xerox PARC. We meet behind-the-scenes guys like Ed Roberts who invented the first PC, Altair. Many industry luminaries including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Paul Allen and Steve Wozniak (aka “The Woz”) are profiled along with other bit players. There are lots of fascinating revelations: How Gates sold IBM an operating system that didn’t really exist — after his chief rival refused to scrub a planned outing instead of talking to Big Blue on short notice. How Gates bought the core of MS-DOS from a hard-up software company for $50K. The demo Jobs got from Xerox of its graphic user interface (GUI) that led to the Macintosh. It also reveals how big ponderous business companies like IBM or Xerox got involved with computers — and what they did or didn’t do. We learn how missteps by companies turn out to be 100 billion dollar mistakes, made by people who could be millionaires today — if they had just been thinking differently. I love that even those who missed the boat have a say! And how it is sometimes not the inventor but the exploiter of an innovation who profits in this industry. The backstabbing by Microsoft and Apple. Some of the interviews included in this film are now the stuff of legend, such as Steve Jobs plainly stating that Microsoft has no taste. All of it is great information on just the first 20 years of personal computer history, but for an account up that point it is really good. (This movie was made in 1996, BEFORE laptops, smartphones, tablets, Google, or social networking such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc.; before Internet markets such as Amazon, Ebay, etc.; before high speed Internet opened new ways to watch TV shows and movies via Hulu and Netflix!) So in the film it is funny seeing “the latest and greatest” computer technologies of 1996 that are so obsolete by today’s standards. But the film is all the more interesting because it is dated. Some reviewers on Netflix include the word “unfortunately” in the same sentence as “dated”, but I disagree. I think it being dated makes this story ten times more awesome. The 90s seem so camp now! Lame graphics, odd host, bad hair and clothes, etc. But that kind of adds to the whole atmosphere of this documentary. Yes, in technology years it’s ancient history – and that’s the point. It would be like objecting to the mini-series “John Adams” as “too dated.” It’s fun to see interview footage of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and others from back in the early days of the computer revolution — the old photographs of 19 year-old geeky Gates are great. Basically, it shows that the modern PC in almost every household today was made and developed by a bunch of teenage geeks and nerds from the seventies who were looking for some extra beer and gas money. This documentary illustrates the beginning of how a few determined guys changed our world completely. It really is a fascinating story on the early days of the PC industry – a good documentary on the development of the modern PC. This is really THE film document of the history of the personal computer. This doc is valuable because it lets you see some of the movers and shakers of a new industry. It is virtually a must-watch for nerds today. Having owned and used computers since the early 80s, this was a great walk through memory lane. Absolutely a must-watch for anyone who has ever touched a computer. If you want to learn about computers or their history, this the documentary to watch. I was glued to the screen. With a quick pace the material provided is never dry, and the three hour run-time goes by quickly. This is definitely worth watching. I highly recommend this — I think you will like it. Two thumbs up! This has got to be one of the great historical documentaries — one of the very best documentaries ever! I am grateful to everyone involved, including the lighthearted host Robert Cringely. May we continue the innovative legacy these men and women left behind. It would be great to get an update with interviews from new powerplayers, although after this movie came out in 1996 subsequent developments have been covered much more thoroughly in the media than were the early days before 1995, which is why this doc is so valuable. At the end of the film Robert Cringely promises to do a sequel in ten years to catch up on a lot of the changes that have taken place since 1995. That promise came due in 2005, and has yet to be fulfilled with a sequel (which however then would itself quickly become out of date again!) This film is based on Cringley’s 1992 book Accidental Empires. Robert X. Cringely is the pen name of technology journalist Mark Stephens. If you like this, there’s also Pirates of Silicon Valley, a made-for-TV docudrama based on this material that’s also a very good watch. (This documentary Triumph of the Nerds could be considered as a behind-the-scenes disc to the docudrama Pirates of Silicon Valley, with the advantage that the actual people involved in the beginnings of the home computer industry are interviewed on this disc, which also offers more details about the history of the computer industry. Documentary 1996 NR 165 minutes. (Not to be confused with Revenge of the Nerds, the 1984 title of a series of comedy movies about a fraternity of brainy socially-inept students — but not about the founders the computer industry.)

Granny D Goes to Washington

Documentary 2007 NR 26m. An 89-year-old idealist walks across the United States to demand that lawmakers reduce the role of special interest money in politics, focusing on campaign finance reform. This film is very inspiring…to see that someone cared enough about the United States and its people to walk across the country at the age of 89 putting her life at risk. The journey would be challenging to even the fittest of athletes yet Granny-D let the importance of her cause inspire her to keep moving in spite of her collapse in the heat of the desert. Campaign contributions are a bain to true democracy. Soft money contributions by corporations were undermining the ability of the people to self-govern. This film illustrates the power of one…one who has the determination to make a difference. Starting on January 1, 1999, she walked over 3,200 miles (5,100 km) across the continental United States to advocate for campaign finance reform. Haddock’s walk across the country followed a southern route and took more than a year to complete, starting on January 1, 1999, in southern California and ending in Washington, D.C., on February 29, 2000. She influenced people all across the U.S. as she walked, and when she arrived in Washington D.C. prominent politicians like John McCain were eager to talk with her and proud to see an American with such love for her country and the democratic process. Such acts are what the U.S. has been built upon. In 2004, she ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Judd Gregg for the U.S. Senate. But in 2010 the Citizens United decision overturned the McCain-Feingold reform barring soft money. What a tragedy to see all your hard work over the last decade overturned in an instant. While Granny-D was successful in influencing campaign finance reform laws, in 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court changed the laws in favor of soft money proponents by giving corporations the ability to spend unlimited funds in our elections. The case: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. This action opened the flood gates and bad money is now buying influence with our members of Congress. Sadly, this law was passed January 21, 2010, almost 100 years to the day from Granny-D’s birth. Granny-D died March 9, 2010 — about 6 weeks after the Supreme Court decision at the age of 100 in Dublin, New Hampshire. The founders of the U.S. had the same enthusiasm, fortitude and dedication. Granny-D — hope you are proud, wherever you may be. Thank you!!

