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CHASING THE MOON in Three Parts comes to PBS with American Experience

show cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to PBS July 8th-10th from American Experience and Academy Award Nominee writer/director/producer Robert Stone is the six-hour series celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing with CHASING THE MOON.

Part One – A Place Beyond the Sky begins the series in the 50s and 60s with the thoughts of astronauts regarding going to space. Neil Armstrong made his indelible and small speech before planting his boot on the moon surface and in his words ring true today. Little did he realize it is used in so many other forms to recognize that we are in a very big universe.

There was a time when people could not fathom “being born on this planet and then taking off for another world”. The world was taking on a new identity and the people in it reflecting on how nothing could possibly ever be the same.

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Beginning with Russia and Sputnik, it pushed the US to do one better than the enemy. It also brought fear of war and destruction. When Sputnik II was launched, the American fear becomes even greater as rumors of what they could do next before the US – the moon.

The Vanguard Project was sent up first followed by Jupiter C. Scientist Wernher von Braun from Germany was considered a hero and not a hero all at the same time. World War II brought 120 of the best scientists from that country to be part of looking for a way to space. Becoming a consultant on films about space, von Braun would even help Walt Disney with his theme park.

Project Orion and Freeman Dyson were called in to work on it. Flights and living for years exploring space was their goal. Russia also brought in German scientists to expand their space program. When it didn’t work out, the Germans are sent home which benefitted the US. In 1959, Nixon and Khrushchev talked between each other in harsh terms at the Worlds Fair in Moscow about space.

Then the introduction of the Mercury astronauts with John H. Glenn, Alan B. Shepard, Virgil I. ‘Gus’ Grissom, Malcolm S. Carpenter, Leroy Gordon Cooper, Wally Schirra, and Donald K. Slayton. As the training of these men goes on, Russia sends a cosmonaut up in 1961. President John F. Kennedy isn’t happy and von Braun tells him they can make it to the moon first. The Saturn rocket then comes into being.

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Alan Shepard starts as the first man in space and makes sure it is done live. Still, another cosmonaut makes his way into space and President Kennedy gives NASA the money to get to the moon. Construction in Florida brings people out in droves because of NASA. The excitement builds as John Glenn is the first US astronaut to go into orbital flights.

Television and journalists like Walter Cronkite brought space into homes of the average American. The intensity of interest from the public was kept in the forefront. Bobby Kennedy wanted to bring an African-American astronaut on board as Capt. Edward Dwight was brought into training.

In Houston, the families came to live and formed their own ‘space’ family. The Mercury men were young pilots and had to be watched. It was 1962 when the decision was made to go from the earth to the moon while transporting a vehicle for moon exploration. President Kennedy thought to have joint missions to the moon with the Soviets as both sides wanted it to happen. All of that changed on November 22, 1963. After that the idea was silenced.

In Part II – Earthrise – President Lyndon Johnson took up the mantle for the space program, even picking up the JFK mantle of Soviet cooperation. Now, the Soviets were behind the US in the space race. The Gemini Project brings computers aboard in outer space. A serious problem was that reporters were starting to question why space and at what cost? NASA had to do what they could to keep the public relations good with the public.

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With each Gemini launch, NASA was getting closer to the moon. The Gemini 8 launch was the first craft to have problems as the ship rolled out of control. Neil Armstrong brought it all home with his cool head and abilities. The final Gemini 12 launches with Buzz Aldren and James Lovell and becomes successful in teaching how to train for space.

The first Apollo mission crew is announced with Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger B. Chaffee. Then tragedy as none ever expected even though the astronauts all knew it was possible. The affect on the other astronauts caused stresses that went down to family members. They were a family and now their family was broken.

NASA dealt with a media nightmare that once again brought into question of ‘why space?’ But 1968 brought civil unrest and wars to the forefront of life yet NASA still wouldn’t let go. The Saturn 5 was conceived to put men on the moon.

