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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Education > A Touch Of Greatness (Documentary)

A Touch Of Greatness (Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Main Program: B



There is no doubt that our education system is a wreck, whether the school is public or religious, the school voucher program is the worst kind of quick fix around.  In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States seemed poised to bring innovative teaching to the next generation of children.  You had public television, better textbooks, a focus on the individual, radical study, psychology, Mr. Rogers and even a sense that the Pop culture cartoons on Saturday Morning were somehow smarter and cooler than could have been imagined.  However, this was sabotaged by “certain interests” who did not want progress and many of the educators who tried to make a difference have been forgotten.  A Touch Of Greatness is about Albert Cullum, who dared to teach young children Shakespeare and other arts in a way that broke suffocating convention.  What he did worked.  Too bad it did not take hold enough.


He made them think and made learning fun through innovative teaching techniques that gave them better futures and was influential.  Maybe it has survived more in performing art schools, but what he achieved should go beyond the confines of such a school.  Liberal arts are being systematically eliminated and the country is paying the highest price.  The new interviews are great and this was done towards the end of Cullum’s life.  This is a fitting tribute to his legacy and is also representative of the many names you will never hear of who went out of their way to help children have a better future, because they were part of that rare breed of teachers who care.  We do not have enough of them and more of them need to get bold again, or things will just get worse.  Here, he meets his students again three decades later and the result is terrific.


Though a recent production, the program originates from professional NTSC video and is here in its original 1.33 X 1 aspect ratio, something repeated in all the monochrome TV footage.  That footage is not in prime shape, but is great to see.  Robert Downey Sr. shot it all.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 is simple stereo in the new footage and monophonic in the old footage, as good as it is going to get here.  I did not expect surrounds and did not get any, but where would they come from?  They did not really need them here.  Extras include four trailers for other First Run DVDs, a section with 20 stills, two text bios on the filmmakers, CBS’ Camera Three show on Cullum in two parts and three segments of performance films by Cullum’s students: A Touch Of Greatness, Literature Au-Go-Go and From Sea To Shining Sea.  The main program runs about an hour, these extras add up to twice as long.  A Touch Of Greatness is a must-see for all viewers, whether they are inclined to see documentaries or not.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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