The Camden 28

The Camden 28 is a stirring documentary recounting the trial of 28 Vietnam War opponents who broke into a New Jersey draft board office in 1971. The goal of the group was to make a bold statement in opposition to the war in Vietnam by way of sabotaging the portion of the draft process that was administered through the local draft board in Camden. Their plan was to break into the draft board offices at night and search for, collect, and either destroy or remove the records of all Class 1-A status draft registrants. It was to be both a symbolic and real blow to the process through which tens of thousands of young American men were being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam. The drafted participants seemingly had no choice and were “selected” by their neighbors who sat on the local draft board. The 28 wrote in a statement before trial: “We are twenty-eight men and women who, together with other resisters across the country, are trying with our lives to say NO to the madness we see perpetrated by our government in the name of the American people – the madness of our Vietnam policy, of the arms race, of our neglected cities and inhuman prisons. We do not believe that it is criminal to destroy pieces of paper which are used to bind men to involuntary servitude, which train these men to kill, and which send them to possibly die in an unjust, immoral, and illegal war. We will continue to speak out and act for peace and justice, knowing that our spirit of resistance cannot be jailed or broken.” The group’s members weren’t stereotypical anti-Vietnam War activists. While the group did include young students and “hippies,” there were also blue-collar workers, devout Catholics and even four Catholic priests and a Protestant minister. I appreciated the depth and detail the film went into in describing the planning meetings and various tactics the Camden 28 tried to use in their efforts to carry out their action. Their various reactions to the revelation that there is a Judas among them, and the tragic loss of his son, gives a level of emotional complexity to the story. The raid resulted in a high-profile trial against the activists that was seen by many as a referendum on the Vietnam War. The FBI encouraged and enabled the raid on the draft board to take place, so the raid came across as being funded and driven by the FBI, and the defense was able to argue effectively that through the FBI, the government “over-reached” in its zeal to arrest and prosecute this particular set of anti-war activists. The trial continued, day after day, as a forum for our country’s history and values, while at the same time the results of Watergate were finally etching a clear depiction of our leaders’ deception and malfeasance. The jury returned “not guilty” verdicts for all counts against all 28 defendants, acquitting them. The film presents two different arguments–1) an acquittal was earned due to the jury being unsettled by extensive FBI interference and facilitation of the break-in (which, we learn, led to new legal interpretations of entrapment), and 2) that several jurors voted for acquittal in protest of the Vietnam war. The trial has many instructive lessons, but one of the most important is that if you become accused of a political crime, you must represent yourself in order to legally present your motivation as evidence, and attempt to establish a relationship with the jury. Howard Zinn testified at the trial and recommended civil disobedience — the message of civil disobedience being a theme in American history – and that public opinion sometimes favors nullifying the law for various reasons.  The participants in this “disobedience” and “law-breaking” elevate themselves as “revolutionaries” worthy of heroic status. Now more than ever we need such protestors with their sense of justice and their understanding of the power of civil disobedience — Thoreau’s America in the late twentieth century. (“Resistance to Civil Government — Civil Disobedience” is an 1849 essay by American Henry David Thoreau. In it, he argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. Thoreau was motivated in part by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican–American War.) The Camden 28 trial was a watershed moment in our country’s history, where the rule of law was violated, but the spirit of law prevailed. This movie evokes the 1970s for me as no other. We easily forget the risks taken by noble folk powered by faith and reason. This is a dramatic and gripping documentary. Not at all boring. You need not agree with the politics of the Camden 28 to enjoy the film. I would recommend the film to activists and those interested in the subjects of civil disobedience and justice. This would be a good documentary to show to high school children in history class. This documentary is a must-see for all: those who lived through that era, whether oblivious to the war, serving in the war, and/or protesting against the war, and to those who are too young to remember the times. Documentary 2007 NR 1hr 22m.

