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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Hate > Politics > Genocide > History > Science > Space Travel > Animals > Extinction > Hunting > Antisemitism (2020*)/Divided Brain (2019/Bullfrog/*both Icarus DVD)/For All Mankind (1989/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/A Life Among Whales (2005/IndiePix DVD)/Who We Are: A Chronicle Of Ra

Antisemitism (2020*)/Divided Brain (2019/Bullfrog/*both Icarus DVD)/For All Mankind (1989/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/A Life Among Whales (2005/IndiePix DVD)/Who We Are: A Chronicle Of Racism In America (2021/Sony Blu-ray)/Why Is We Americans? (2020/Corinth DVD)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A- (1.33 X 1)/B+ (1.85 X 1) Picture: C/C/B/C/B-/C+ Sound: C+/C/B/C+/B-/C+ Extras: D/C/B/C/C-/B- Main Programs: B/B/B+/B-/B+/B

Next up are a very powerful set of documentaries, from space to civil rights, close together than you think when you think of going from a bad past to a hopeful future (right Questlove?)...

We start with a timely new release, Ilan Ziv's Antisemitism (2020) arriving as new waves of hate engage our public discourse, especially since 2016. Though we have covered hundreds of such documentaries on the subject pointing out the hate and disgustingness of it all, we have politicians, groups and others with money and hideous motivations actually fighting to increase such activity and that is why it has all skyrocketed to epidemic proportions in the last six years.

This program deals with the part of the movement that grew out of France and is extremely thorough, well-documented and very successful in the two hours it has and uses it very, very well. Just when you think you have heard it all, we see new lows and learn of new outrages, too many of which sadly stick. No, this is not something from the past that is going away, but something alive and well, with people getting assaulted and killed literally every day worldwide, so Ziv picks up where so many remarkable, important releases from the past left off. Well done!

There are no extras.

Manfred Becker's Divided Brain (2019) presents the work of Dr. Iain McGilchrist and his theories of how the brain is divided into two halves and when one dominates the other, it endangers he world. Much of this is sound, but how much is valid is another story, though I think he misses some important points and many fo the theories remain unproven. Nevertheless, there are some great moments, interviews and remarkable, even painful moments as we meet people with brain injuries and the hell they have to go through.

It squeezes in a ton of ideas and data into its 78 minutes, but uses its time as well as any release here and gets you to think about the world you live in, how you think about it and how you perceive it. A pleasant surprise, I recommend you see this one at least once. The argument is the left side of your brain handles figures and quantitative data, while the right side is the more creative and deals with more abstract concepts, without oversimplifying. The vintage footage is a plus too.

A two-part interview featurette with McGilchrist are the only extras.

Al Reinert's For All Mankind (1989) is one of the great films about science, history, space travel, The United States, the moon landing, technology and one of the greatest of all human triumphs. A very thorough record of the events, done in exciting, innovative and groundbreaking ways, another way you can see how well this was made and how well it holds up is to compare it to all the dramatic feature films, documentaries, TV programs and TV mini-series on the subject since. Sure, there have been some good ones, some real good ones, but this one just has such a great energy, pace and consistency that once you start watching, you cannot stop.

Thus, it should be no surprise that it is one of the first documentaries ever issued in the 4K format and that is it from Criterion just speaks volumes about how great it is. Running a rich, tight, often stunning 80 minutes, it is like being there, using some priceless archival footage (a slow-but-special optical printer had to be made to copy the original 16mm films, because they are NASA and U.S. Government property, which means they can NEVER be allowed to leave NASA!) that serves as a permanent record of the accomplishments here.

Instead of just doing a boring job of chronological placement and telling a linear story, which is some of what we get, the editing and pace just build it all up to be more and more interesting, offers some suspense and recreates the impact of all that happens. That is not easy to do, but Director Reinert (who is sadly no longer with us) pulls it off and that is why it has the great reputation it has and it just gets new fans every time it is screened or gets a new home video release like this great set. If you have seen it before you know and if not, you have to consider this a BIG MUST SEE for a serious film fans!

And to those who still want to try and say the moon landing was fake, if this film is not enough to show you otherwise somehow, there is another easy way for you to know instantly. If it was, the Soviet Union would have secured proof, shown it to the world and used it to their best advantage to win The Cold War and further ruin the U.S., NATO and The West as much as possible. We see how that is playing out as we post this review with the current nightmare going on in Ukraine.

Extras include another high quality booklet from Criterion with tech info, illustrations, stills and (per the press release) essays by film critic Terrence Rafferty and Reinert, while the discs add a feature length audio commentary featuring director Al Reinert and Apollo 17 commander Eugene A. Cernan, the last person to set foot on the moon, An Accidental Gift: The Making of ''For All Mankind,'' a documentary featuring interviews with Reinert, Apollo 12 and Skylab astronaut Alan Bean, and NASA archive specialists, Selection of excerpted interviews with fifteen of the Apollo astronauts, Program about Bean's artwork, accompanied by a gallery of his paintings, NASA audio highlights and liftoff footage and Optional on-screen identification of astronauts and mission-control specialists.

Bill Haney's A Life Among Whales (2005) is a reissue of a well-done, hour-long program about the greatness of whales, how endangered they are and how they need help. It also shows us ignorant ways they are exploited, killed and how not only certain powers do not care, but seem (especially since 2005) are out to accelerate their killing out of spite for people who care, for political reasons and because some persons with power allow it to go to their heads. It is inexcusable, pure madness.

