A new week and we have a slew of documentaries to discuss. First we have How to Change the World. This is about how Greenpeace pretty much got their start. A group of people in Canada saw some things going on that they didn’t like and tried to change things. They were a mix of people and their first fight was to stop a nuclear test from happening. That didn’t happen, but they were looked at as heroes to some and they went for it. Their next fight was saving the whales and stopping illegal whaling by Russian boats. They wanted to protect the baby seals. They wanted to change the world. It discusses Robert Hunter a lot, but it does get into other people that helped form Greenpeace. Of course once they got big, there was in-fighting and politics and opinions clashing. One wanted to use nothing, but actions and many got arrested or hurt. Another wanted to use political strategy to gain power and get their message across. Of course that lead to the breaking up of the original group and members going their own way. It’s a pretty fascinating look at how the organization got started and it’s funny seeing where some of them ended up. One today doesn’t believe in climate change which seems really bizarre to me.
Next we have The Human Face of Big Data from PBS. This was both interesting and scary. This breaks down different groups of data, shows it visually and gives you an analysis of that data. Seems cool and helpful, but it’s also scary to see how much of our own personal information we put out there without realizing it. Google searches can help predict a flu outbreak weeks before it happens. Sounds great and useful, doctors and hospitals can get prepared, but do I like knowing they are tracking what I search? Not really. It also deals with speech and words and shows how words become popular or even words in the first place. A couple recorded their lives for 2 years to see how their child’s vocabulary developed. Again, sounds cool, but it’s also pretty creepy. It shows in almost a 3D way things like air traffic and planes flying over the country and coming into the country. It can break down what neighborhoods have the highest imprisoned population. Does that prove a bad place is a bad place or that that place does not give those people hope? It’s very cool and shows you a different, more visual way of looking at data, but the idea that this data is even out there should open some ideas.
Third we have Meet the Hitlers. This is presented by Morgan Spurlock, but I wish it was by him because it feels like a giant mess. I was expecting a documentary about people with the last name Hitler and how that effects them and yes it has some people like that, but it has other stories that feel out of place. There’s an artist who buys Adolph Hitler items online and turns them into art pieces. There’s a skinhead who named his son Adolph Hitler and child services takes away his kids and puts them into the system. That pissed me off. There was no evidence and they found no proof of harm to the kids and yet because of their names and their father’s tattoos, they went into the system. Not really sure why that was in this. There’s a journalist trying to track down the last blood family members of Hitler and he gets mad when they don’t want to talk to him. If they changed their name and have kept quiet, who are you to think they must talk to you? But there are a couple of stories of people with the name. There’s a 16 year old girl whose name has two Ts in it (Hittler). Her friends call her Hittler and none of them seem to understand why it’s weird. There’s a big family of Hitlers and they go back east to see where their family came from. Then there’s a guy in Europe who thinks he’s the only real Hitler left and he seemed like a crazy racist. It bounced around and just wasn’t what I was expecting.
Fourth we have Raising the Dinosaur Giant. This is another from PBS. Dinosaur people will love this and I know someone who I’m definitely recommending it to. A discovery in Argentina gave us the remains of 7 dinosaurs all belonging to a new species. The size of some of these bones/fossils are just incredible. It coming from PBS, the production value is amazing. There’s 3D scanning and CGI to show you predictions of what these creatures looked like. They were enormous, the size of 15 African elephants. The discovery, recovery and investigation is also pretty amazing. Any day we can find something like this and change the way we look at the past. If you’ve seen any of PBS’ other dinosaur or nature shows, you’ll like this a lot. I thought it was pretty fascinating and educational.
Last we have Rhythm ‘N’ Bayous: A Road Map to Louisiana Music. This mixes live performances with interviews and travel to really tell the story of the music of Louisiana. Robert Mugge has made other documentaries and this is just as good. The thing this really shows is how eclectic the music is. Maybe you think just the blues when you think the bayou, but this has jazz and soul and rock and delta country. The performances are worth it alone especially if you like the southern sound. You really do get a mix of music and that surprised me. You get songs with southern fiddles to blues guitars to piano and jazz trumpets. And it comes from all kinds of people, men, women, white, black. None of that matters to them. They are musicians playing music and that’s all that mattered to them. If you’ve seen any of Mugge’s other work, Deep Sea Blues, New Orleans Music in Exile, Deep Blues or any other, you’ll really like this.