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Pink Ribbons, Inc. is an exposé showing the real story of breast cancer, as this film explores who really benefits from the pink ribbon campaigns — the cause or the company. It documents how some companies use pink-ribbon-related marketing to increase sales while contributing only a small fraction of proceeds to the cause. Some companies manufacturing products that may be cancer-producing (carcinogenic) use pink ribbons to improve their public image. The pink-ribbon movement thus far has done more for marketing than for medicine. The film starts with an old newsreel speech of President Reagan about decreasing government spending and increasing private donations. Charlotte Haley began the first peach-colored ribbon campaign more than 20 years ago to pressure the National Cancer Institute to increase its research budget for cancer prevention from a mere five percent of the total. When Haley was approached by Self magazine and cosmetics company Estée Lauder in 1992 to use her ribbons in a breast cancer awareness campaign — she refused — because she had no desire to be part of a commercial effort. So they stole her idea. To circumvent Haley’s efforts trying to stop them, the company changed the color from peach to pink, after using consumer focus groups to help select the most soothing and reassuring color. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer that afflicts mostly women (a few men also get it.) That prevalence partially explains the rise of the pink-ribbon movement. Each year, the month of October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by many governments, the media, and cancer survivors. The film features interviews with critics of the pink ribbon campaign, and researchers and cancer patients, as well as cancer fundraisers such as Nancy Brinker who is head of the organization “Susan G. Komen for the Cure”. Brinker’s group has channeled $1.9 billion to breast-cancer research. While that’s an extraordinary number, the results are less impressive — 59,000 people die of this affliction in the United States annually, and the number of cases has dramatically increased here and worldwide. In the end, a tiny percentage of money raised goes toward research (a.k.a., finding a “cure”). The disconnect between research and results is one of the film’s keenest protests. On-screen commentators contend that breast-cancer research is poorly coordinated and badly focused. Some of the pink-ribbon sponsors may even be implicated in rising cancer rates. Avon is a major supporter of the cause, yet certain cosmetics contain suspected cancer-causing agents. Polluting industries try to buy public goodwill by publishing advertisements emblazoned with pink ribbons — rather than stopping their pollution.  This documentary is eye-opening, especially with regard to companies having pink ribbon campaigns while simultaneously contributing to environmental and health factors that cause cancer. Sad to think this cancer funding propaganda is just another way for companies to turn a dollar by exploiting a disease they help to create. Some companies manufacturing products that may be cancer-producing (carcinogenic) use pink ribbons to improve their public image in a way that has been labelled “pinkwashing” (a combination of the words pink ribbon and whitewash). Marketing campaigns for products linked to the development of breast cancer — such as alcohol, high-fat foods, pesticides, or the parabens used by cosmetic companies — have been condemned as attempts to improve their public image. Such promotions generally result in a token donation to a breast cancer-related charity. They take advantage of consumers’ fear of cancer and grief for victims to drive sales. Critics say these promotions do little more than support the marketing machines that produce them, such as fundraising powerhouse organization “Susan G. Komen for the Cure”, which nets more than $30 million each year. Fewer than 30 percent of patients have a genetic proclivity for the illness. Considering the fact that the majority of women with breast cancer have no risk factors other than sex and age, the Environmental Breast Cancer Movement suspects pollution as a significant cause, possibly from pesticides, plastics, and industrial runoff in ground water. This may indicate most cancer cases stem from environmental causes — yet relatively little attention is paid to prevention. Large organizations, such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society, are not part of the Environmental Breast Cancer Movement. Those organizations benefit the most from corporate sponsorships that critics deride as “pinkwashing” —  polluting industries trying to buy public goodwill by publishing advertisements emblazoned with pink ribbons, rather than stopping their pollution. The pink ribbon campaign always sounds like an advertising gimmick, and this film provides damning testimony to that effect. This is an outstanding exposé of the duplicitousness of corporate America and the “breast cancer awareness” phenomenon — attempting to bolster their profits by simply emblazoning their wares with pink ribbons, while pocketing the lion’s share of the revenue raised from them. The president of the American Cancer Society makes a seven-figure salary. I was a professional fund-raiser for local chapters of major non-profits, and when it was all over with, I would cut the target organization a check amounting to roughly 6-8% of the funds raised. That’s the best way to explain the commercialization of breast cancer, a money-making venture for the non-profits that push fun-run activities as a “Race for the Cure”, and also for these manufacturers and retailers jumping onto the bandwagon. For the Cancer Establishment! I had a feeling that all these big companies where not in it to be Good Samaritans — after all they’re all about making a buck. Yoplait Yogurt’s manufacturer General Mills sponsors an annual “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign, a fundraising drive where people collect Yoplait yogurt lids supposedly to help raise money to support women affected by breast cancer. For each lid redeemed, Yoplait donates 10 cents to the national breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Since 1997, Yoplait has donated more than $34 million to the cause through Save Lids to Save Lives. My friend mailed yogurt lids for breast cancer, so I calculated the cost of mailing the lids — the stamps she used cost more than the total amount of money being donated from those yogurt lids. Yes, people need to read fine print on these promotions, and instead of wasting postage on mailing lids for a 10 cent donation each, just donate money. I used to collect Pink lids –until I realized that if the yogurt guys really wanted to donate money for breast cancer, they could have just done so by themselves — instead of using expensive TV advertisements to make us buy, and then donating only 10 cents of what we buy. These well-established companies involved in “fighting” breast cancer make billions, so why not donate the profit? I personally feel they should donate ALL profit, and also write some personal checks. People that really want to help others should give time and money to those in need, not to charity “collection agencies” that just pad their own pockets. So where is the money? My doctor put me on a chemo pill that is really expensive. He gave me a list of agencies that are supposed to help, but all the agencies I contacted (at least 20) said they were out funds for the year and to try back next year. Where are the millions of dollars donated? If you’ve ever been in real need and have gone to one of these Charities for help, you learn quickly that the money is NOT available like you’ve been lead to believe. First you have had to deplete your bank account, your insurance…and have NO assets at all…nothing. Then you have to apply to Public Assistance (Welfare) to see what they will pay for. When you can finally put in an application, then you find you have to qualify by being the right ‘age’, ‘ethnic group’ or at a certain stage in the cancer — not too far gone, but not too early, you have to be ‘just right’….yeah right! This film is based on Samantha King’s book, “Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy”, and King is one of the movie’s main voices. In addition to the interviews, the film also features animated sequences, vintage clips from news programs and public-service announcements, and coverage of pink-ribbon events: like walks “for the cure” in D.C. and San Francisco, a pink-lighted Niagara Falls and Empire State Building, and a jump by “Aerial Pink Force” skydivers. I remember seeing pink ribbons everywhere, on cars, on people, on food. Everywhere. It was so trendy. And I immediately became suspicious because so much effort was being made into making pretty ribbons that they can plaster everywhere. And I thought, well, how much money is left over for breast cancer research? I never told anyone what I thought because I didn’t think anyone else had the same view. Or I thought other people would attack me for being “uncaring.” I’m glad the documentary mentions the exploitation by large corporations that I felt was there all along. What this film does is give voice to a different point of view that gets drowned out under all the “pink”. The film exposes many things I discovered myself about pink ribbon B.S. You should start to question everything that you have been told and brainwashed into believing about where the money actually goes. Is it right for them to play on the sympathies of emotion for profit? Given the millions of dollars raised for breast cancer research by the campaign, the film argues that not enough of the money goes to preventionor exploring possible environmental causes. Surprised? Interesting there is no documentary on prevention! For all the benefits of early detection and treatment alternatives, the real best practice always starts with trying to not having the disease occur in the first place. Two significant campaigns against pink consumption are the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s “Not Just Ribbons” campaign, and Breast Cancer Action’s “Think Before You Pink” campaign, which encourages consumers to questions pink products (e.g., to find out how much of a donation is being made). Here it is in full documentary form. The results of decades of privatization. Look for a magic pill that will be profitable. Give to the “CURE”, ignore the CAUSE. Western medicine as a whole is in the business of prolonged illness. With all this money going to research, why is it that cancer medication costs so much? If a pill’s development is paid for by donations, why is it then charged for by pharmaceutical companies? Cancer for sale is a good way to describe what is exposed by this film. It does a good job of peeling away the pink cover of different companies that profit from breast cancer awareness. Like anything, just “follow the money”. This is a real honest, comprehensive look at where the money goes. From now on, the companies listed in the documentary will not get a penny more from me (including Komen) until they fund more research on prevention. I had no idea how deep this goes. A really great exposé on this industry of cancer. I’m soo glad someone is speaking out against the publicity and marketing role of the Pink Ribbons. This documentary is excellent — shocking and eye-opening. A must-watch for anyone who gives a damn about what actually is or isn’t being done for the millions of women who live and die with breast cancer every year. Everyone should think about this. Women of all ages need to watch this and tell others too. It is incredibly important to share this with as many as possible. Anyone who has breast cancer, knows anyone who has it, or is concerned with cancer, really must see this film. A must-watch for all. The whole world needs to see this!!! Documentary National Film Board of Canada (NFB) 2011 NR 1hr 37m.

