The Notable Videos for Adults Committee selected 15 outstanding titles from among 54 nominees for this year’s list of Notable Videos for Adults. The availability of closed captions (CC) and/or subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (SDH) is preferred; inclusion and exclusion of the same is indicated below.
2018 VRT Notable Films for Adults
Abacus, Small Enough to Jail (2017, dir. Steve James) 89 minutes. PBS. DVD. Available from various distributors. Subtitles. Tells the story of the Chinese immigrant Sung Family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York, the only U.S. bank prosecuted in relation to the 2008 financial crisis.
Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock (2017, dir. Myron Dewey, Josh Fox and James Spione) 84 minutes. International WOW Co. DVD. Available from Bullfrog Films (http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/awake.html) and various distributors. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, along with 500 other tribes and allies, lead a peaceful resistance against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on their sacred ground.
David Lynch: The Art Life (2016, dir. Olivia Neergaard-Holm, Rick Barnes and John Nguyen) 88 minutes. Criterion Collection. DVD and Blu-ray. Available from various distributors. SDH. Takes viewers on a rare look inside the art studio of David Lynch as Lynch recounts the people and events that led him to his life as an artist.
Dawson City Frozen Time (2016, dir. Bill Morrison) 120 minutes. Kino Lorber. DVD and blu-ray. Available from various distributors. CC. After hundreds of silent films are uncovered in a Yukon, Canada gold rush town, its history is pieced together through the experimental reconstruction of the films themselves.
Gleason (2016, dir. Clay Tweel) 111 minutes. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. DVD. Available from various distributors. CC. Football star Steve Gleason and his wife, Michel, while expecting the birth of their son, grapple with his diagnosis of ALS at the age of 34. This gut-wrenching and ultimately transcendent film delivers a powerful and unvarnished view of Gleason’s physical suffering and the psychological toll it takes on his marriage and family.
Heaven is a Traffic Jam (2017, dir. Frank Stiefel) 40 minutes. Grasshopper Film. DVD and blu-ray. Available from Grasshopper Film (http://store.grasshopperfilm.com/heaven-is-a-traffic-jam-on-the-405.html). Honest and poignant look at the life of artist Mindy Alper and the effects of her childhood trauma, mental illness, anxiety and depression on her art.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016, dir. Raoul Peck) 93 minutes. Magnolia Pictures. DVD and blu-ray. Available from various distributors. SDH. Through an unfinished work of James Baldwin, the history of Black America is told from early 20th Century to #BlackLivesMatter.
I Called Him Morgan (2017, dir. Kasper Collin) 91 minutes. FilmRise. DVD and blu-ray. Available from various distributors. SDH. In 1972, jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan was murdered at age 33 by his wife, cutting short what was already a legendary career. Using archival footage and photographs, interviews with his friends and fellow musicians, we are introduced to the tragedy of their story set against the backdrop of his amazing music.
Last Men in Aleppo (2017, dir. Feras Fayyad and Steen Johannessen) 104 minutes. Grasshopper Film. DVD. Available from Grasshopper (http://grasshopperfilm.com/film/last-men-in-aleppo/) and various distributors. Arabic with English subtitles. During the Syrian civil war, residents from the town of Aleppo risk their lives as White Helmets, search and rescue volunteers. A harrowing and heartbreaking look at daily life, death and struggle in the streets of the besieged city.
Newtown (2017, dir. Kim A. Snyder) 85 minutes. Passion River Films. DVD. Available from various distributors. CC. Through raw and heartbreaking interviews with parents, siblings, teachers, doctors and first responders, the film documents a traumatized community working to find a sense of purpose in the aftermath of the senseless mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The Pearl Button (2016, dir. Patricio Guzman) 82 minutes. Kino Lorber Films. DVD and blu-ray. Available from Kino Lorber (https://www.kinolorber.com/product/view/id/3020) and other distributors. Spanish with English subtitles. Through stunning cinematography and poetic juxtapositions, Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzman explores the importance of water to Chile’s history and culture.
Political Animals (2017, dir. Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares) 87 minutes. Gravitas Ventures. DVD and blu-ray. Available from various distributors. CC. The film follows four groundbreaking lesbians who took the fight for the causes most personal to them and their communities off the streets and into the halls of the California state legislature.
The Talk: Race in America (2017, dir. Samuel D. Pollard) 115 minutes. PBS. A powerful film about ‘the talk’ that parents must have with their children of color to teach them how to act around the police in order to remain safe. Interweaves personal narratives of police violence against innocent young victims.
Tower (2016, dir. Keith Maitland) 82 minutes. Kino Lorber. DVD and blu-ray. Available from Kino-Lorber (https://www.kinolorberedu.com/film/tower) and various distributors. CC. On August 1st, 1966, a sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire. When the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll included sixteen dead, three dozen wounded, and a shaken nation left trying to comprehend the tragedy. Through the dynamic combination of archival footage and rotoscopic animation, Tower reveals the untold stories of the witnesses, heroes and survivors of America’s first mass school shooting.
Whose Streets? (2017, dir. Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis) 101 minutes. Magnolia Home Entertainment. DVD. Available from various distributors. Does not include captioning. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of Ferguson, Missouri. Footage shot on cellphones and hand-held video cameras lend the film an immediacy and urgency in this unflinching look at the uprising told by the activists and leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Dewey the Cat’s Favorite: Kedi (2017, dir. Ceyda Torun) 80 minutes. Oscilloscope Laboratories. DVD and blu-ray. Available from various distributors. In Turkish with English subtitles. A city symphony of Istanbul told through the eyes of its street cats and the community that cares for them.
The 2018 Notable Films for Adults Committee:
Kati Irons Perez (Chair), Pierce County Library System, Cecilia Cygnar, Niles Public Library District, Philip Hallman, Hatcher Graduate Library, University of Michigan, Tiffany Hudson, Salt Lake City Public Library, Kyle Knight, St. Louis Public Library, Kathleen Morley, Seattle Public Library, Lorraine Wochna, Alden Library, Ohio University