The value of this program is to show people have cared for a long time and knew they awful situation, a record more powerful than ever to show testimony in support of them. Of course, the love and concern goes back for decades, but this is still key in the history of such things and it deserved a new reissue.

Whale Song, Director's Intro and an Original Trailer are the extras.

Emily and Sarah Kunstler's Who We Are: A Chronicle Of Racism In America (2021) is the kind of remarkable new release that has become lost in the shuffle of streaming, COVID and often forgettable blockbusters, not to mention the fact that what it discusses might make people uncomfortable. It should not necessarily though, because it is actually a remarkable long-form thesis by a smart, thorough, detailed civil rights lawyer named Jeffrey Robinson.

While being autobiographical in his own experiences, he points out the dozens and dozens of instances that shows the country was built on slave labor and near-genocidal violence against persons of color, but especially African-Americans. That slavery was in the North too, that any progress was followed by a severe, thoroughly organized rollback of that progress (and not just Reagan after the Civil Rights Movement or Trump after Obama's successes) resulting in a priceless, landmark work that uncovers injustices that STILL need to be addressed and truths few know that need to be a permanent part of any discourse or discussions of the subject.

Best of all, this is not shallow propaganda, an 'I told you so' piece, a corny 'woke' piece or a condescending lecture piece by any means. Instead, Robinson lays it out like a combination of thorough history and a court case, excelling in excellence in both and never vilifying anyone, but instead asking if we can stop the combination of lies, hate and violence that have only become worse (especially since 2016 to this writer.)

Inadvertently, it is also the portrait of a really good man that has so much more to say, cares about people, his country and the future in ways we need many more grown adults to do so. No, I and you will not agree 100% with everything he says or points out, but I thought he was more on the money here than most such programs I have ever seen and even reviewed. There is a much larger audience for this great documentary than it has received, so I hope its Blu-ray release and more bookings and home video showing will allow audiences of all kinds to finally catch up with it because it is as significant as everything we've seen from every political filmmaker from Spike Lee to Oliver Stone to Michael Moore and beyond.

Who We Are lives up to its name and is not only for adults who are actually grown up and the many who are overdue to do so. I cannot strongly recommend it enough!

A trailer for this and several other strong documentaries from Sony are the extras.

Last but not least, Udi Aloni & Ayana Morris' Why Is We Americans? (2020) bringing us back to Newark, New Jersey, this time to deal with its rich, key civil rights history and not just an election as we saw in Street Fight (2005, reviewed elsewhere on this site) when Cory Booker ran for mayor, only to be undermined by the later convicted Mayor Sharpe James in a 2002 election for that office. The now U.S. Senator is among those interviewed.

From the late 1960s to date, the program (co-produced by singing legend Lauryn Hill, who is form there and offers outstanding insight on many things) runs 102 minutes and showcases a remarkably resilient African America community that has made great sacrifices and dared to speak truth to power. It is one of the U.S.'s great untold stories, thoroughly discussed and shown here in sometimes very explicit terms. There are sad things, shocking things and also amazing, hard won victories that are permanent and a foundation for what we would hope is a better tomorrow, but we'll see.

Like Street Fight and Who We Are, we'll look back at this and use it as a marker of progress and truth. Definitely give it a good look.

Extras include a Deleted Scene with Danny Glover, the Original Theatrical Trailer, post-theatrical film discussion with Slavoj Zizek and premiers in L.A. And NYC.

Now for playback performance. Documentaries by their very nature can have rough spots, but this group is better than average. In the case of For All Mankind, a title Criterion issued back in the old 12-inch analog LaserDisc days, the 2160p HECV/H.265, Dolby Vision HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image has two versions on the 4K disc: a widescreen 1.85 X 1 version that looks good, but loses too much of the image and shows some flaws that are distracting and the 1.33 X 1 original full frame version that looks better, has better color consistency and just really delivers the most. Its the way the film was made and original footage shot (on Ansco and Kodak color film,) so the 1.85 version is a compromise, which happens to be the only frame on the 1080p regular Blu-ray. Both offer a really impressive, often immersive DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that blends the original audio, a great music score and melds them nicely in a smartly mixed and mastered soundtrack.

The rest of the releases can offer anything from new digital and HD video to old photochemical film footage, but also all have older analog videotape and flaws that can include video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, staircasing, cross color, faded color and tape damage. They have bene fixed up where applicable.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Who We Are manages to be the second-best looking release here and not just because it is the only other Blu-ray on the list, but because Robinson and company shot footage all over the country where they travelled and all is well shot and composed. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix can be speech-based, but is still surprisingly well recorded, mixed and mastered, so that adds to the impact of this amazing program.

The DVDs are all basically anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image presentations with their 1.33 X 1 moments (Whales is all 1.33 X 1), but can be on the soft side, save Americans, which just manages to look a little more consistent and miraculously has more surviving 16mm film footage of its events than expected. As for audio, Whales has PCM 2.0 Stereo and the rest of the DVDs offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound, with the results as good as can be expected except Brain, which can be a little weaker than I would have liked. Just be careful of volume switching and high playback levels on that one in particular, but its fine otherwise.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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