The Other Side of Immigration

In The Other Side of Immigration, contemporary immigration issues between the United States and Mexico receive careful study. This documentary uses extensive interviews to outline the experiences and perspectives of ordinary citizens in the Mexican countryside. In examining the economic factors prompting Mexicans to seek work in the United States and the social pressures that result, the film presents an affecting look at a complex political and moral issue. If you want to learn more about why Mexicans migrate to the US, this movie explains it. This is a great introduction to the plight of anyone in Mexico trying to make money to survive. The opening screen says it is based on 700 interviews in rural Mexico. Excellent, excellent interviews with well-spoken, intelligent Mexican locals explain firsthand the people’s plight and what they conclude are the solutions. One benefit of this documentary is to hear the experiences of Mexican families from their own lips–which is a huge input missing in the American conversation about immigration from Mexico. Hear opinions of those who have made it a cycle to come to USA to work, return to Mexico, and then do it all over again. We hear the Mexican side of the story from Mexicans in their own words: telling of local agriculture lamed by imports from the U.S., Mexican aid programs for the rural poor stultified by corruption, children growing up without fathers. This should be called ‘The Human Side of Immigration’ — because that’s exactly what it shows us. Here are the stories, statistics and images that really explain “why?” Why have 12 million people left their homes and risked their lives to come here illegally? The answer is … they have little other choice. The people in this movie want to be able to provide for their family while living in Mexico, but this is no longer possible in rural Mexico, so immigrants must sneak into to the U.S. to find jobs. “Between 1970 and 2008, the number of Mexican immigrants in the United States rose from .7 million to 12.7 million”, for an increase of 12 million. “Throughout the Mexican countryside, there are towns where half the population has left to work in the United States.” What has caused this drastic change? The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994 made it harder for Mexicans to grow and sell produce in their own country, because cheaper American produce took over. I researched this topic extensively in college, and you really have to understand the “push-pull” factors of the immigration issue in order to understand why people are willing/forced to migrate. One of the biggest “push” factors is definitely NAFTA and its ravaging effects on the Mexican agricultural sector. The film does a good job at explaining why so many peasants have been displaced from Mexico’s countryside and forced to migrate due to the inability to compete with American and Canadian imports ever since NAFTA’s inception. It’s like Wal-Mart coming to a small town and outcompeting most of the local shops. I truly believe in capitalism, but you have to understand how these policies have benefited U.S. corporations and corrupt Mexican officials/politicians at the expense of Mexico’s poor. So these immigrants had to start coming to US to get better jobs — to support their families back home. It never dawned on me that these people want to stay in Mexico instead of coming to the US. They love their homeland and really don’t want to have to leave. They don’t want to go through the struggles it takes to get across the border into the US, but they do it because they have to. I was glad they talked a lot throughout about the United States’ big influence in causing this problem. I grew up in Mexico before NAFTA, and back when I was a teenager everyone had derided the idea of moving to the US. But when NAFTA was first implemented, I personally saw how businesses closed and farmers left their fields. There were a lot of people in the streets begging for money, and the standard of living suffered as well. Everything became more expensive. It came to the point where it became a necessity for many people to migrate to the USA. As a result, right after the early 2000’s, you could see slow improvements in Mexico: in the better condition of houses, and kids wearing better clothes and carrying cell phones. Now just about everyone has a family member working in the U.S. It’s been an extremely dramatic change. So this film does a great job explaining why NAFTA has been forcing so many Mexicans to migrate illegally, and it helped me better understand from their perspective. This is an amazing documentary that shows us the perspective of the migrants and the reasoning behind why they have to do what they do. Although I have seen two movies documenting the treacherous dangers of crossing the border, this movie is necessary to understand their motivations for trying to cross the border. Watched this film for my Cultural Diversity class in college. The saying there are two sides to every story is something to keep in mind as you watch this. I recommend this to anyone who thinks they know both sides of the immigration issue — there is more there than meets the eye. This is a wonderful look at a very pressing topic. I think the director finally gave a fair voice to the people that immigrate to the U.S. every year. The film also helps us to understand that the largely-corrupt Mexican government has absolutely no reason to stop illegal immigration — rather the opposite: the many billions of dollars sent home by ‘illegals’ is a major revenue stream for the country of Mexico. Absent that money, hunger and hopelessness could foment a revolution … it’s happened before. So next time you read about that huge fence the U.S. is building, remember that the Mexican government on the other side is praying for holes … lots and lots of holes. Mexico is the 10th largest producer of oil in the world, so the Mexican people could be prosperous, except that the government is corrupt. This is stated over and over again throughout the movie by the people themselves. Makes me wonder if the corruption of the Mexican Government is the future of the US Government? Very well done and VERY eye-opening to the fact that our current system is not working. The film also makes a pitch for six-month work visas–especially since a lot of the immigrants want to return home to their families anyway for part of each year. A work visa program should be revamped to accommodate the number of people that both economies can support as legal migrant workers. Allowing the ‘correct’ number of people to obtain a green card or work visa should be a higher priority (then again, this is a government issue, so good luck with expediency). It would definitely take the risk out of migrating, as well as squelch the “coyote” scum who charge money to smuggle immigrants. The perspective and inside stories shown in this documentary are truly eye-opening. It really opened up my eyes! I have often been involved in conversations where the majority are complaining about immigrants from Mexico. I never had much intelligent to say on the issue, so mostly kept my mouth shut, but this documentary has changed that. Now I have LOTS to say, and hopefully I can encourage others to think more thoughtfully about this issue. There are many people in this country who are willing to give their opinions about this issue without understanding the facts. This is the only documentary that I know of that goes beyond the fear and messages of hate about immigrants in order to tell real stories of real people struggling for a better life for their families. This is a great movie that gets to the core of the “immigration problem” without resorting to the divisive tactics so often seen when approaching this subject. It is heartfelt and human — everyone should see it. It is extremely informative and has helped sway the views of many conservatives opposed to immigration. Except for American Indians, almost everyone else in the United Sates is here because they have ancestors who were immigrants. But American vigilantes hunt down and kill Mexican immigrants crossing the border. I now feel a greater compassion for these people of Mexico. No longer will I look at the ‘illegals’ with distrust. Watching this film also sheds some light on the point of view of other misunderstood minorities, who are unable to provide a future for their families in their native countries. I praise the director for bringing light to such a hot topic. Very simple and straightforward, very moving, and informative for those of us North of the Border. It is a very insightful and thought-provoking movie. This film was excellent — absolutely, positively excellent.  I really liked this documentary — LOVED it! I wish more Americans would watch this film. I hope you watch it. Watch this fine movie, and feel your brain (and heart) expand. ***** 5 Stars ***** Documentary 2009 NR 55 minutes.