And what a show! Now the interest in once again peaked by the media and a shot of the moon to beat the Russians right in front of them. The accelerated Apollo 8 brought an orbit of the moon. One person there from the beginning was also the first woman, Poppy Northcutt, in a very serious job. Now Anderson, Borman and Lovell, who are inside the powerful rocket, finally bring a dream to reality. Of course doing it at 25,000 miles an hour. Once in space, there would be a television camera on board that give the people of Earth a good look at what they had all been waiting for.

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Once home, people celebrated and cheered after a year of sadness in the country.

Part III – Magnificent Desolation – brings the question involving von Braun in World War II that were never asked before because he was helping the US get to the moon. Once they questions started being asked from the media, von Braun had to take each question carefully, especially when the questions dealt with Nazi atrocities.

The US was also changing as protests grew on college campuses while soldiers continued to fight overseas and this applied to astronauts. Russia was still a hot topic and they were also trying to get a man to the moon before the US. Dealing with failures, the N1 Project took it all step by step. Col. Borman was asked about Russia landing on the moon and he agreed that they were just as motivated as the US.

Now, the Apollo 11 crew was being introduced with Buzz Aldren, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong making the trip. This was going to be the crew to land on the moon as 2 out of the 3 actually stepping on the moon’s surface. Russia had ideas of their own launching an unmanned craft to the moon at the same time.

People converged near the landing pad to witness the next Apollo launch. Some were even protestors who were unhappy about social injustice. On July 16, 1969, the promise of President Kennedy made about reaching the moon is one rocket launch away. Countries around the world were also glued to watch the launch. Waiting for the lunar module to land on the moon was the culmination of a dream turned reality. On July 20th, 1969, the cameras are on and rolling as the world see Neil Armstrong descend the lunar ladder and say, “one small step for man – one giant leap for mankind”.

On the moon

Soon he would be joined by Buzz Aldren as the two men walked on the moon and the world in their line of sight celebrated this monumental achievement. The celebration continued when the astronauts landed safely back on Earth. Their lives have been completely changed and they could never have imagined how much to this day.

So where do we go from here now that we’ve been shown the beauty of our own world from the surface of another? Of course Mars holds the mystery now as the moon once did so perhaps that is our next man made challenge. There are so many worlds, so much beauty and a dash of charm about the space that surrounds our Earth.

I wonder who will be next in planting their foot on the surface of another world!

Filmmaker Stone says of this experience, “As a 10-year-old kid in England in July 1969, my mother woke me up in the middle of the night to watch two Americans set foot upon another world, the Moon quite literally staring at us through the window above our television set. I’d recently seen Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and the one-two punch of those two intensely visceral experiences ignited a fire in my mind that’s stuck with me ever since.”

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“It’s when I first began to want to be a filmmaker. In many ways Chasing the Moon is a culmination of a lifetime of thoughts that have been churning through my mind about this extraordinary period in which I grew up, about the boundless ambition and promise of a brighter future that space travel inspired, the belief that anything is possible if we join together in a common goal, and the urgency it ignited to preserve and care for our home planet. Having PBS as a partner to take this film out worldwide is a real honor for me”.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE executive producer Mark Samuels says about Chasing the Moon, “When we think of that breathtaking moment of the 1969 moon landing, we forget what a turbulent time that was. The country was dealing with huge problems in Vietnam, poverty, civil rights – and there was a lot of skepticism about the space program. Chasing the Moon explores the unbelievably complex challenges that NASA was able to overcome. Not a week goes by when someone doesn’t say, ‘Why can’t we do something today as ambitious, as grand as putting a man on the moon?’ It was a century-defining achievement, and our film tells a familiar story in an entirely new way”.

Ballantine Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, also has a book Chasing the Moon by Stone and writer/researcher Alan Andres that expands on the stories told in the documentary. The details found in the book are absolutely riveting to the point that I couldn’t put the book down. The surprise to me is that I knew I have always been interested in NASA, I just didn’t realize how much until page after page I was wanting to know more.

For 30 years, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE has been television’s most-watched history series. Their documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award including 30 Emmy Awards, four DuPont-Columbia Awards and 17 George Foster Peabody Awards. The series received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 2015 for Last Days of Vietnam. For more information please visit pbs.org/americanexperience.

