Docurama Film Festival III [10 Discs] [DVD]

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Leona's Sister Gerri
Long ago, middle-aged Leona Gordon opened a Ms. magazine and saw the dead victim of a botched, illegal abortion. With a terrible shock she realized that the naked, blood-spattered corpse was her sister. This documentary examines the significance of the picture, and then offers a profile of the dead woman's life as told by Leona and her friends. Although shocking, the picture became an icon for pro-choice abortion activists. Her sister was Gerri Santoro born to a Connecticut farm family in the 1950s. She was pretty and vivacious and while in high school swore that she would find a husband before her best friend did. She ended up marrying Sebastian (Sam) Santoro and having two daughters by him. He was a violent-tempered man who frequently beat her. Later he moved his family to California in hopes that he could stop hurting her, but the abuse continued and Gerri finally took the children and returned to Connecticut. There she met and became sexually involved with the smooth-talking Clyde Dixon. She became pregnant, and because Sam was coming back for her, she decided to abort. But it was 1964 and abortions were illegal. It was Clyde who attempted to perform the operation in a motel room. By the time he finished, 28-year old Gerri was dead. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story
Born in Oakland, CA, in 1919, Fred Korematsu was the son of Japanese immigrants who, when the United States entered World War II in 1941, wanted to do his duty as an American and volunteer for the Army. Instead, Korematsu and the other Japanese-American residents of California were rounded up and placed in internment camps, as many inside the government believed that their loyalties would be with Japan rather than America and that they would attempt to sabotage the U.S. war effort. Outraged, Korematsu refused to go, and for a time became a fugitive from justice; he was eventually captured and put on trial. The American Civil Liberties Union sided with Korematsu after his arrest, believing the internment orders were a direct violation of the Constitution, and helped Korematsu take his case to the Supreme Court. In 1944, the Supreme Court found in favor of the U.S. government, but in 1981, Peter Irons, a law professor at the University of California in San Diego, began investigating Korematsu's case and discovered that government prosecutors suppressed evidence that would have cleared Korematsu and freed the other Japanese-Americans held by the government. Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Koramatsu Story is a documentary that examines his long, remarkable journey from being a convicted criminal in 1942 to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Gitmo: The New Rules of War
Erik Gandini and Tarik Saleh's documentary Gitmo: The New Rules of War offers a look at the prisoners of war held at the infamous military base in Guantanamo. The directors follow all of the military approved channels for discussing what goes on at the camp, interviewing soldiers stationed there unless the higher ups end an interview due to sensitive subject matter. The directing duo augment this footage with some investigative work explaining how private contractors, immune from such codes of behavior like The Geneva Conventions, are brought in to handle interrogation techniques. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

Well-Founded Fear
Originally shown as part of the "POV" series on PBS, Well-Founded Fear examines the United States' system for granting political asylum and the refugees caught within it. Following several pending cases at the U.S. Immigration Office, Camarinie and Robertson give a behind-the-scenes view of how immigration lawyers determine who will receive political asylum. What the documentary reveals is a system fraught with contradictions and impossibilities. Faced with the unenviable task of separating truth from fiction in their applicant's stories, the officials fall back on guesswork and suspicion. On the other side, viewers see the debilitating fear of the applicants, afraid that a simple slip of the tongue will condemn them to deportation. Slowly the immigrants realize that their asylum is based less on proving a "well-founded fear of persecution" and more on blind luck. One asylum seeker justly calls it "asylum-officer roulette." There are no easy answers here but there is an unflinching look at democratic principles at work, for better or worse. ~ Brian Whitener, Rovi

Music From the Inside Out
Filmmaker Daniel Anker offers a look at the multitude of faces and personalities behind one of America's most celebrated symphonies in this documentary. For over a hundred years, the Philadelphia Orchestra has been an internationally respected ensemble, performing all across the United States and around the world, but Music From the Inside Out examines the 100 individuals that make up the orchestra. The players discuss how they fell in love with music, their other creative and musical pursuits (some of the musicians perform with jazz, world music, and even bluegrass groups, while others creative visual art), the struggles and rewards of pursuing their dreams, what speaks to them creatively, and how so many people with differing temperaments can work together to create beautiful music. Music From the Inside Out was produced and financed in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but enjoyed a critically-acclaimed tour of film festivals and art theaters before making its bow on television. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Following Sean
A child's perspective on the Haight-Ashbury counterculture of the 1960s informs filmmaker Ralph Arlyck's film concerning the perceptive and precocious four-year-old and his unique perspective on the chaos that was sweeping a nation. A student at San Francisco State University at the time when police in riot gear flooded the campus and revolutionary-minded idealists waxed poetic in the streets, Ralph Arlyck was befriended by a young boy named Sean who would occasionally come down from his mother's top-floor apartment to chat with the various inhabitants of the come-one-come-all commune. When Arlyck one day decided to turn on his camera during one of young Sean's frequent visits, the images and thoughts Arlyck captured on film would perfectly encapsulate the dying innocence of the era. Now, 30 years later and generations removed from that tumultuous time, Arlyck returns to San Francisco to seek out Sean and find out just what became of the barefoot four-year-old whose strange mix of childlike wonder and worldly viewpoints gave curious birth to a new hope for the future of a country on the brink. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Yellow Brick Road
Pack your bags for a trip to a Catskills summer camp where the stars of tomorrow go to prepare for their shot at the big time as filmmaker Alexandra Shiva allows viewers a fly-on-the-wall perspective of Stagedoor Manor, the illustrious training ground for such notable Hollywood heavyweights as Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Natalie Portman. This is the story of five Broadway hopefuls willing to sacrifice their sun-soaked days of carefree fun in hopes of realizing their dreams of striking it big on-stage. Though grueling days of rehearsal and a constant struggle to earn their place in the spotlight would test the patience of even the most patient of stars, these determined teens are willing to do everything it takes to put on a show that would earn a standing ovation from even the most demanding of critics. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Dark Circle
This documentary video looks at the relationship between the nuclear power industry and the defense industry, where hydrogen bombs are made, tested and sold! ~ Julie Clark, Rovi

Naked States
Spencer Tunick is a photographer who made a name for himself with his artful studies of nudes, photographed on the sly in public places within full view of bystanders. Tunick's work won him public recognition, critical acclaim, and a number of arrests when police interrupted him and his subjects in the midst of photo shoots. In 1999, Tunick set out on a new project -- a set of fifty nude portraits, one photographed in each of America's fifty states, with the subject of each picture being a citizen of the state in question. Filmmaker Arlene Donnelly followed Tunick on his journey, and Naked States is a documentary look at the artist and his work, which also provides a glimpse at both the minds and bodies of the models he finds from coast to coast. Naked States was produced for the premium cable network HBO and was also shown as part of the 2000 American Film Institute Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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