American Addict

American Addict is about prescription drugs and the alarming appetite for them in the United States, and it aims to illuminate a national health crisis. The title is misleading — the film is more about unethical practices by the drug companies and the gross ineffectiveness of the FDA than it is about addiction to prescribed medications. The over-use of pharmaceuticals in this country is an epidemic, and this film is a very good objective source of information — insightful comments coming from the mouths of doctors, researchers, and politicians. One of the most important topics in America today, largely because of the obscene numbers of people taking pharmaceuticals, or who have died from them, or who are swayed daily by slick TV drug commercials, or who are on 3, 4, or even 10 different pills and still see no fundamental error with this. With only five percent of world population, more than 50% of all prescription drugs in the world are used in the US, and 80% of all narcotic prescription drugs are used in the US. The fourth leading cause of death in the US is medications. How can this be normal?? So people die from these prescribed drugs:  Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Michael Jackson. I’ve been reading for years about the actions of the pharmaceutical drug companies, collectively called Big Pharma, and it is nice to have it so well and so thoroughly covered in this film. The facts put forward can be checked and verified quite easily. An excellent and riveting look at how Big Pharma are making America the most prescription-addicted society in the world. Yes, the current push is to treat everything with a pill, and that is simply wrong. This is the reason why most drug abuse starts with prescription drugs, and not through the sales of drug dealers. What’s scary is the FDA, the agency that should be the watchdog, has been bought by drug companies. Awful, awful. The pharmaceutical industry’s influence and control are deeply imbedded in our culture. The industry is doing its job — making a profit, but often unethically and sometimes illegally. The regulatory system is failing in its job to protect the public — the FDA is not adequately protecting us. We don’t have access to the information needed to protect ourselves, and critical information is concealed. This documentary gives us a chance. It focuses primarily on one side of the argument–but it does so well and thoroughly, with a broad range of interviewees on a topic in serious need of examination. One recent study cites the fact that prescriptions for drugs like Ritalin and Adderall have gone up 400% over the last 20 years. Even if you’re aware of the problem, this movie is eye-opening. I see over-prescription of medications daily in my work as a hospital nurse over the past 30 years. It doesn’t help that doctors get money from pharmaceutical companies, either — doctors have their hands caught in the cookie jar in this film. Many adults can remember when the trusted family physician used to make house calls, and practiced the doctor’s credo of “Do no harm.” Today new doctors are still trading on the tail end of this tradition of trustworthy family doctors, but the fact is that MANY MODERN DOCTORS CANNOT BE TRUSTED, because they place their own financial interest in profit ahead of your health and well-being as a patient. I most certainly agree with the psychiatrist who verbalizes quite well the shift from taking time to allow people to communicate their problems to a more streamlined type of care: “let’s medicate them and make a profit and move on”. Our current medical environment does not allow time for the clinician to talk with the client let alone allow the client time to talk with the clinician, because it is not profitable. In this environment doctors reach out for the most easily reliable and profitable fix, which is medication. As consumers, we have to be in control of what we put into our bodies, and “just say ‘no’!!” to the white-coated drug-pushers. We can say “no”, you know. My family is skeptical of all things, and we never blindly accept the word of a “Professional”, no matter how impressive the certifications are of a Professional Doctor. It’s irresponsible to accept a purported fact without further researching it, no matter what the case, no matter what the source, because until you learn about something for yourself, you don’t really know the truth. I don’t have the answers — I don’t think anyone does. We all just have to use our common sense and do what’s best for us. The public deserves to know the information in this film so we can make better decisions concerning prescription drugs. The film isn’t sending the message that all prescription drugs are bad — it’s simply saying there are problems/corruptions within the prescription drug system that are worth looking into and watching out for! I am lucky, so far, not having to take any drugs of any kind. I’m a female, 76 years of age, and I’m completely healthy. I attend a gym five days a week, paid for by my health insurance. I walk the 20 minutes each way, as well. I also eat as healthy as I can. My weight is good for my age. I know someday I’ll probably have to take some kind of drug, but so far, I avoid them as much as I can. You may live a lot longer if you deal with most of your maladies through organic diet, exercise, sleep, fun, sunshine, etc. I have a neighbor, 63 years of age, who takes six prescription drugs a day. She knows she really doesn’t need them, but she just can’t stop taking them. Well, we do live in an “I always want to feel good” world. I especially liked the segment in the film about so many commercials hawking drugs. The other day I watched a show on which, I kid you not, almost every commercial was for a different prescription drug with all the side effects. There is a massive deception being perpetrated on the public. I work at a Detox & Rehab center specializing in helping people come off pharmaceutical drugs, especially psych meds, and it is horrifying to see firsthand how addictive and painful (physically/mentally/emotionally) it is for these good people to try and rid their body’s dependencies on these substances. My opinion is that in some cases, there are some decent meds out there which can be helpful in severe cases, but many, especially benzo’s and other psych meds are often extremely harmful to the mind, body, and yes, even the soul, it would appear. People’s lives are ripped away, and they become useless to their families, unable to cope with life, unable to relate to their partners, and feel as though they are living in hell. I certainly concur that drug companies are out of control, as depicted in this show, and the lobbyists they hire have helped to aid and abet their criminal activities against the American public with the aid of Congress. No argument there. They have the FDA and the politicians in their pockets! In this film we see politicians with their hands caught in the cookie jar, as well as doctors. Incredible facts to back up all the bribe money given to specific lawmakers, who then congratulate themselves on ceremonious “history making” legislation, which is really just fattening their own pockets, and those of the drug companies, creating more horrific drug dependencies and/or death in the millions. But what do they care? They get rich. No accountability whatsoever. SOMETHING HAS GOT TO CHANGE! Drug companies are also bullying Judges (who are smart enough to see through their web of lies) to let the cases against them fall through the cracks! The very idea that drug companies put drugs on the market with the clear knowledge that people will get sick and/or even die is totally criminal! If you are in any way shape or form connected with the pharmaceutical industry, you’re a part of this movement. I work for the marketing team for a big pharma company, where dangerous off-label prescribing (for illnesses the drug has not been approved for by the FDA) has been burned into my brain. It’s time to find a new job. Watch the drug reps next time you’re at the doctor’s office. You won’t see any ugly drug reps — they are all attractive people selling a product that they really aren’t that knowledgeable about. A lawyer in the film who specializes in suing Pharma companies says that the level of illegal activity of Big Pharma makes the illegal Drug Cartels looks like child’s play, so this should be a HUGE RED FLAG AMERICA, WAKE UP! This documentary clearly proves not only that Big Business, and Government are totally corrupt, but that they don’t care how many people will get sick and/or die, as long as the money keeps rolling in! The people with money and power will just continue to do whatever they want, and the public will pay the price!  The influence Big Pharma has on the political system, the regulatory agencies, and education system is utterly egregious. Big Banks, Big Oil, Big Agra, Big Pharma — are we doomed? This movie is highly enlightening. The film effectively feels like it’s exposing you to the realities of where medicine is taking the public — and how you can make more informed decisions. An important film for anyone to watch who has concerns about the influence of medications on the American public. Wow, what an outstanding excellent documentary containing vital information for everyone. Fabulous film with jaw-dropping statistics and information. Great Movie!! Great Facts!! Great interviews!! It will open some eyes and minds. This documentary is brilliant, direct, and pulls no punches!  I applaud the makers of this film — Mr. Sasha Knezev you made a powerhouse film. Thank you for writing, producing and distributing this well-researched and telling exposé. This is a must-watch. I just wish everyone in the U.S. would watch it and learn that you are more likely to die from medical error and prescription drugs than if you avoid them. This documentary is definitely worth watching to understand why prescription drugs are a major problem in the US. Documentary 2013 NR 1hr 29 min.

