New Series: the Strand Shortlist of 2012 Best Docs

With award season fast approaching, Strand staffers have mined the the Academy’s shortlist of the 15 best Documentary Films of 2012 to present a special program of the year’s finest nonfiction filmmaking on Sundays in January and February, beginning Sunday, January 6 at 3:30pm with Chasing Ice.

From well-known titles to new discoveries, there’s certain to be something for everyone—doc enthusiasts or not—on the Strand’s Short List. Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In 2005, photographer James Balog conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

January 13 at 3:30pm, Ken Burns’ The Central Park Five is featured. In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and charged for brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. News media swarmed the case, calling it "the crime of the century." But the truth about what really happened didn't become clear until after the five had spent years in prison for a crime they didn't commit. With The Central Park Five, this story of injustice finally gets the telling it deserves.

The House I Live In (January 20 at 3:30pm) captures heart-wrenching stories from individuals at all levels of America’s War on Drugs. From the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge, the film offers a penetrating look inside  America’s longest war—a definitive portrait revealing its profound human rights implications.

January 27 at 3:30pm, How to Survive A Plague chronicles an improbable group of young people who, faced with their own mortality, broke the mold as radical warriors taking on Washington and the medical establishment. This film is the story of two coalitions—ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)—whose activism turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.  With unfettered access to a trove of never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and '90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making. Co-presented with the Camden International Film Festival.

The Waiting Room (February 3 at 3:30pm) is a character-driven documentary film that uses extraordinary access to go behind the doors of an American public hospital struggling to care for a community of largely uninsured patients. The film - using a blend of cinema verité and characters' voiceover offers a raw, intimate, and even uplifting look at how patients, staff and caregivers each cope with disease, bureaucracy and hard choices. The ER waiting room serves as the grounding point for the film, capturing in vivid detail what it means for millions of Americans to live without health insurance. Young victims of gun violence take their turn alongside artists and small business owners who lack insurance. Steel workers, taxi cab drivers and international asylum seekers crowd the halls. The film weaves the stories of several patients – as well as the hospital staff charged with caring for them – as they cope with the complexity of the nation’s public health care system, while weathering the storm of a national recession. Co-presented by the Camden International Film Festival, The Waiting Room lays bare the struggle and determination of both a community and an institution coping with limited resources and no road map for navigating a health care landscape marked by historic economic and political dysfunction. It is a film about one hospital, its multifaceted community, and how our common vulnerability to illness binds us together as humans.

The series concludes Sunday, February 17 at 3:30pm with Detropia. Detroit's story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century— the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now . . . the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos. With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, Detropia sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. These soulful pragmatists and stalwart philosophers strive to make ends meet and make sense of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Motor City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future.

Strand audiences will have time to take in this Short List program just in time to the Academy Awards!

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