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Along with AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Chasing the Moon, PBS brings viewers the universe with SUMMER OF SPACE, a multiplatform experience that includes six new science and history programs, all commemorating America’s journey into Space. The celebration kicks off July 8 with a new space-themed ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Out of This World, NOVA specials Back to the Moon on July 10, 8 Days: To the Moon and Back on July 17,  three-part Ancient Skies on July 24 and The Planets on July 24. For more information please visit www.pbs.org.

Chasing the Moon is a three-part experience that allows those involved to tell their stories and personal experiences. Listening to them share also opens up behind the curtain of NASA during a time when every move they made was dangerous. Everyone wanted to get to space and the moon but I’m sure no one then realizes the cost of making that dream come true.

As outsiders, we only witnessed the results of years of dedication and ingenuity but Chasing the Moon allows us to know so much more. This is a stunning way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 walk on the moon. A way to remember where we have been and what is absolutely possible for space in the future.

Gather the family around the same television that families 50 years ago gathered around except this time to listen and learn about one of the greatest human achievements ever.

In the end – it took millions of steps to make one giant leap!

In the end – it took millions of steps to make one giant leap!

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SURVIVING BIRKENAU: The Dr. Susan Spatz Story

surviving cover

Jeri Jacquin

On DVD from Ron Small, the Holocaust Education Film Foundation and Dreamscape comes the story of the ultimate survivor with SURVIVING BIRKENAU: The Dr. Susan Spatz Story.

Dr. Spatz is a woman who has no problem telling her story exactly how it is. Born in Vienna, her parents moved to Berlin, Germany to work in their uncles’ greeting card company. The business was very successful and the family lived well. She recalls her father being a man who loved to dance and mother a woman who was always impeccably dressed.

In 1935, Jewish students had to leave state schools and she didn’t quite understand what was happening. In 1938, Hitler had taken control of their home country of Vienna, Austria. That is also when she noticed that Nazi soldiers were beginning to harass Jewish men and women in hideous ways.

That is when Susan’s father had to find a way out because visas were not to be had. In August 1939, her father left on the last plane to Brussels to settle while Susan and her mother waited. A town was created called Theresienstadt Bauschowitz and two months later it was inhabited by Jews. That was the beginning of the Jewish Council that became part of a selection committee which had one of her mothers’ friends there to help.

Once they learned that it wouldn’t help, Susan’s mother left and the young 19 year old girl stayed behind. In 1943 she was to be transferred by train through the large gates of what was to become Birkenau. Immediately everyone that arrived were processed, given clothing and tattooed. Her number is 34042.

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Food was scarce and lessons of being in the prison camp were every moment of their lives. The women prison guards, according to Susan, were worse than the male guards so they had to find solace with one another. Fate would come into play as she came into contact with a young girl she knew in Prague. That encounter helped her get to the administration offices and the construction department.

By 1944, Susan is sent on the Death March and the only thing that saved her was after being told quietly to load up on clothing and food or else they would not survive. Finally put on a train, they were once again told to huddle together and they would make it. She would see that others trains with people who froze in their train cars.

Staying alive they were finally liberated and when they came to an American checkpoint, the realization that the world didn’t know about extermination camps. Susan was finally free but where would she be able to go?

Speaking English would be another life saver for Susan as she was asked to work with the Americans. Through that she would learn the fate of her family and began the long road to finding a life of her own. She discovered her freedom, her voice and a new purpose for her life.

Established in 2018, the Holocaust Education Film Foundation was started to build an international, interactive online community one Holocaust Survivor story at a time. Through full-length documentaries, distributed globally through numerous platforms, the online site and educational programs, the 501c3 foundation seeks to ensure that we will never forget. For more information please visit https://www.hef.northwestern.edu.

Dr. Susan Spatz has such an amazing story to tell and I absolutely was riveted to hear every moment of it. There is a steadiness or perhaps defiance in her voice that would not allow her to give in to her captors. There is nothing wrong with doing everything humanly possible to survive and Susan makes that clear by the choices she made in her three years in Birkenau.