Big Boys Gone Bananas!*

Big Boys Gone Bananas!* is a documentary that follows the battle between the Dole Food Company and a pair of filmmakers — who made an earlier documentary titled BANANAS!* about a lawsuit won in Los Angeles against the company for its use of banned pesticides in Nicaragua that make field workers sterile. Filmmaker Alex Gibney in his introduction to the film Big Boys Gone Bananas!*  by Fredrik Gertten says the following: “Some documentary filmmakers give voice to people who otherwise may be ignored, offer a fresh perspective to a news story that other media may not cover, and are not afraid to disclose uncomfortable truths.  Fredrik Gertten is not just brave enough to do that job, but to fight for the right to do it.  When Dole Food Company sued Fredrik to keep a documentary he made in 2009 from being seen, he didn’t back down, and he fought back, on principle. So the stage is set. In one corner, Dole the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, fortified with high-priced attorneys and spin-doctors. In the other corner, a Swedish independent filmmaker, armed with his conviction of what is right. What are the odds he’ll win?” This Big Boys Gone Bananas!* is a David vs. Goliath — Dole has 75,000 employees in 90 countries, and earns seven billion dollars a year, making them the biggest food company in the world. Gertten is fighting for the right of documentary filmmakers to do what they feel is right, and that is to expose bad practices of big corporations. Unfortunately Goliath always has more money because the big corporations targeted have deep pockets to file lawsuits, in this case to sue to keep the film from being seen. What is a big corporation capable of doing in order to protect its brand? Swedish journalist and documentary filmmaker Gertten has experienced this personally. His previous film BANANAS!* recounts the lawsuit that 12 Nicaraguan plantation workers successfully brought against the fruit giant Dole. That film was selected for competition by the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival. Nothing wrong so far, right? But then just before leaving Sweden to attend the Los Angeles world premiere of his film, Gertten gets a strange message: the festival has decided to remove BANANAS!* from competition. Then, a scathing, controversial and misinformed article appears on the cover of the Los Angeles Business Journal about the film a week before the premiere. And subsequently, Gertten receives a letter from Dole’s attorneys threatening legal action if the film is shown at this festival — and to cease and desist. What follows is an unparalleled story that Gertten captured on film. He filmed this entire process of corporate bullying and media spin — from Dole attacking the producers with a defamation lawsuit, utilizing scare tactics, to media-control and PR-spin. This follow-up film is titled Big Boys Gone Bananas!* and can be seen as a thriller and a cautionary tale. But mostly this is a personal story about what happened to Gertten as a documentary filmmaker and to his four-person company and how the livelihood of documentary filmmakers can be easily put into jeopardy. Dole’s attempts at intimidation and repeated attacks through the court system, the news, and internet, and their hostile and open threats against Gertten are despicable. Dole is relentless in their pursuit of Gertten and attempt to use their power as a big corporation to bury his film by using the media and journalists to ruin Gertten’s reputation with lies. It’s both a great warning against the dangers of the multinational corporations’ power over public perception and media reporting; and also a refreshing tale of grassroots resistance to that power. The funny thing is most of those involved admitted they did not even watch the film. The company never addresses the facts stated in the film and only says repeatedly that it’s all lies and defamatory. This is fascinating to me as a molecular biologist — Dole tried to call accusations “slanderous” for what has been proven in research — and somebody filmed the known effects (the molecular structures have been proven to induce the effects that the farm workers manifested). They attempt to keep Gertten in the courts so that he will be damaged socially and financially. The tactics they used to try to suppress a small film from being show were unconscionable. Well, perhaps if these creeps would invest the same amount of money in helping their workers instead of paying high paid liars… I mean lawyers… to protect them from their misdeeds, this could have been a film about a decent company trying to make the world a better place. It is a David and Goliath story that is mostly done as a PR war. Gertten doesn’t back down, thankfully. In Europe, he gets much more support than in the U.S. In this film you learn how the little guy can still hold his own with the truth. We need to keep freedom of speech alive and protect journalists and filmmakers who expose the truth. I noticed that the first movie BANANAS!* is not available for viewing, and Netflix was sent a copy of the original letter threatening a lawsuit. Why aren’t they showing it? Am I concerned about the issue of free speech in America? You bet. It’s not absolutely necessary to first see or know the content of BANANAS!*. The point is that the original film is an expression of free speech, so freedom of speech is the other big issue. It’s definitely worth knowing that some countries still value the freedom of speech on which this USA country was founded — but has since sold down the river. Hats off to Sweden. Tragic that to get good news Americans sometimes must turn to international news sources. This film is a must-watch (even if you haven’t seen the original film BANANAS!*) about just how powerful multi-national corporations are, and how the media continues to fail the public or worse than that, deceive and lull us into complacency. American media has been corrupted by corporate power through corporate ownership, corporate advertising, and global corporations who threaten to pull advertising if investigative journalism displeases them. In 1998 the Cincinatti Enquirer did an expose of hometown Chiquita Corp. similar to Gertten’s BANANAS!*, but Chiquita forced them to scrub the story, fire the two reporters, pay $15 million to Chiquita, and run a headline apologizing to Chiquita. Shame on you Dole. If a Dole Troll is watching this, just know that I am not buying their products if I have alternative choices. If there’s a top 10 list of evil companies like Monsanto, Dole is probably up there. The outright bullying done by Dole on this filmmaker is so egregious, that it stirs you up to fight back. It is not enough to boycott Dole. A win-win for everyone would be if everyone bought organic produce only. Take it one step further and start buying organic, and tell everyone you know to do the same. No one should buy produce sprayed with poison. Organic produce is cheaper than doctor bills and funerals. But what impressed and inspired me most is the filmmaker and his fight to get the workers of Nicaragua justice they deserve and his fight against Dole. He took on big business and won. Good for you, Fredrik Gertten. I applaud you for your tenacity and drive to not give up on freedom of speech in the face of such incredible threats. You’re a role model for us all. I was very happy to hear of this triumph of free speech. Gives me a little hope for the rest of us. Bravo to Fredrik Gertten! Thank you for fighting the good fight. Very good story — and extremely important that films like this get out. Make more movies please, because this American wants to watch! I encourage anyone with a social conscience to please watch this movie. People need to be more educated about issues like this. It gave me CLEAR insight into what’s going on in the world. I would like to thank NETFLIX for offering some of the best Films around. I never would have discovered this story if not for my membership. Highly recommend this movie and commend Netflix for showing it. Really enjoyed it. Great film! An absolute MUST see! This is without a doubt one of the most provocative and alarming documentaries about free speech and its impact globally. Very well done. It is one of the most inspiring movies EVER. Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 42m.

