Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Documentary: Up Series and The War at Home

Netflix Watch Instantly has introduced some older documentaries to their lineup this past week, and here are some of the highlights.

21 Up (Michael Apted, UK, 1977, 99 minutes)
28 Up (Michael Apted, UK, 1985, 135 minutes)
42 Up (Michael Apted, UK, 1998, 133 minutes)
49 Up (Michael Apted, UK, 2005, 135 minutes)
Netflix: In 1964, British filmmaker Michael Apted interviewed a diverse group of 7-year-olds living in England and vowed to track how their lives progressed every seven years. Now, those "kids" are 49 years old. This intriguing documentary series reveals how the individual journeys of Apted's subjects collectively serve as a microcosm of Britain as a whole. Will kids who once had ambitious goals end up living their dreams or falling by the wayside?

While the first two films in the series (7 Up and 14 Up) and the fifth film (35 Up) are missing from Netflix Watch Instantly, the other four films in the series are well worth checking out.

The War at Home (Glenn Silber, Barry Alexander Brown, US, 1979, 99 minutes)
Netflix: Documentarians Barry Alexander Brown and Glenn Silber vividly chronicle the Vietnam War protest movement of the 1960s and '70s in a film that incorporates rare raw footage. The overall effect is an incisive depiction of how anti-war acrimony in the United States spread from committed activists to fraternity row on college campuses to the business community at large. Netflix link.

As a native of Madison, Wisconsin, this documentary has special resonance for me even though I was too young to remember any of the events examined in the film.  Particularly useful for the coverage of the early days of the protest.

Berkeley in the Sixties (Mark Kitchell, US, 1990, 117 minutes)
Netflix: University of California, Berkeley, alumni recount how their quiet school became the epicenter of 1960s campus activism, starting with the free speech movement and evolving into organized opposition to the Vietnam War. The students also championed civil rights, the women's movement and the Black Panther party. Archival footage is interwoven with present-day interviews and songs by the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez and Jefferson Airplane. Netflix link.

A good companion piece to The War at Home, and would make a good double-feature.

Before Stonewall (Robert Rosenberg, Greta Schiller, US, 1984, 86 minutes)
Netflix: Life was very different before the 1969 Stonewall riots put the issue of gay rights front and center in America. Using archival films and interviews with gays and lesbians who were forced to hide their sexuality for fear of reprisals, this documentary by Robert Rosenberg, Greta Schiller and John Scagliotti sheds light on American gay life from the 1920s to the 1960s and the sociopolitical climate that finally led to profound change. Netflix link.

Would make a good double feature with Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives (1977) which has been streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly for nearly a year.

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