It would be in her life after years in the concentration camp that seems so much more difficult. Susan even says that she was more afraid after Birkenau with what life was bringing her way but even before that part of her story was told I knew she would let nothing stop her from being free once again.

In the end – it is her story of survival during humanity’s darkest moments!

WE, THE MARINES is a Lesson in Honor and Love of Country

We the Marines Bluray

Jeri Jacquin

Currently on 4K Ultra HD, Bluray and Digital from SHOUT! Factory, directed by Greg MacGillivray and narrated by Academy Award winner and former Marine Gene Hackman is WE, THE MARINES.

The documentary gives viewers an inside look to the strength and beliefs of the United States Marine Corps. Hackman begins with a brief history of when the Marines began. In 1775, the Marine Corps began because men were needed to defend the states militarily from enemies.

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As the years passed, the Marine Corps served on the beaches of Iwo Jima and by raising the American flag, become a symbol of honor and sacrifice around the world. Serving in Vietnam, the Marines continued to serve and defend.

In current times, the men and women of the United States Marine Corps are trained on the east and the west coast. From Parris Island to Camp Pendleton to training in Yuma Arizona, it all begins with boot camp. Hackman talks about the lessons each person who enlists comes to understand about the Corps.

From the air, land and sea, MacGillivray gives us a glimpse of the training and dedication those in the Marine Corp endure to become the best. Waiting for them to complete missions and come home are the families who see each and every Marine as a hero.

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But it is not just war were the Marine Corps can be found, they are also on the front line of humanitarian efforts around the world. Hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, they can be found helping bringing supplies and aid to survivors.

That is why their creed of Semper Fidelis – Latin for ‘always faithful’ – is something that stays with each United States Marine for the rest of their lives.

A MacGillivray Freeman film produced in association with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and presented by The Boeing Company, WE, THE MARINES was originally produced for permanent exhibition in the Giant-Screen Medal of Honor Theater at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. This striking film will not be available in living rooms across the country.

The Ultra HD Bluray release of WE, THE MARINES stands as SHOUT! Factory’s first foray into the new HDR10+ technology, which allows filmmakers to present their content not only in the best quality possible, but to showcase the creative intent behind it. HDR10+ provides for scene-by-scene, frame-by-frame adjustments through dynamic metadata, allowing an unparalleled level of detail. It also puts the control of content presentation directly back into the filmmakers’ hands.

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WE, THE MARINES includes 4K SDR, 4K HRD, and 4K HDR10+ for the full UHD experience. Also in Ultra HD TV with HDR is needed to access 4K HDR and HDR10+.

SHOUT! Factory has grown into a tremendous multi-platform media company. Releasing an exciting catalog of 4K films that include the incredible critically acclaimed and award-winning odyssey JOURNEY TO SPACE, FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES, THE LAST REEF: CITIES BENEATH THE SEA and NATIONAL PARKS ADVENTURE. For more of what SHOUT Factor has to offer please visit www.shoutfactory.com.

Narrated by Gene Hackman, it is amazing that as a former Marine he takes the tasks of speaking on the Corps. He does so with intensity and feeling while allowing those in service now to share small pieces of their own experiences and feelings.

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That is what makes WE, THE MARINES such an important piece of filmmaking. It is an opportunity for those who might not have family members in the Marine Corps to at least understand more about it. For those who do have family members in the Marine Corps, it gives a little more insight into perhaps some of the reason this branch of the military is chosen.

I have family members who are former Marines and some who are thinking of following in the family footsteps. It is a humbling thing to see their dedication and drive to succeed in their military endeavors.

In the end – it is more than dedication and service!

FOLLOWERS Brings Fright to DVD

Followers DVD 3D

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to DVD May 1st from director Ryan Justice and a Synkronized Company is a fright with social media when you have FOLLOWERS.

Brook (Amanda Delaney) and boyfriend Caleb (Justin Maina) have put their lives out on the internet for all to see. Marking their one year anniversary, Caleb has decided on a nice trip for a little alone time camping in the woods.