Children of Internment

Children of Internment is a documentary revealing that — unknown to most Americans — thousands of German-Americans were interned in the United States during World War Two. (It is a common misperception that only Japanese-Americans were interned in WW2.) Nearly 11,000 German perceived as enemy “aliens” were interned, and tens of thousands more also suffered illegal searches and seizures, relocation, harassment, interrogation, family separation, deportation and repatriation to Germany.

All immigrants to the USA are labelled “aliens” until they learn English and pass tests to become US “citizens”. Many immigrants after the end of World War One took the steps to become US “citizens”, but many others remained technically classified as “aliens”, perhaps too busy trying to earn a living to learn English and pass the citizenship tests. So this group of new Americans were technically still citizens of Germany, and these “aliens” unprotected by the US Constitution could be interned for no good reason, during wartime Nazi hysteria.

The “Enemy Aliens” Act of 1798 gives the government power to do whatever it wants to non-citizens residing in the USA. The phrase “enemy aliens” is misleading because most “aliens” were NOT “enemies” of the USA.

Most of these Germans had immigrated to the USA as young adults after the end of World War One, fleeing post-war chaos and starvation, and joining many millions of Germans who had immigrated earlier, in the 17th and 18th centuries. German-Americans were either born in Germany or of German ancestry. They comprise 50 million people, making them the largest ancestry group ahead of Irish-Americans, African-Americans and English-Americans. “Aliens” built this country.

However, immigration threw many different ethnic groups together in the American melting pot. In the strange new culture of America, immigrants were naturally drawn to members from their homeland and huddled together in communities that all spoke the same language, with their own foreign language newspapers. Women especially didn’t feel the need to learn English nor get citizenship because they could do everything needed in their own foreign language communities. But each immigrant group brought their long-standing prejudices, suspicions, and hatreds from the old countries, resulting in discrimination against all ethnic groups, still proud of their old homeland, still hating their old enemy neighbors. Back in Europe for 2,000 years, everyone had been afraid of the big bad ancestors of the Germans. And during WW1 strong anti-German feelings had developed.

After Pearl Harbor, wartime fears in the USA quickly intensified to hysteria directed at Japanese, German, and Italian “aliens”. Their allegiance to their new country was questioned, regardless of how long they had lived in the United States. 110,000 Japanese-Americans were evacuated from coastal areas (where they could have helped approaching enemy forces), but unequally as a geographic matter: all who lived on the West Coast were interned, while in Hawaii, where 150,000 Japanese-Americans comprised over one-third of the population, only 1,800 leaders were interned (partly to avoid crippling the economy there). It would have been impossible to similarly intern all the 17 million East Coast German-Americans and Italian-Americans. Sixty-two percent of the Japanese internees were American citizens.  The injustice of Japanese internment is common knowledge, compensated by the US government in the form of payments for lost homes and businesses.

In 1942 six months after the USA entered the war, a raft landed on Long Island from Germany for sabotage. Instead the leader called the FBI to defect, but no one would believe him. So he took a train to Washington DC where FBI agents continued to think he might be a crackpot until he dumped the mission’s $84,000 on a desk and ratted out the others. But director Hoover told no one of the surrender and took credit for cracking the case himself, touting the arrest of these saboteurs as great work by the FBI.

The publicized landing of the saboteurs was a catalyst for Hoover to intern “alien” non-citizens and follow up with even a few high profile trials to revoke the citizenship of a few German-American citizens, as in the case of Arthur Wolter whose story is told in the non-fiction book “Loyalty on Trial.”. These were show trials designed to depict Hoover’s vigilance after hanging the saboteurs.

So why did the FBI secretly arrest 11,000 German “aliens”? And why did the FBI intern these “aliens” in 50 secret camps across the USA? “Relocation camps” with barbed wire fences 16 feet high with armed guard towers — that were actually called “concentration camps” by the authorities.

The FBI knew that none of the interned German “aliens” were spies, because the FBI knew who all the German spies were from infiltrators, and arrested them all right after Pearl Harbor. The FBI knew that virtually all these remaining “aliens” were just average immigrants trying to fit into their new country. But “Better safe than sorry!”  The main explanation for internment is that “aliens” (all of whom by definition are not US citizens), do not have the same protection under the law that US citizen have.

Some of these German immigrants were luckier than others and for one reason or another had gotten US citizenship, whereas other immigrants for one reason or other had NOT.

So “aliens” without US citizenship could be arrested and interned, but immigrants who had gotten US citizenship could be not arrested and interned, unless they were first put on trial to have their US citizenship taken away from them. That is what happened to Arthur Wolter as told in the book “Loyalty on Trial”.

