Access Video on Demand just added over 100 HBO Documentaries to our streaming video collection. Type in your library card number and check out the complete list of new titles, or get started with one of these five Library staff picks:
1. Six by Sondheim
“Everybody has problems. Nobody goes through life unscathed, and I think if you write about those things, you’re going to touch people,” says Stephen Sondheim at the start of Six by Sondheim, an intimate look into his long and prolific career creating ground-breaking work that has redefined the musical theater. Directed by award-winning Broadway director and playwright James Lapine, and predominantly told by Sondheim himself, this 84-minute film weaves together dozens of interviews of Sondheim, conducted throughout his illustrious career. Archival performances of Sondheim classics by stars like Bernadette Peters and Ethel Merman are interspersed with new performances produced exclusively for this feature documentary, showcasing such stars as Audra McDonald, Darren Criss and America Ferrera. Blending theatrical footage with rare interview footage and Sondheim’s candid anecdotes, the film underscores Sondheim’s unique, conversational songwriting style, and focuses on Sondheim’s experiences writing six songs: “Something’s Coming,” “Opening Doors,” “Send in the Clowns,” “I’m Still Here,” “Being Alive” and “Sunday.” Art and life are intertwined for Sondheim, and Six by Sondheim is a story of both.
2. Heroin: Cape Cod, USA
Twenty years after his groundbreaking Emmy®-nominated film Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street, which chronicled three years in the lives of five young heroin addicts in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, Academy Award®- winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki turns his focus to America’s current opiate-addiction crisis with Heroin: Cape Cod, USA. This 76-minute film takes an unsparing look at the lives of several young people in their early 20s gripped by heroin addiction, living a seemingly endless existence of getting high while cycling through stages of rehab, recovery and relapse. The film also chronicles the impact of the crisis on the community of Cape Cod, a picturesque summer destination known for its quaint villages, lighthouses and beaches – but with an epidemic of young people addicted to cheap, easily-acquired heroin, whose addictions are often the result of being prescribed opiate pain medication after an accident or surgery. Following several subjects who talk candidly about their heroin habits, as well as parents struggling to understand how their children got to this point, Heroin: Cape Cod, USA is an unflinching examination of the heroin crisis in one New England community – where there are few answers and fewer happy endings.
3. Thank You, Mr. President: Helen Thomas at the White House
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Rory Kennedy, Thank You, Mr. President: Helen Thomas at the White House profiles the iconic journalist, a legend in political reporting, who has covered the White House and every president since John F. Kennedy. In this 38-minute film, Thomas, now in her 80s and as sharp as ever, sits down for a one-on-one interview in which she reflects on her storied career, the distinct personalities and foibles of the presidents she has covered, as well as some of the scandals that have rocked the White House over the years. Supplemented by clips of Thomas in action, plus archival photos and footage, the film offers a rare glimpse of a veteran member of the White House Press Corps, who was one of only a handful of female correspondents when she began covering the presidency in the 1960s. Idolized by many and despised by some, Thomas is without a doubt a determined and steadfast journalist, who maintains the utmost respect for the office of the presidency, while knowing it is her job to ask the tough questions.
4. Mondays at Racine
Directed by Oscar®-winner Cynthia Wade, Mondays at Racine tells the uplifting story of Rachel Demolfetto and Cynthia Sansone, two sisters who do their part in the fight against cancer by providing free beauty treatments – hair, makeup, manicures and pedicures – to cancer patients at their salon every month. The sisters have a personal motivation in offering such treatments: they watched their mother grow reclusive and depressed after being diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1980s. Now, they own a beauty salon called Racine in Long Island, NY, which they open free of charge to women with cancer once a month on Mondays. Their goal: to give cancer patients a sense of normalcy and beauty, and in doing so, combat the fear that accompanies the disease. Airing during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this 39-minute documentary profiles several of Racine’s regulars, many of whom wake up with the clumps of hair on their pillow, a symbol of the hair loss caused by chemotherapy. Without hair, “you feel like you’re being erased,” one woman offers. Cancer can rob many women of their ability to feel like the person they once were, but Cynthia and Rachel are determined to help, with a little bit of blush and a lot of handholding.
5. An Apology to Elephants
Elephants are among the Earth’s most majestic and intelligent creatures – but for hundreds of years, they have suffered under the hands of humans. We have poached them for their tusks, chained them up in captivity, and destroyed their natural habitats. Narrated and executive produced by Oscar® nominated actress Lily Tomlin and directed and produced by Emmy® winner Amy Schatz, An Apology to Elephants is an HBO family documentary that illustrates how elephants live in the wild – from their matriarchal structure to their truly impressive memories – and examines the problems and issues that arise when they are brought to live in captivity in zoos and circuses. This film traces our long history with elephants and features beautiful nature footage, juxtaposed with disturbing behind-the-scenes video of the cruel ways that circuses break down elephants’ spirits in order to get them to perform. The film also shows how people have been striving to spread awareness and improve the conditions for the scores of elephants still living in North America.
Emily Kean is the Digital Services Librarian at Boone County Public Library and the consortium administrator for Kentucky Libraries Unbound. She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky School of Information Science and has managed electronic resources in special and public libraries for over ten years.