Their first night is met with a crackling fire and some champagne to celebrate. In the middle of the night Brook wakes to the sound of footsteps pleading for Caleb to investigate. Finding nothing they go back to sleep.

Shaking off the nights scare, Brook starts out her morning doing a video and is unaware that someone is to change everything. Taking her back to camp, they also come upon Caleb as the video goes black.

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Nick (Nishant Gogna) and Jake (Sean Michael Gloria) decide to make video demonstrating how easy it is to track people from online and how dangerous it can be. They decide to choose Brook and Caleb as the people to prove their point. Using their cameras and drone technology, they follow the couple and find themselves deep in the woods.

Jake decides that perhaps the documentary might not reach enough people and feels that they might have to go one step further. People pay attention when you take it one step further right? The tables turn on them all when another group enters the picture sending Brook and Nick running for their lives.

Then the tables turn again…for the last time.

Delaney as Brook is a girl with a few secrets of her own. Spending time being a social media star, she plays it up well. Maina as Caleb is a man on a mission and trying to bring a big of special to their relationship. Next time Caleb, try dinner and a walk on a public beach.

Gogna as Nick sees their idea for a documentary as ground breaking; to bad he didn’t do his woodsy research. Gloria as Jake has a few issues of his own and doesn’t let his film making partner in on it all.

All four of them have ideas of their own that clash of course but it isn’t going to make a different when what lives in the woods makes itself known.

Other cast include Emily Steward as Stephanie, Bianca Taylor as Cassie, and Jason Henne as Creepy Pete. Also, Eric Justice, Bret Burt, Jay Burt, Marina Kaminsky, Casey Hempel, Jade Rivera, Heather Jean as Cult Followers and David McMahon as the Cult Leader.

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SDK has a catalog of over 250 film titles and over 100 television shows. They are responsible for distributing the work of some of the world’s major directors and box office worthy movies. For more of what they have to offer please visit http://www.skddvd.com.

FOLLOWERS is the Official Selection from the Upstate NY Horror Film Festival, the Orlando Film Festival, Alexandria Film Festival and the Miami Independent Film Festival.

Although this is a found-footage thriller, pay attention! They story line basically gives you a play by play of how easy social media has made it for people to get into your life. Whether you want them their or not it has become part of the norm as everyone has Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter or any of the hundreds of apps that are available.

I love the found footage look to it and that it is shot out in the middle of nowhere. Of course we are all afraid of the woods whether we admit it out loud or not. Think about it, a crackling sound in the middle of the night with no cell reception and nothing between you and fear but a flimsy tent? Yea, we are all know our limits.

There are twists to be sure and it all comes to a huge conclusion that once again reminds us of how fragile the line is between having a life and living it on social media.

In the end – beware what you share!

DEFYING THE NAZIS: The Sharps’ War Premiers at GI Film Festival San Diego

sharps-war

 

Jeri Jacquin

Tonight premiering at the GI Film Festival San Diego is a documentary film from Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky, III with DEFYING THE NAZIS: The Sharps’ War.

Waitstill and Martha Sharp are an American couple living in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Waitstill is a minister and Martha is a supportive wife who is raising their children. Prior to World War II the couple is approached to do missionary work in Europe helping fleeing refugees.

Leaving their two children, the couple went to England to learn the techniques of data collection and how to destroy documents if discovered helping refugees. The Sharps’ were going into Prague as people were trying to get out.

They opened an office and began to find ways for people to escape safely. Knowing they were being watched by the Gestapo, it becomes a matter of life and death to help people. One such group were children who had to say a final goodbye to their parents not knowing if they would see each other again.

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On March 15, 1939, Czechoslovakia was taken over by the Nazis. Marching into Prague, the Jews were made to stay in check as new rules were put into place. Now the Sharps had to burn all of their paperwork while listening to Hitler speak. It was, as they said, ‘the front lines of Nazism’.

Those they had been helping now scattered and the Sharps tried quickly to find those who needed to get out immediately and the local church became the place to meet. One such trip was taking people through Germany disguised as workers just to get them to London.