However, no trials were necessary to intern “aliens”. The FBI grabbed “aliens” at random, and they were taken from their homes and schools, denied “due process” and then imprisoned. Brought before a “Hearing Board” of five locals, they were not told what they were accused of (making it difficult to defend themselves) nor the charges against them aside from being born in Germany, considered guilty unless they could prove their innocence, asked questions that repeated speculations and gossip by neighbors encouraged by the FBI to spy on them and turn them in, not allowed an attorney – all violations of the US Constitution, which did not protect them as “aliens”. Questions of guilt or innocence were not addressed at all, and the vast majority were completely innocent and not dangerous in any way. But anyone arrested must be a criminal guilty of something, right? Presumed guilty of crimes against the United States. The men, for sure — not the women or children. If they had not been technically still “aliens”, none of this would have happened. Instead they were thrown in the dumpster.

FBI Director Hoover, an acknowledged liar and self-promoter glorifying his own office, is seen addressing the nation: “The Battle of the United States took place in every community in the nation — a struggle against Enemy Agents sent to the US to disrupt our industries.” But all during the war the fact is that there was not one instance of espionage on US soil.

In this documentary, former internees and their families come forward to tell their heartbreaking stories.

THE STORIES: The film tells their riveting stories using live interviews of those who were interned, family photographs and historical footage.

In 1940, Eberhard Fuhr and his family were told by the FBI and the Immigration & Naturalization Service to go to the downtown post office and register as “aliens”. Then three years later Eberhard at 17 years old was arrested — and ludicrously charged with “suspicion.” He and his family spent the next four years in government custody.

Usually it was the men who were arrested, with no clue as to why, leaving their wives and small children with no financial means of support in a time when few women worked outside the home. Their wives were in a panic, with hearts breaking, no jobs available with a German accent and husband labelled an enemy, with kids bullied in school as “dirty Germans” So without other options, eventually many wives chose to voluntarily join their husbands in the internment camps, bringing their young children with them, most of whom had been born in the USA and so were automatically US citizens. Fifty percent of people in the internment camps were these young US citizens. But instead of recognizing their rights as citizens, the authorities called them “non-aliens”.

The first camp for these interned families was built in 1942 by the Department of Justice, an ironic name, in Crystal City Texas, spinach capital featuring a statue of Popeye. Japanese families were also interned in Crystal City, some visited in camp by their sons in the uniform of the US military, an ironic contrast.

Life in the Crystal City family camp was pleasant enough with squeezebox accordion music, but the more primitive lifestyle and rough living were hard on the wives — with outdoor latrines, group showers, and no kitchens. Small kids used to staying around the house played as usual and spent most of their time in the huge public swimming pool. Portrayed in a propaganda film as a “country club”, it was nevertheless a real prison camp, producing what those people confined called in German “fence sickness.”

Eventually ten shiploads of these German “alien” internees were shipped to Europe toward the end of the war to be exchanged for American citizens who had gotten stuck in Germany when the war started, and who themselves had been confined in similar camps in Germany since the beginning of the war.

Some shiploads of these German “alien” internees were sent to Europe after the south of France had been liberated, then they were put on trains from Marseilles to Switzerland, and then exchanged at the German border for American citizens who had been imprisoned in Germany.

So that is how small children who were US citizens suddenly found themselves in the middle of the war in Germany being shot at and bombed by American planes. After years in an internment camp, Elizabeth Kvammen and her family were sent back to Germany while the war was still raging. She would run outside to wave at her “American Buddies” as they flew their bombers overhead — until one day she looked up to wave and saw bombs falling from those planes onto the German town where her family lived. Allied soldiers advancing into Germany were amazed at finding kids who spoke such excellent English, and could not believe they were US citizens or would be so unjustly mistreated by the USA and sent to Germany. One American kid scrounging for food outside a US army kitchen was asked by the young American cook who heard the boy’s last name and hometown, “Do you have a sister named Ingrid?” who the soldier had dated back in the USA. Yes! So their family got food when most in Germany were starving.

Arthur Jacobs was a young American citizen from Brooklyn, whose immigrant father was arrested in late 1944 very close to the end of the war when the US need more “aliens” to exchange. (Remaining Germans continued in internment two year after the war in Europe was over until the end of 1947, when all were finally released.) But after more than a year in Crystal City internment camp in Texas, Jacobs’ father was asked if he would return to Germany as a way to get out of camp, and so the family was sent back to Germany and imprisoned in a medieval fortress alongside top Nazis. There the American guard escorting the twelve year old American Boy Scout from his cell to meals said, “Hey kid, see that tree? That’s where we hang little Nazis like you.” Jacobs told his story in his book named for that place, “The Prison called Hohenasperg.”

Toward the end of the war when US authorities realized they needed even more “aliens” to exchange for captured prisoners of war (POW’s) and downed airmen, many Germans living in Central and South America were “kidnapped” completely illegally with the help of Latin American authorities (who wanted their businesses) and then interned and later traded for US citizens held in Germany. The internees called it, ‘being used as exchange bait.”

Hilde Gordon’s father lived in Columbia and had his own successful business for nearly 30 years before he was deported and taken to America with his family. His business, which was thriving and profitable, was stolen from him by the Costa Rican government and never returned.

Heidi McDonald was two years old when she and her German family were rounded up in Costa Rica, put on a ship and taken to an internment camp in the United States. The reason given was that her father was considered a risk to the national security of the USA, but he had never been involved in enemy activity and was not charged with a crime or given a trial. Their passports were taken from them when they were imprisoned, and when they were forced to enter the United States without a passport, they were arrested as “illegal aliens”. US Attorney General Biddle eventually stopped this, calling it “Unjust, unfair, if not illegal.”

Every story is similar in the fact that human rights were trampled upon. Every family lost their freedom, lost their right to “due process,” and lost their habeas corpus rights: (A writ of habeas corpus is a court order requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge to ensure that a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention lacking sufficient cause or evidence — as with the German-American internees. This right has historically been an important safeguard of individual freedom against arbitrary state action.)

When these immigrants had come to America, the first thing they saw from the ship headed toward Ellis Island was the Statue of Liberty welcoming them. In WW2 those interned on Ellis Island looked out every day at the rear of the Statue of Liberty, who had seemingly turned her back on them.

It remains a mystery why the US government has yet to acknowledge this generally unknown fact of German Internment, but Congress continually refuses. However, the fact that 50 million people died in the war started by that German racist Hitler may have something to do with it.

Families around the world are at risk whenever government policy makers assume that ethnicity alone decides loyalty. The taking away of freedom with the excuse that doing so is vital to national security was an issue then and continues to be an issue today.

Children of Internment is a film by Joe Crump and his sister Kristina Wagner. Documentary 2014 86 min.

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