Technical Services & Collections Manager
Judging by the circulation of films from Manhattan Public Library, most library customers are well aware of our holdings. We’ve got multiple copies of “Lincoln,” Life of Pi,” “Les Miserables,” and “Wreck-it Ralph,” to name but a few of the many available films. Most folks who hear that the library owns some 8,600+ films are reluctant to believe it, as the shelving would not seem to have that capacity, but so many titles are always checked out at any one time.
In addition to features films, the library has an extensive collection of documentaries. Those do not circulate as much as some of the other offerings, but there are treasures to be found among them. Just recently added are the following which have received excellent reviews:
“Joffrey”: A favorite of the San Francisco Film Festival as well as the Dance on Camera Film Festival, this lovely piece of work follows the historical dance company’s founding in 1956 by creators Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino. Dogged by financial woes, the dance company managed to re-create itself several times to become one of the premier organizations of the world. Of special note is the wealth of historical footage of glorious performances. Testimonials by some of the dancers, choreographers, and the founders themselves allow viewers to trace the growth and tradition-breaking techniques of this highly esteemed company.
“Deadliest Tornadoes”: Though we don’t want to think about it, our region is already immersed in one of our most dangerous seasons of the year. This NOVA PBS presentation recounts the incredibly high occurrences of tornadoes that took place in April of 2011. Extended footage of Joplin’s horrific storm is a quick reminder of the potency of such winds. Interviews with scientists and with weather forecasters demonstrate how wind rotation begins, and victim testimonials highlight an informative program.
“How to Survive a Plague”: This historical documentary follows the path of AIDS activists in the early 1990s who demonstrated in the streets and who demanded that the Food and Drug Administration take immediate action to approve AIDS-fighting drugs. They worked to help identify new treatments and move them through safety trials in record time. Their determination reduced the numbers of AIDS-related deaths and offered new hope to sufferers. This drama earned both the New York Film Critics Circle Award and the Gotham Award and was nominated for an Academy Award as well.
“Planet Ocean”: This beautiful film has a two-fold purpose. Stunning footage of ocean currents taken from well above the Earth and shots of the feeding mouths of a coral reef are particularly striking. But this film is also a plea for the protection of the ocean’s vast resources. Researchers cite the drifting of crucial fish populations toward more temperate waters to the north as an alarming trend. They also describe populations, like that of the Bluefin tuna, which are nearing extinction because of over-fishing. This environmental gem was the 2012 Official Cinematography Winner at the Blue Ocean Film Festival.
“You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t”: This film has not yet arrived at MPL, but will be available shortly. A documentary by Scott Kirschenbaum, this touching film recounts the life Of Lee Gorewitz in the Traditions Alzheimer’s & Other Dementia Care Unit in Danville, California. This in-depth character study reveals that many of our perceptions of Alzheimer’s disease are misguided. The film premiered on PBS and has received much praise from physicians and university instructors for its content.
“Secrets of Highclere Castle”: For the many fans of “Downton Abbey,” this PBS special is a rare treat. Highclere Castle is the opulent location for the filming of the Masterpiece classic. Interested viewers can learn about the current owners, Lord and Lady Carnavon, they can listen to the actual butler’s philosophy of service, and they can explore the beautiful rooms and grounds of one of England’s more famous estates. They can also learn about Lady Almina’s huge investment in upkeep and restoration during the 19th century. A visual delight.
“The Abolitionists”: This PBS drama follows the interactions of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, William Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Angelina Grimke. At a time when the country was fast approaching the Civil War, those individuals struggled to expose the horrors of slavery. Their selflessness laid the groundwork for civil rights at a time when violence was a given. This historic piece generates a lasting respect for those courageous few.
For these titles and a wide selection of others, take a look at the many fine documentaries your library has to offer.