Eventually the Gestapo closed in on the Sharps, so close that the couple would have to separate as Martha continued with the refugees and Waitstill headed to Paris to find funding so they could continue their work.

In August 1938 the Gestapo wouldn’t allow Waitstill to reenter Prague and Martha barely had enough time to escape. They board they Queen Mary and raced through the ocean waters as war was now declared and their ship would be a target of war.

Finally home with their children, they wouldn’t be there long when in 1940 the people from Czechoslovakia they resettled in France were once again in danger as that country falls to the Nazis. Opening an office in Portugal, the couple once again found ways to help as many people as they could.

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The mass exodus brought Hastings home quicker than his wife Martha. She stayed behind to save as many children as possible because, once again, parents entrusted their children to be saved never knowing if they would see each other again. In December of that year she would arrive with all the children she meant to help save.

In 2006, the Sharps were recognized at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as “Righteous Among the Nations” which is the highest honor given by the State of Israel to non-Jews. The Sharps are two of the four Americans to receive this award.

This documentary is a co-production of NO LIMITS MEDIA Inc. and Florentine Films in association with WETA and Farm Pond Pictures.

Director Burns has been making films for more than thirty years and his piece Brooklyn Bridge was nominated for an Academy Award and twelve of his films have received Emmy’s. Co-Director Joukowsky has culminated his several-decade research on his grandparents’ lives. He formed the Sharp Archives at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the Brown University Library.

Told from the perspective of the Sharps’ daughter Martha Content as well as family friends and survivors, this documentary is just the truth of the spirit of this couple. Tom Hanks reads the letters of Waitstill to Martha over the years, which is just wonderful.

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It is the dedication of these individuals who didn’t believe they were special but only moved to help those who desperately needed it is amazing. Putting themselves in harms way in situations that had me holding my breath, the Sharps never stopped no matter how scary. Being watched by Gestapo that could have taken them at any time, they continued to safe those they could.

This is truly not only a story that needed telling but should be shared as much as possible. It is a teachable moment in how this couple made a difference in the lives of so many in a time where life was counted in seconds. Some were reunited with families and some were not, but those that were not found hope knowing that there families would not have continued on without the decision of their parents and the Sharps.

DEFYING THE NAZIS: The Sharps’ War is brilliant and a documentary that will bring tears of sadness but, more importantly, thankfulness from those who found love and family thanks to one brave couple.

TIME TO CHOOSE Wants Us to Seriously Consider Our World View

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Jeri Jacquin

A new documentary is out this week from Abramorama and director Charles Ferguson speaks on what is truly happening with the climate change and giving us all a TIME TO CHOOSE.

Narrated by Oscar Isaac, the film also includes interviews with Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Kumni Naidoo who is the director of Greenpeace International, Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu, Dr. Jane Goodall and Nobel Prize winner Mohammed Yunus.

The film travels to five continents discussing the use of fossil fuels, industrialized agriculture and more of what is changing our planet. From the Appalachians where coal-poisoned waters are hurting citizens to the coat pits of China, the film asks us too truly listen to those who are affected by it all.

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Jennifer Hall-Massey lives in West Virginia where people died from brain tumors and she wanted to know why. Wu Gang from China is bringing more wind turbines to help produce what the world need cleanly. There is Blairo Maggi from Brazil, owner of the world largest soybean producing company who changed his own mind about the way he treats the world.

These are only a few of the people believing that change is possible and TIME TO CHOOSE gives us a chance to learn about many more.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give a TIME TO CHOOSE four tubs of popcorn out of five. Ferguson brings the issue up front and personal by bringing to speak those who are not only affected, but those who see the constant result of what is being done to the planet.

In making TIME TO CHOOSE he says, “I made the film because climate change is the most important issue facing humanity and we urgently need broader understanding of how enormously we would all benefit from addressing it.

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Ferguson continues with hope saying, “Fortunately it is a challenge that we hold in common, and the film shows that across the globe, in myriad ways, people are coming together to find and implement solutions. We’re not too late, and our hope is that TIME TO CHOOSE will help audiences see both the tragedy that is unfolding and the remarkable and innovative ways in which humanity is finding a better way forward”.

This is not the first documentary on serious issues that Ferguson has tackled. He also produced NO END IN SIGHT, the Oscar-nominated piece about the conflict in Iraq. In 2010, he won an Oscar for his documentary on the financial crisis with INSIDE JOB.

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To learn more about the film please visit www.timetochoose.com.

In the end – climate change for good!

UNDER THE GUN is a Must-See Documentary from EPIX

under the gun poster

 

Jeri Jacquin

Coming May 15 at 8 p.m. et/pt, 7 central during the free EPIX weekend is the Official Selection at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival exploring gun violence in America with UNDER THE GUN.

Narrated and Executive Produced by Katie Couric and directed by Stephanie Soechtig, they bring a deeper look into the gun debate. The documentary begins with the questions most American ask themselves, with the rise in gun violence, how is it that more action isn’t being taken to protect people of all ages.

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The debate between those who are looking for stricter gun control to the NRA who are afraid their Second Amendment rights are being taken from them, there seems to be no compromise.

Yet our country lives through the tragedies of Newton, Aurora, Isla Vista and Tucson as well as daily gun violence not just in Chicago but everywhere. The rise of mass shootings has become an epidemic and here are a few staggering facts:

  • On average there are almost 33,000 gun deaths each year
  • On average, 297 people in America are shot everyday with 89 deaths
  • Gun violence is the second leading cause of death in children from 10-19
  • There are between 270 million and 310 million guns in the United States
  • The manufacturing and distribution of teddy bears is more tightly regulated for health and safety than handguns

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The documentary allows viewers to listen to Gabby Gifford who was one of 19 people shot in a mass shooting at a Safeway and Mark Kelly lead Americans for Responsible Solutions; and Jackie and Mark Barden lost their seven-year-old son Daniel began the Sandy Hook Promise.

Other groups include Sandie and Lonnie Phillips with Jessi’s Message, John Feinblatt and Richard Martinez, who lost son Christopher shot on the UC Santa Barbara campus lead Everytown for Gun Safety; Victoria Montgomery with Open Carry Texas; Shannon Watts with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Finally, Pamela and Tom Bosley with Purpose Over Pain and The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Couric and Soechtig bring the facts forward and actually have no problem calling out the names of the politicians who continually refuse to make any compromise to the safety of Americans. After what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, it shocks me how those we vote for and put in a place of speaking for us, do not see the horror of what happened that day.

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What brought these two women together to make this documentary? Soechtig says, “I was pregnant at the time of the Newton shooting and it felt like I was bringing my son into a very different world than the world before 12/14. So when Katie called me after the Isla Vista shooting and asked me if I thought we should make a film about the gun violence epidemic, I felt a new motivation”.

Couric is an award-winning journalist and a well-known face that people trust when it comes to the news as co-anchor of the NBC’s Today show. This isn’t the first documentary she has put together to bring awareness to important issues. In 2014, Couric was an executive producer and also narrated FED UP which is a documentary about childhood obesity. Anyone with children please listen when I say FED UP is a must-see!

UNDER THE GUN is another must-see on so many levels. There is absolutely nothing wrong with listening to those who are concerned about losing their Second Amendment rights to bear arms. I am all for hearing gun-owners out and speaking with a cool head and I heard what they said in the documentary. That being said, I still don’t understand their reasoning behind safely, security and precautions.

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There is so much in this documentary to take in and after viewing is an amazing way to open the door for discussion to be sure but, more importantly, ACTION! Each of the organizations that speak in the documentary share a goal of making sure that the loss of their loved ones doesn’t happen to any other family.

On May 15th as part of the EPIX free preview weekend, I encourage every family to come together for a documentary that will insight deep emotion of every kind yet is also informative and uplifting by those who have turned their pain into voices of change.

This documentary gives us all a place to start!

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A Documentary is FINDING NOAH

finding noah
AVAILABLE ON DVD ON MARCH 1, 2016
Alchemy is proud to announce the home entertainment release of the gripping documentary, FINDING NOAH narrated by Gary Sinise (TV’s “CSI: NY”). Produced by first time director Brent Baum (Whipped, Buying the Cow) and written by Jonathan P. Shaw (Chasing Keys) and Brent Baum, audiences can own FINDING NOAH on DVD on March 1, 2016.

The ultimate quest to find the remains of Noah’s Ark, this documentary follows a group of researchers and explorers as they make their 17,000 ft trek atop Mt. Ararat in Turkey. A testament of the human spirit where belief and the need for exploration transcends risk and limitations, follow these explorers into never before filmed locations as they conduct a scientific expedition to uncover the mystery of Noah’s Arks remains.

ABOUT ALCHEMY
Alchemy is the largest independent distributor of film and television content across all platforms and windows in North America. Led by Co-Presidents Scott Guthrie and Kelly Summers, Alchemy develops tailored distribution strategies, from theatrical release to DVD, digital, VOD, and television.  The company has distributed the work of some of the world’s finest filmmakers including Gregg Araki,James Cameron, Lee Daniels,Werner Herzog, John Hillcoat,Richard Linklater, Oren Moverman, Gaspar Noe and John Turturro.  Past successes include WELCOME TO ME, FADING GIGOLO, WHAT MAISIE KNEW, RAMPART, BERNIE and MEET THE PATELS.  Upcoming releases include Rob Zombie’s 31, Nanni Moretti’s MIA MADRE,Yorgos Lanthimos’ THE LOBSTER and Ben Wheatley’s FREE FIRE.

Alchemy owns a catalog of more than 1,000 film titles and has deals for the ongoing distribution of film titles and programming for clients including DreamWorks Animation, Magnolia, Microsoft, MPI Media, Music Box Films, nCircle, Phase 4 Films, PBS Distribution, Team Marketing, Well Go USA and Vertical, among many others.

MOURNING SON Astounds in This Real Life Story

mourning son

 

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to VOD December 1st from writer/director Todd Newman and Vega Baby Releasing is a documentary that gives the audience a peek into the life of a surviving MOURNING SON.

The documentary tells the story in the young life of rocker Dave Navarro. What many, including myself, did not know was that Navarro’s mother was brutally murdered when he was a very young man. In this telling, Navarro recounts not only that traumatic event but how it impacted his life.

Navarro invites everyone to experience a moment in time that continued to follow him through every phase of his life. From young adult years to his time with band Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers, there was a pain that could not be described and a void the lack of understanding provided.

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I can not even begin to explain what a shock the entire documentary was to me. It is difficult to speak on hard events of childhood as it is. Navarro gives a loving and amazing narrative about life with his mother Connie. Her zest for life, her days as a model, and marriage to Navarro’s father, he was encouraged to be himself.

That all ended in 1983 when boyfriend John Riccardi decided to end his mother’s life. There would be no time to grieve because the killer managed to escape police and now fear became his life guide.

Coming face to face with the evil that is murderer Riccardi while in prison, proved to be the most painful thing to watch Navarro go through. The kid wanted answers as to why but the adult knew those answers would never come. His reaction is powerful and heartbreaking at the same time.

The documentary begins rather odd but trust me when I tell you every frame has meaning, every frame is part of the story Navarro is trying to tell and every frame is deeply moving. From beginning to end it is clear that the path this talented human being has taken to find some peace is one that should be shared.

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TUBS OF POPCORN: I give MOURNING SON four tubs of popcorn out of five. There is nothing about this documentary that I’d change. It is a gripping tale of domestic violence, murder, fear, anger, and a deep sadness that only someone going through all of this can express.

Navarro does so in a way that has put his life in danger at times and given those who love him cause to worry – yet life had other plans and I for one am thrilled he is still with us.

The powerful use of music and imagery fused with the documentary is the deepest insight to the message Navarro is trying to convey.  From the pain and confusion grew a young boy who would find his own way into a life of uniqueness!

In the end – this mourning son shares his path!

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